Environment and climate

Rwanda. Photo: Gloria Powell

Today’s climate crisis has a serious impact on humans and on the environment with disastrous consequences for health, food security, livelihoods, conflict and forced migration. It also has negative impact on the rights and daily lives of women. Efforts to build and sustain peace are increasingly difficult since climate change directly affects the dynamics of ongoing conflicts and also contributes to conflict.

It is people living in poverty and conflict that are most affected by the climate crisis. Among them, women are particularly exposed. The gendered aspects of the climate crises have not been sufficiently explored and understood, and women’s voices are seldom heard in the debate on climate change. The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation works to change this.

Climate, gender and conflict

The environmental and climate crisis (ECC) unfolds against a backdrop of unequal patriarchal power structures rooted in gender norms—it is not “gender neutral”. The climate crises heightens the competition for resources, escalating community and ethnic tensions. Given that women and girls already confront gender-based inequalities and barriers, the repercussions of the climate crises disproportionately expose them to negative coping strategies such as child marriage, sextortion and leaving school.

Similarly, often being responsible for bringing food and water to their families, women are disproportionally affected by the environmental impacts of conflict—from scarcity of water to diminished crop yields. It is estimated that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women, according to UN. The environmental and climate crisis is closely tied to Kvinna till Kvinna's mission to strengthen women’s rights and gender equality in conflict-affected regions.

  • Gender-based violence

    Extensive research, among others by the UN, shows the clear link between violence against women and climate change. For instance, when climate change triggers drought and water scarcity, it forces women and girls to travel longer distances to access these resources. They become more exposed to security risks, including sexual violence and various manifestations of gender-based violence (GBV). The same is true when rising sea levels eats up the land where the most impoverished households, often led by women, are situated.

    The climate crisis exacerbates poverty in many regions of the world, and this further increases the vulnerability of women and girls to activities like trafficking and diverse forms of sexual exploitation. This situation also results in a greater number of girls being compelled into child marriages. When a tropical cyclone hit Malawi in 2023, for example, women and girls were forced to trade sex for access to for example food and water (so called sextortion).

    Sources: UNDP & OHCHR

     

  • Peacebuilding and climate security

    The intersection of conflict-affected states and climate change has been termed climate security. Many of the countries already struggling with peace and security threats are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of the environmental and climate crisis. Research has shown that 40% of intrastate conflicts in the past 60 years have been linked to fight over natural resources.

    The UN Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Agenda acknowledges the pivotal role of women in upholding peace and security. The environmental and climate crisis is not entirely excluded from the WPS agenda (Resolution 2242 refers to climate change), but there is an emerging call from civil society for the WPS agenda to have a stronger focus on the disproportionate effects that environmental degradation and the climate crisis have on women.

     

  • The situation for female environmental activists

    When challenging inequalities and injustice, women environmental human rights defenders are exposed to gender-specific violence and threats. According to the 2021 Women, Peace and Security Agenda annual report, environmental activists are among the most threatened women human rights defenders. Working on the ECC also ranked highly in the Kvinna till Kvinna report “Solidarity is Our Only Weapon” (2021), as being dangerous for women activists. The shrinking space for civil society organisations has made ECC activism in many parts of the world both difficult and dangerous.

    The climate justice movement and the women’s rights movement share many common goals and challenges, such as working against a patriarchal power system and macro-economic structures that are harmful both for gender equality and for the planet earth. There is a need to join forces.

     

The gender nexus

Barriers to leaving

Women face barriers to leaving areas prone to climate change and natural disaster because of their caregiving obligations, lack of financial assets, and limited rights to land and property. When they do manage to leave, women and girls face higher risks of unemployment, child marriage, human trafficking, and gender-based violence.

Economic rights

In low and lower-middle-income countries, agriculture stands as a primary employment sector for women. The severe impacts of drought and excessive rainfall deprive women of a stable income, frequently forcing girls to leave school to support their mothers in coping with the increased responsibilities.

Environmental activists

Throughout generations, women globally have demonstrated resilience and leadership in safeguarding their communities, land, livelihoods, and natural resources. Despite this, female environmental defenders consistently face gender-based violence as a consequence of their activism.

SRHR

The health risks posed by the climate crises are higher for women, particularly in terms of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Rising temperatures and increased rainfall create favourable conditions for diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and the Zika virus, leading to potential complications such as miscarriages, premature birth, and anaemia among pregnant women.

Stats & numbers

  • Women’s participation in the climate negotiations continues to fall short of gender balance, with COP27 having 35% women’s participation on party delegations compared to 31% at COP14 in 2008.
  • Only 26.8% of government ministers in European Union member states overseeing environment and climate policies are women, with 73.2% being men.
  • Only an estimated 0.01% of worldwide funding addresses both climate change and women’s rights, despite the increasing recognition of the critical role of women in preventing and reducing climate risks.

Sources: WEDO,  EIGE , UN Women

How Kvinna till Kvinna makes a difference

Kvinna till Kvinna is committed to supporting women human rights defenders and women’s rights organisations in conflict-affected countries. We acknowledge the need to respond to how the environmental and climate crisis impact them. Our aim is to promote increased participation of women in decisions related to ECC mitigation and adaptation, as well as to contribute to an increased understanding of the gendered aspects of the climate and environmental crises and the need for a gender perspective in climate financing.

As a feminist donor, Kvinna till Kvinna supports:

  • capacity strengthening through grant-making
  • provides training and technical support for women’s rights organisations on climate action and the environmental and climate crisis
  • contributes to knowledge production through the documentation, data collection and dissemination of knowledge

We facilitate access to relevant platforms for women’s rights organisations through networking and support sustainable and environmentally friendly economic gender justice transformation. Kvinna till Kvinna has also developed an Environmental and climate crisis Action Plan to minimise our own environmental footprint.

Partner organisations' work

Related publications

Last updated or reviewed 14 December 2023
Published 24 November 2023