More than 8 out of 10 Australian women surveyed by the media organisation Women’s Agenda are “very worried about climate change”.
And it’s no wonder — bushfires and floods are devastating communities, drought and unseasonable weather are playing havoc with food security, and coral bleaching is threatening one of our greatest natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef.
Climate change affects everyone — but does it affect everyone equally? The simple answer — which is explored in a new report from Women’s Agenda in partnership with CARE Australia, Charles Sturt University and AGL — is no.
As countless reports from the UN and global NGOs have warned, climate change is having the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places where those experiencing poverty live and work. As in any crisis, the people who lack resources and opportunities fare the worst, and are least likely to have their voices heard.
And with women around the world more likely to live in poverty and too often excluded from positions of influence, climate change has a serious gender dimension.
From the spike in violence against women following natural disasters, to the impact on pregnancy and the mental load of caring for people through tough times, the report explores experiences of climate change that are often unique to, or disproportionately felt by, women.
As CARE Australia’s Anggia Anggraini notes, women in poorer countries are being hit especially hard by climate disasters as their voices are often left out of decision-making processes in the community.
“Any decision that is made for a whole community without representation from half its members is never going to serve people well,” she says.
Despite barriers to participation and leadership, women in Australia and around the world are rising up to demand action and find solutions to the climate crisis.
Cynthia Houniuhi, from the Solomon Islands, is President of Pacific Island Students for Climate Action. They’re seeking to take the world’s biggest problem to the world’s highest court, by seeking an advisory opinion on climate change and human rights from the International Court of Justice.
She told Women’s Agenda her passion for climate activism stems from growing up on a remote island, “where I was always outdoors enjoying what nature has to offer”.
“To have something that you love and value and is part of your livelihood and identity being threatened by the adverse effects of climate change moves you to act.”
Read her story and the story of other women from Australia and the Pacific in the new report, The Climate Load here