Introduction and Key Themes
Women and girls, in all their diversity, play a critical role in addressing the climate crisis as we seek to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius and build resilience to the impacts of climate change, high priorities of the United States that are reflected in our and other efforts at home and abroad. shows that climate change does not affect women and men equally, with women suffering disproportionate impacts and experiencing underrepresentation in climate decision-making in all sectors and at all levels, which reduces the likelihood of their perspectives being incorporated and limits outcomes for all of society. Climate change impacts are also compounded for women and girls of color, Indigenous women and girls, women and girls with disabilities, and LGBTQI+ persons, among others. A deeper understanding of women’s and girls’ diverse needs, challenges, and opportunities is required to ensure effective responses to climate change. Despite these challenges, women and girls around the world are leading efforts to mitigate, adapt to, and address the impacts of climate change. This strategy outlines U.S. government efforts to empower women and girls politically, economically, and socially – and facilitate meaningful inclusion of their needs and perspectives in decision-making – as we seek to achieve a more equitable and sustainable future.
The nexus of gender equality and climate change can be categorized into three overarching themes that align with U.S. government policy priorities: advancing the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda; preventing and responding to gender-based violence (GBV); and promoting women’s economic security (WES).
Natural Resources, Conflict, and Fragility:
Due to gender inequality, and disasters adversely and disproportionately affect women and girls. Climate change impacts, such as extreme weather events, food and water insecurity, and natural resource degradation, are threat multipliers and increase risks of , migration, and conflict, especially in regions that suffer from instability. In many parts of the world, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to these stressors, because their livelihoods and care work responsibilities depend on accessing climate-impacted resources (e.g., land, food, water, fuel) or controlling and maintaining those resources as smallholder farmers and informal natural resource managers. As scarcity worsens, women and girls tend to be most impacted by food shortages and malnutrition and increasingly encounter insecurity and violence as they travel to far or unfamiliar destinations or experience resource competition. Despite these threats, they are contributing to and sustainability in their communities through locally informed, innovative solutions. This gender-climate theme aligns with the U.S. government’s priority to advance the WPS agenda.
Gender-Based Violence and Social Impacts:
When climate-related disasters strike, women’s and girls’ economic and educational opportunities and access to health care services are disrupted, contributing to mortality and adverse impacts. Climate change shapes the quantity, quality, and availability of basic resources, including those necessary to maintain menstrual health and hygiene. Climate disasters and stressors heighten women’s and girls’ risks of experiencing , whether in communities, the home, on migration or collection routes, or in temporary shelters. Furthermore, as climate stressors threaten resources and livelihoods, women and girls are typically the first to forego food, and child, early, and forced marriages often increase as families feel pressure to reduce expenses. Such economic insecurities induced by climate disasters and stressors can elevate the risk of trafficking in persons. GBV also harms women’s and girls’ leadership and action in addressing the climate crisis and environmental challenges. For example, in response to their efforts to promote accountability for governments and private sector actors, women environmental face increased risk of retaliation, threats, and violence online and offline. This gender-climate theme aligns with the U.S. government’s priority to prevent and respond to GBV globally.
Innovation and Economic Participation:
It is critical to ensure that women and girls have the education, training, mentorship, assets, and financing to lead or work in the green (e.g., , transport, agriculture, forestry) and blue (e.g., fisheries, maritime transport, coastal resources) . To access these opportunities, education and training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields must be emphasized. Proactive efforts are key to facilitating women’s participation and leadership since they face myriad institutional, structural, and cultural barriers to their inclusion. Whether through legal restrictions or social norms, some women are prohibited from working in relevant sectors, while others do not have the right to own . Women are overrepresented as workers in many industries that have a direct impact on or are directly impacted by climate change (e.g., agriculture, fishing, garment industries, tourism), presenting opportunities for women’s climate innovation while simultaneously challenging their livelihoods. Women’s access to and uptake of climate-smart technologies remains limited, including for women smallholder , who often do not have land rights or deeds. This gender-climate theme aligns with the U.S. government’s priority to promote WES.