Not everyone is equally affected by climate change. The changes in temperature are transforming the environment, melting the ice-caps and increasing the amount of flooding or droughts. This in turn has led to desertification, poorer nutrition and education as well as many other difficulties that societies are facing worldwide. Women and children suffer the greatest economic and social impact.
Climate change is a social, environmental and human rights issue that affects marginalized people in the planet the most. Therefore, this matter calls for scientific research and cross-sector collaboration to answer to the consequences of climate change from an economic, social and gender perspective.
Women embody 70 % of the 1.3 million people in the world living below the poverty line. As women traditionally rely more on natural resources for their livelihoods, they are the most vulnerable when climate change affects their source of income. As droughts and flooding increase, more and more crops are destroyed, sanitation issues intensify, and clean water becomes scarce; therefore, women’s ability to provide resources for themselves and their families is limited.
As environmental disasters become more common, women are being forced to emigrate. Out of 26 million climate-change refugees, 20 million are women. A recent study carried out in Bangladesh found that nearly 61 percent of women were evicted from their homes during floods, and essential resources -such as fuel wood collected from far-away places- were lost. A clear example of the state of female vulnerability in the world was the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in the United States, as women accounted for two-thirds of the people who lost their jobs.
Water scarcity in rural settings is another aspect of climate change that affects women disproportionately. When water is scarce, men usually leave their communities in search of new employment, and women become the head of the household, but face many obstacles particularly to access financial resources or services. Many women are held back by discriminatory laws and customs that prevent them from being able to acquire, possess or retain land or other assets.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), women account for most of the global agricultural workforce. As agriculture is their main source of livelihood, women are forced to adapt agricultural practices to situations of drought and desertification. Furthermore, The World Health Organization has reported that women and children around the world spend 140 million hours per day collecting water for their families and communities. This massive investment of time doesn’t generate income, and it prevents women and children from attending school or getting involved in other productive activities.
These are only some of the reasons why gender perspective needs to be central in the design of effective responses to climate change. It is important to emphasize that currently, women represent only 30% of global climate negotiating bodies even though they are among those most affected by climate change. It is time to take action and acknowledge women’s place as economic and political actors who are essential towards dealing with climate change issues and not simply as victims or beneficiaries of assistance.
Some of the gender inclusive steps necessary for counteracting climate change are the following:
1. Enforce female participation in urban and rural spheres within gender-inclusive programs. Acknowledge women’s role as stakeholders and decision-makers that should be able to work towards mitigating the effects of climate change.
2. Effectively analyze the levels of vulnerability and autonomy of women when confronted with different climate threats in order to facilitate equal access, control, and distribution of support programs.
3. Promote equal access to land ownership and other resources such as capital and access to credit.
Introducing a gender perspective in the global climate change agenda is crucial. Climate change actions need to empower women to share their knowledge, management skills and experience in order to become agents of mitigation and adaptation. Women and men need to equally participate and decide on the best courses of action to take on climate policy. Inclusion is the key to building a sustainable future, as well as a more equitable world
Angélica Fuentes, Founder Equal Invest
Angélica Fuentes is a Latin American businesswoman and impact investor, who has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of Mexico’s most influential women.
Ms. Fuentes was appointed CEO of Grupo Imperial in 1992 and quickly positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. Under her leadership, Grupo Imperial’s annual growth rate increased from 5% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2005. Ms. Fuentes served as President of the Business Energy Network of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement (APEC) from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association from 1996 to 2000. From 2007 to 2015, she served as CEO of Grupo Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas. Under her leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico.
Throughout her career, Ms. Fuentes has dedicated significant time and resources to NGOs, international organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women. She participated in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Programme, and led the Mexican Gender Parity Taskforce. She currently serves on Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; is member of the Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council of UN Women; is a Global Advocate for the Girl Up Campaign, a United Nations Foundation program; co-chairs the PVBLIC LATAM regional platform; is member of the Latin American Program Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center; and is member of the Global Dignity’s International Council of Advisors.
Her work in this field has been recognized by numerous honors and awards. In 2015, UN Women gave her the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Leadership Award; she was the first female CEO to receive this award for championing gender equality in the private sector. In 2016, PVBLIC Foundation, Ismael Cala Foundation, and the United Nations gave her the award for Latin Woman Empowerment. In 2017, she received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from The Maestro Cares Foundation.
Gender equality, women empowerment and the eradication of poverty have always been a priority in all her endeavors. In 2014, she established the Angelica Fuentes Foundation. In 2016, she founded A Complete and The Imperative Fund. In 2017, she founded Equal Invest, The Beauty Station and A Complete Journey.