Our Greater Los Angeles Chapter of USNC for UN Women is very fortunate to have some talented and dedicated interns who are essential to our work. One of the many activities this Fall, was a short research project connecting the issue of climate change to women’s issues.
The interns were directed to answer the following question. “What does climate change have to do with women?”
The interns chose an area to focus upon:
-War and Violence
-Food and Crop (agriculture) Security
Then, they researched these issues and their impact on women. It was also important to our work that a connection was made to a global example and to UN Women.
I hope you enjoy these brief intern essays. Feel free to continue the conversation and comment on essays that move or intrigue you.
– Lynn Izakowitz, Internship Coordinator
Economic Development, Climate Change, and Women Empowerment
By: Lila Suboh
Economic development is necessary for improving the quality of life in developing countries. Women worldwide have contributed to economic development through their participation in the work force, especially in the agriculture sector. Today, women farmers comprise of nearly 43% of farmers in developing countries.
Unfortunately, climate change has affected women’s role in economic development. According to the United Nations, climate change, including drought, uncertain rainfall and deforestation, make it difficult for women to secure the resources they need to farm. This is especially true in Palestine. This war-torn country struggles with a 34.5% poverty rate. Many Palestinian women have chosen to farm to support their families and their communities.
Climate change along with limited resources have largely impacted the role of women in Palestine. Deforestation is a large issue in Palestine–7,500 olive trees were damaged or destroyed in the West Bank during an 8-month-period in 2011 alone by Israeli settlers. The destruction of these trees have not only impacted Palestinians economically, but also emotionally because of the sentimental value of these trees.
Economic development is one of UN Women main focuses. In 2004, UN Women, in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), initiated Sabaya, a program that empowers Palestinian women in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by developing their skills socially, economically, academically and legally. Through this ongoing program, Palestinian women have been able to farm their olive trees more efficiently with resources available to them.
 “Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change.” WomenWatch. United Nations, n.d. <http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/climate_change/>.
 “Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change.”
 “Palestinian Womens’ Associations and Agricultural Value Chains”
 “Focus Areas.” UN Women. UN Women, n.d. <http://www.unwomen.org/focus-areas/?show=Economic Empowerment>.
 “Occupied Palestinian Territory Sabaya Programme Evaluation Report.” UN Women. UN Women, 16 Mar. 2011. <http://www.unwomen.org/publications/occupied-palestinian-territory-sabaya-programme-report/>.
Human Trafficking’s Effects on Women
By: Michelle Cho
The global problem of human trafficking has been shown to have an undeniable effect on women worldwide. As climate change increasingly causes mobility and migration, social networks and access to health services will continue to be disrupted, leading to a greater likelihood of gender-based violence for women (Climate Health Connect, 2010). The World Disaster Report acknowledges that “women and girls are at higher risk of sexual violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, trafficking, and domestic violence in disasters (IFRC, 2007). Furthermore, women who were in vulnerable situations before a disaster experience an increased likelihood of being subject to violence following the disaster and may also avoid using shelters as a result of fear (Davis et all, 2005; IFRC 2007).
An example of this phenomenon currently exists in Nepal. Existing reports documents over four thousand missing young women who are suspected of being abducted every year. 70% are sold and forced into prostitution while the remaining 30% are sold as forced labor (UNEP, 2011). The gender division of labor in Nepal remains highly skewed, with women oftentimes carrying out 4.6 to 5.7 times the agricultural work men carry out (ICIMOD). Thus, with climate change negatively affecting crop yields, the forced out-migration of women would increase their vulnerabilities to both internal and external human trafficking. UN Women works to mitigate and eliminate human rights crises like these by finding ways to penalize traffickers and clients rather than victims and survivors, focusing on prevention, women’s empowerment, and zero tolerance for violence against women, and making links between migration and trafficking (Bachelet 2012). With support from UN Women, good practices in migration legislation have been placed into effect in Indonesia, Nepal, Cambodia, and Jordan.
Furthermore, UN Women is currently collaborating with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to address risks to migrant girls and women in post-conflict societies. Examples of UN Women’s work globally to solve this human rights issue can be seen in the following: its partnership with local women’s organizations in the occupied Palestinian territory, research on the connections between poverty and trafficking in Cambodia, organizing training workshops for police and community leaders to help fight domestic violence and trafficking in Cambodia and Nigeria, and developing toolkits to prevent and respond to trafficking crimes throughout East Asia (UNIFEM). UN Women will continue to support and listen to trafficking survivors both on the local and policy levels in order to effectively protect their human rights and entitlements. (Bachelet 2012). For more information on UN Women’s involvement in promoting the rights of women, please visit: http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/women_war_peace/index.html.
Bachelet, Michelle. “Fighting Human Trafficking: Partnership and Innovation to End Violence against Women and Children.” UN General Assembly Interactive Dialogue, “Fighting Human Trafficking: Partnership and Innovation to End Violence against Women and Children” 25 Nov. 2012. Speech.
“Human Trafficking.” Web log post. UN Women. United Nations Fund for Women, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. <http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/women_war_peace/human_trafficking.html>.
Pravettoni, Riccardo. “Human Trafficking in Nepal – Patterns.” Women at the Frontline of Climate Change – Gender Risks and Hopes (2011): Rpt. in United Nations Environment Programme. 1 Feb. 2012. Web log post. 25 Dec. 2012. <http://www.grida.no/graphicslib/detail/human-trafficking-in-nepal-patterns_10b0>
Sasser, Jade. “Climate Change, Displacement and Migration: Adaptation Success or Failure?” Web log post. Climate Health Connect. The Center for Public Health and Climate Change, 1 Dec. 2010. Web. 25 Dec. 2012. <http://www.climatehealthconnect.org/blog/climate-change-displacement-and-migration-adaptation-success-or-failure>.
Climate change and women farmers in Burkina Faso
By: Garisma Kadakia
Burkina Faso’s geographical situation makes it particularly vulnerable to climate change. As a country in the Sahel in the heart of Western Africa, Burkina Faso suffers an extreme, variable climate: both flooding and drought can affect the same area within only a few months. The economy of this largely rural country is essentially based on agriculture and stockbreeding. Climate change will have an impact on agricultural production and food security, and will therefore affect inhabitants of rural areas, especially those who are most vulnerable, such as women. Climate change in Burkina Faso has led to an increase in temperatures, increased frequency and severity of extreme weather phenomena and a general decrease in rainfall. The sectors most vulnerable to climate change will be water, agriculture and forests. Climate change is expected to have serious consequences for both food security and the national economy. The degradation of natural resources as a result of climate change has a more drastic impact on women’s livelihood, since they are more dependent on ‘natural capital’ to make a living since men are able to look for a paid job.
With regard to ‘physical capital’, plots cultivated by women are more vulnerable to climate change. The land where they grow their crops, either as part of a group or individually, is usually of poorer quality. Because they do not own these plots, women do not invest in them. Moreover, they do not use adaptation techniques such as zai pits or stonewalls, since they do not have the necessary physical strength and support. They do not have access to the appropriate tools, which are reserved for men’s plots, and fertilizers are usually used on family-owned land. As a result, these plots produce lower yields. Moreover, between harvests, women are responsible for providing food for the family, which means they have to redouble their efforts to seek alternative activities that will bring in income with which to buy the food they need. The increased workload leaves women with very little time to dedicate to income- generating activities or take part in community life.
United Nations has made efforts towards implementing a pilot programme that supplies electric generators to rural women farmers in Burkina Faso. The purpose of the programme is to free the women from lengthy chores so they can devote more of their time to education, childcare, healthcare etc. The goal is to implement and adopt the program on a national scale. By decreasing the time and energy required for processing agricultural outputs, women farmers have less need for their daughters to help with household tasks, leading to increased numbers in schools and education. Recognizing these results, U.N. hopes to implement similar programs in the nation-states of Mali and Senegal as well. Moreover, U.N. has also been working to connect the women farmers in Burkina Faso to the local markets, in hopes of enhancing their agricultural value through local procurement and food fortification. The goal for U.N. has been to release poverty through a decentralization process, aimed at strengthening local service and promoting economic development amongst the local women themselves.
Climate Change and Food and Crop (agriculture) Security
By: Elisa Choi
Because women are responsible for food production in many parts of the developing world, climate change plays a dynamic role in shifting the social, economic and political status of rural women. Climate change is predicted to reduce crop yields and food production in some regions where women account for a large majority of agricultural workers. UN Women Watch has identified four dimensions of food security that are severely affected by climate change: food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food systems stability. Today, women farmers are responsible for forty to eighty percent of all food production in developing countries, varying by region. Specifically, women are responsible for approximately 70-80 percent of household food production in sub-Saharan Africa, 65 percent in Asia and 45 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Natural disasters can therefore leave a lasting impact on the role of women in not only their families, but also their larger communities.
Women, as opposed to men, are more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change because of their reliance on local natural resources for their livelihood. Already socially and politically marginalized in many parts of the world, women face further challenges as they become less reliant on themselves and more susceptible to social inequality especially in rural areas of the third world. These women who carry the responsibility securing food and water for their households and communities are left even more vulnerable as they have little to no rights in local decision making processes on the use of land and resources critical to their livelihoods. Women are also faced with a loss of income and harvests, creating a downward economic spiral for households of women farmers and also hindering the accessibility of food to the poor.
Furthermore, it is important to address the rights of women in regards to food security for the welfare and health of women, children and developing communities. UN Women has done great work in identifying gender-sensitive strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change. For example, UN Women has made efforts to help rural households reduce their vulnerability to food insecurity by assisting farmers in learning not only food production and resource conservation techniques, but also by informing farmers of various sustainability concerns. UN Women continues to make strides to place the issue of gender equality at the forefront of the United Nations Millenium Development Goals.
Climate Change and Labor
By: Sharon Tang
Climate change facilitates the trend of feminization of agriculture. In Nepal and India, more and more women participate in agricultural work. In South Asia, most of the women who participate in farming are considered as “insignificant” and “unimportant”. At these rural regions in South Asia, women who work in the fields are non-active and informal. Apparently, more female labors participate in the fields. At the field, gender inequality seems to be undermined. As more women participate in the fields based on the genders, the safety issue and effects on health are different due to the contacts with different soil management techniques. In Nepal, women are more involved in organic fertilizer, while the men are responsible for chemical fertilizer application. The safety and unequal exposure emerges from this case.
Unlike the other countries, women in Ghana actively participate in land preparation, planting, weeding, fertilizer application, harvesting and transportation of produce. They also cultivate vegetables and process food for sale. Lack of financial source and low social status cause them to be vulnerable to climate change. These women do not have enough knowledge on the changing soil condition that significantly affects the food productions and their income. In addition to farming and agriculture, fisheries are also a very prevalent activity for women who are in Ghana. Women generally work either full-time or seasonal. The impacts of climate change cause the loss or decline of these opportunities. The loss or decline of job opportunities worsens these women and even the family’s condition.
In response to these issues and impacts, UN Women support and promote the programs and policies, such as the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the 2002 Commission on the Status of Women, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that was complemented by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. In order to address the impacts of climate change on women, the issues, such as health threats from unequal exposure to the fields and chemicals, are covered by the CEDAW that aims for the elimination of discrimination against women and emphasizes their equal accesses to financial resources and adequate living conditions.
War, Violence, Climate Change and Women
By: Anjuli DasikaIt was once stated that, to hurt a country most during wartime, people had to take away the country’s women. War has multiple underlying causes; the most significant cause is climate change. In certain developing nations–where rural agricultural practices make up their landscapes–any slight environmental changes can wither crops, deplete natural resources, and destroy people’s ways of life. The only “possible” solution to this circumstance is fighting against neighboring countries for limited resources.
In developing countries, war over scarce resources place women in the center of the violence. Not only are they the primary sources of farming and agriculture in their societies (women account for nearly 90% of the world’s farmers), but they are also the creators of stability within their households, enabling the survival of their children and serving as caretakers for the men. When war ensues, both of these aspects in rural women’s lives dissipates, as they are often displaced from their homes and are forced from one role (as mothers and farmers) to another (slaves, sex workers, and “prizes” of the war).
When climate change limits scarce resources, war and violence is not limited to the external environment in developing countries. Domestic violence is a particularly prevalent problem in countries affected by war, limited resources, and patriarchal practices. In South Asian countries such as Bangladesh and India, women have little power or agency in their marriages. Within these dowry-based institutions, women are portrayed as objects left to their spouses’ whims, which includes physical abuse. The abuse is common in these societies, however, depleted crops and resources (caused by climate change) can magnify household violence: men who previously worked as farmers may be unable to find jobs or food to feed their families, and the anger and frustration over this issue usually falls on the wives. Many international agencies are currently fighting against these gender-based abuses and are attempting to free women from the bonds of patriarchal cultures, but there are still numerous cases in secluded rural villages around the world that continue to go unnoticed.
Currently, UN Women of Greater Los Angeles is increasing awareness of these issues. Funding advocacy campaigns (like the campaign above) and developing connections with female activist groups around the Los Angeles area will build a partnership of like-minded people, who support the agency and empowerment of women all around the world, and seek to protect women against violence during major periods of climate change.
Climate Change and Disaster
By:Grace Wei Cao
Upon observing the 141 natural disasters, the London School of Economics reported that in any single of the disaster, there was approximate the same number of death for each gender. However, in other instances, when social and economic rights were deprived of the women, more women than men died in disasters. This alarming discovery indicates that gender discrepancy plays a pivotal role in determining the security of the women. Instances from Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Mitch, and others in the Americas, and South Asia, etc, all indicate a great correlation between gender discrepancy and the death of women.
This is precisely why the UN must design gender-sensitive strategies to respond to human security needs, humanitarian crises, and environmentalism issues that are caused by climate change. It is very crucial to prepare a complete set of strategies that can be implemented to further facilitate the decision-making process, increase efficiency and effectiveness of the aide, and resolve the gender discrepancy concerns.
UN. “Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change.” UN WomenWatch. UN, n.d. Web
This summer in Masaya, Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to shadow several female entrepreneurs. Many of these self-sufficient women were farmers who received microloans from an NGO titled, ProMujer (ProWoman). From providing pre-natal care to ensuring the rights for women workers to pursue economic success, this non-profit organization epitomizes the innovative ways global leadership has increased gender equality. ProMujer’s doctrine is one based upon the principle that in order to eliminate poverty in developing countries, females must be empowered.
This organization provides a forum for women ages 18-65 to assemble to discuss ideas for creating small businesses, as well as formulate a strategy of support to ensure no one woman fails. For example, “Team Nicaragua” consists of 15 women providers who own small businesses; one business woman sells cell phone minutes and she meets weekly with a local advisor to discuss and create business savvy strategies to save money and increase profits. Each Monday hundreds of women from rural towns travel (long distances) to collect a microloan. These loans are as low as $35.00 and increase as the business grows and succeeds.
ProMujer not only unites women in the pursuit of hard work and responsibility, but it also increases the standards of living for local neighborhoods. These successes create a chain reaction, compelling and encouraging more and more women to develop their own ideas to create jobs and provide for themselves. Consequently, ProMujer International has already reached and surpassed its 2014 goal of assisting 350,000 Latin American women. Nicaraguan General Manager Gloria Ruiz can attest to the successful philosophy of ProMujer. According to Ruiz, the women of ProMujer are hungry for work and enjoy and thrive in their daily work schedules because they have experienced the harsh reality of unemployment. The women of ProMujer exemplify what it means to be a confident women leader of the 21st century.
In conclusion, Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet has worked hand-in-hand with Mirna Cunningham Kain, a Nicaraguan woman and Director of the 10th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Together they have motivated women of rural Nicaragua to become agents of change in the 21st century and have proven successful, as Latin America has experienced the biggest economic boom since 1960. Together global non-profits such as ProMujer, as well as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, have opened doors and opportunities for success which in turn has empowered other women to pave the way for economic empowerment and equality. Female global leadership in the 21st century has successfully prioritized women’s rights and has laid a foundation for a multi-dimensional approach to achieve gender equality in many nations.