Climate crisis impacting women
During the summer of last year, extensive flooding affected the one-third of Pakistan, submerging a country that ranks as the 5th most populous in the world. This disaster resulted in the destruction of approximately 2 million homes and thousands of acres of agricultural land, with 90% of crops in Sindh, a significant food belt, having been damaged. The consequences also included the destruction of hospitals and schools, the loss of millions of livestock, and the displacement and dislocation of 30-50 million people. Additionally, extensive damage rendered many roads unusable, creating significant transportation difficulties. The disastrous situation in Pakistan was caused by the climate crisis.
The country is home to the second largest number of glaciers globally, after the Arctic poles, but unfortunately, they are melting at an unprecedented rate due to global warming. The glacial melt, along with the unpredictable monsoon patterns resulting from earth’s warming climate, culminated in a super-flood. This phenomenon was a devastating consequence of the climate crisis in the country.
The most pressing battle for women today is the fight against the climate crisis. It will have a greater impact on women than any other issue in the world. At present, 80% of people who have been displaced worldwide by the climate crisis are women. Climate justice is a feminist matter of global significance. Therefore, the most significant feminist movement today should be the one that involves saving the planet and each other.
Water Aid, a non-profit organization, estimated that Pakistan’s super-floods had caused extensive destruction, and by any measure, women were the most adversely affected. During the floods, almost 700,000 pregnant women in the country were denied maternal healthcare, leaving them and their newborns without support, food, security and basic medical care. Miscarriage rate also skyrocketed during this period.
In addition to trauma and anxiety, girls had no menstrual care, and roughly 70% of women in flood-affected regions suffered from urinary tract infections due to lack of access to toilets and using unsanitary fabric instead of clean pads. Although the climate emergency impacts people from all walks of life, including the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the urban, the rural, the beautiful, the brave, and the lonely, but mostly, women and girls across the global south bear the heaviest burden.
Women and children are at a much higher risk of losing their lives during a disaster, as per a study. This is largely due to their limited access to resources during emergencies. In addition, the threat of sexual violence also escalates during extreme weather events. The United Nations has reported that droughts in Uganda led to a surge in domestic violence and sexual abuse. Similarly, floods in Pakistan and cyclones in Bangladesh resulted in maternal health crisis and an increase in violence against women.
The devastating impact of the climate crisis on women cannot be ignored. As evidenced by the super-flood in Pakistan, women and girls in the global south are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. From limited access to resources during emergencies to the heightened risk of sexual violence, women bear the brunt of this crisis. The fight against climate change is not only an environmental issue but a feminist issue of global significance as well. Therefore, we must work together to prioritize climate justice and ensure that women’s voices are heard in the fight to save our planet and each other. The time to act is now before it is too late.
The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist and Editor S&T of Sunrise Today. He covers science & technology, environment, agriculture, climate change, global warming, energy crisis and public health. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.