Global inaction on climate change is violating women and girls’ rights

9 November 2022

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A new ActionAid UK report released on Gender Day at COP has found that women and girls are facing increasing and multiple risks as the climate crisis worsens. At a time when climate-induced losses and damages are escalating faster than predicted and with increasingly devastating consequences, the report finds that women and girls are being impacted disproportionately. Urgent funding and support are required now to support women and girls to rebuild and recover in the face of losses and damages caused by climate change. 

ActionAid UK’s new report, Women confronting loss and damage in Africa, draws on the lived realities of women and girls in Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Zambia, as they grapple with a rapidly changing climate. Communities across the four African countries are experiencing damages to their crops and livelihoods, leading to a decrease in incomes as well as knock-on impacts on their security and mental health. Women and girls are being particularly adversely affected due to pre-existing structural inequalities, putting them at greater risk. 

Sophie Rigg, Senior Climate and Resilience Adviser at ActionAid UK, said that the report shows that “the impact of the climate crisis goes beyond just financial,” adding that “on every single measure, climate change is putting women and girls – already disproportionately on the frontline of the climate crisis – at further risk of marginalisation.”  

“It’s an injustice that in every single country where we spoke to women and girls, they told us that they are at further risk of sexual violence, domestic violence, and child marriage as a changing climate impacts their and their families' livelihoods,” she added. 

In Kenya, which has been affected by intense droughts as a result of successive rainy seasons, Jeniffer Kibon, a delegate at the Summit and agro-pastoralist said: “The drought in the Horn of Africa is worse than in previous years. We have experienced it in places that have not previously seen drought - it has hit every village.  

She added: “Girls are no longer going to school because of climate change as they don’t have food. For girls at the moment, the issue of forced child marriage is at its highest point because of hunger. Girls are being married off because their community counts them as wealth.” 

"The drought has increased gender inequalities and even getting food is a problem. My biggest request is that the countries that are contributing to the emissions affecting climate change should come together to form solutions.” 

 And in Nigeria, where 100,000 people were displaced as a result of floods, another woman spoke about how the rainy season has become more deadly, destroying her crops and her livelihood: “We plant cassava in our community, but we don't know the season to plant because the calendar has been altered. We expect our crops to mature by August for harvest, but before we know what is happening, the May flood has washed our crops away.”  

In Zambia, one woman explained how floods are leading to food insecurity, poverty, and a violation of their rights. She shared how climate change led to a loss in income, resulting in an increased risk of gender-based violence and girls dropping out of school due to unwanted pregnancies. "Many cases of teen pregnancy in my community are indirectly caused by climate change," she said 

Despite being disproportionately impacted, the women interviewed in the research gave many examples of how they are leading the way in responding to the effects of climate change on their communities. But the report highlights that greater support is needed. 

The report argues that the international community, currently failing in its pledges to those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, must rapidly ramp up financing and ensure women’s rights and gender equality are at the heart of this support. 

Commenting on the lack of global support and financing for less industrialised nations, Rigg said: “With each passing COP, unfulfilled promises accumulate as the planet heats faster and faster. Countries in the Global South were promised £100bn a year by 2020 to help mitigate and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis. This is long overdue and only a fraction of what is needed.”  

She added: “Women we spoke to as part of our research need more than words. The time for action is long overdue. We cannot tackle climate change unless women are meaningfully involved in its solutions and in ensuring that climate policies have gender equality at its heart.  The climate crisis is a gendered crisis that is putting women’s rights in danger. The failure of the international community to listen to those on the frontline of the climate crisis will hold us all back and prevent communities from being able to move from risk to resilience.” 

Alongside the report, ActionAid has developed a policy brief outlining key recommendations for the UK Government’s international climate policy. The policy brief recommends that: 

  1. The UK must use its position as outgoing COP president and as a negotiating party to broker an agreement at COP27 on Loss and Damage and accelerate the establishment of a dedicated Loss and Damage Financing Facility (LDFF) at COP27 
  2. The UK must commit to providing new and additional finance for loss and damage 
  3. The UK must push for Loss and Damage finance to be gender transformative  

The report found 6 key components to gender transformative loss and damage programming, as follows:   

  • Increasing and enabling women’s access to climate finance for loss and damage 
  • Creating space for women’s leadership in addressing loss and damage 
  • Addressing women’s disproportionate care burden 
  • Promoting and accelerating social protection policies that are gender transformative  
  • Incorporating women’s protection into all action on loss and damage 
  • Supporting women-led agroecology during the recovery    


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