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A Woman-Focused Climate Agenda

When dealing with complex challenges, it can be tempting to establish false tradeoffs, with leaders claiming that they must choose between goals. But addressing climate change effectively will be impossible without progress on gender equality, and we can’t wait to achieve gender equality before pursing climate action.

LONDON – From teen activist Greta Thunberg’s much-publicized transatlantic journey on a zero-emissions boat to attend the United Nations General Assembly to the proliferation of climate protests, the world is more aware than ever of the climate threat. Yet this increased awareness has yet to translate into collective action by world leaders to mitigate climate change, let alone targeted efforts to protect the most vulnerable groups – beginning with women and girls.

The facts speak for themselves. Women are likelier than men to live in poverty, and gendered social roles that reproduce socioeconomic power imbalances leave women and girls particularly vulnerable to a wide variety of climate consequences, including reduced access to water, food, shelter, and vital services.

Not surprisingly, 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. Moreover, women are more likely than men to suffer from increased workload and income loss due to climate disasters. In South Sudan – one of the world’s fastest-warming countries – droughts and flooding have forced girls and women to walk farther to gather firewood and obtain water, a time-consuming and potentially dangerous change.

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