Empowering Women is the Climate Crisis Solution
The effects of climate change are rapidly accumulating, and it is the marginalized and vulnerable populations who bear the most immediate brunt of its impact.
Unsurprisingly, it is the women of these populations who are disproportionately affected, facing harsh realities that demand our attention.
This article examines modern day experiences of gender inequalities, their consequent effect on environmental collapse, and the transformative power of educating girls and women, highlighting their incredible potential to drive climate action and create a more equitable future.
No, Women Still Aren't Equal... Sorry.
I navigate through my own experiences of the female gender from a place of privilege.
Young, white, American, educated, and pretty enough by the standards of society. My family has faced their share of financial ups and downs, but I've never once wanted for the things that money can buy.
I've been slighted, belittled, underestimated, made to feel unsafe by entitled men. I've been told to believe that my only purpose is to be an object of sexual desire, though to make sure I keep in mind that I'm actually not quite sexy enough to be desired, as well as to remember that simply existing in a female body has made me inherently dirty and bad.
Oh well, that's the rub. All and all, 27 years in and it's been a good run so far.
Feminism: More Than Nipples
I would say that I’ve always been a feminist, “free the nipple” and all that, but as I’ve come into deeper and more independent womanhood, my perspective has been widened.
Maybe it is in light of my rights being stripped away in my home country of the United States that my eyes have been further opened to the harsh realities that my gender face globally.
Maybe it is because I have been privileged enough to travel and witness firsthand the contrast between poor countries and rich countries.
Maybe because, as I grow more interested in building my business and in building a strong financial future for myself, the accumulation of educational resources in my arsenal all point to that women are still overwhelmingly left out of the financial conversation.
I would guess that it is a combination of all of this, and more.
Throughout these experiences, one thing becomes glaringly apparent: The urgent need for women's empowerment.
The Rich Get Richer, The Rest Get Fucked
Climate change is coming for us all (grim, though true), but the consequences disproportionately affect those least responsible for the problem.
While the ultra wealthy who fuel environmental and social degradation can still afford to live in denial (and continue to line their pockets by doing so), it is the world’s lower income people and indigenous communities who suffer the rapidly accumulating consequences.
As previously mentioned, it is overwhelmingly women facing said consequences.
Take Fast Fashion, For Example
As a person with career focus in sustainable fashion, the best example I am equip to give (though there are many) is that of Fast Fashion. A colonialist industry built on the backs of non-white women and girls in developing countries. These individuals endure working conditions that are not only perilous but also degrading, all while receiving wages far below what is legally mandated, let alone sufficient for a decent standard of living.
The higher purpose behind their suffering? The production of fleeting fashion trends destined to be worn once and discarded, marketed primarily to women and girls in higher income countries, sold to supplement a rich white man's yacht, and ultimately returned to the developing countries as a thoughtless method of waste relocation which further disrupts local industries, economies, and environments.
Amidst this complexity, a key component of the solution emerges as a straightforward yet impactful step: the education and empowerment of women and girls. By equipping them with knowledge and skills for financial independence, sexual health, safety, and their vital role in climate action, we can pave the way towards breaking the cycle of poverty and promoting sustainable development.
The Phenomenal Effects of Educating Women
On Climate Change and on Society as a Whole
Amplifying Resilience and Safety
Natural disasters have a profound impact on women, exacerbating existing gender inequalities and creating new challenges that disproportionately affect them. In times of disaster, women face heightened risks to their safety, well-being, and overall empowerment. This is due to a combination of social, cultural, and economic factors that intersect with the effects of the disaster itself.
According to Women’s Agenda, Women are 14 times more likely to be killed in a natural disaster than men. For the girls and women who survive these disasters, their fate often isn’t much brighter. Many are met with poverty, forced marriage in exchange for a small financial sum (an act of desperation from families in need of money), and sexual violence in the disasters aftermath.
Gender Based Violence
One significant threat that women face during and after natural disasters is an increased risk of violence. Disruptions to social structures, breakdown of law enforcement, and overcrowded living conditions in temporary shelters create an environment where women become more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence. Women may also be targeted for human trafficking or forced into marriages as a means of survival, especially when their families are in desperate situations and facing economic hardships.
Limited Access to Resources
Moreover, women often have limited access to resources in disaster-affected areas. This can include inadequate access to clean water, sanitation facilities, healthcare services, and essential supplies.
Limited mobility, cultural norms, and unequal power dynamics can restrict women's ability to access these resources, leaving them at a greater disadvantage in post-disaster recovery and resilience-building efforts.
Education plays a crucial role in addressing these challenges and empowering women in disaster-affected communities. By providing women with access to education, they gain knowledge, skills, and awareness to advocate for their rights and make informed decisions. Education equips women with the tools and information they need to actively participate in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery processes. This includes understanding their legal rights, accessing support services, and actively engaging in community resilience-building initiatives.
Furthermore, education helps challenge harmful gender norms and stereotypes that perpetuate inequalities and limit women's roles in disaster response efforts. By promoting gender equality and empowering women through education, communities can break down barriers and create more inclusive and effective disaster response systems.
Educated women are better equipped to challenge traditional gender roles, demand equal representation, and actively contribute their perspectives and expertise in decision-making processes.
Ensuring female students' access to attend secondary school as well as to receive a tertiary education not only empowers individual girls by expanding their knowledge, skills, and opportunities but also contributes to broader societal development. When girls receive quality education, they are more likely to break the cycle of poverty, make informed decisions about their health and well-being, participate in the workforce, and become agents of change within their communities.
Unlocking Potential and Agency
Educated women are powerful agents of change. Their voices and perspectives contribute to more effective climate responses. By promoting education, we harness the potential of women to develop innovative solutions, advocate for sustainable practices, and drive community engagement. Empowered women create a ripple effect, inspiring others to take action and leading to transformative change.
Investing in girls' education nurtures future leaders who will shape a sustainable world. By providing girls with quality education, we equip them with the knowledge and skills to address climate challenges head-on. These educated young women become catalysts for change, driving innovation, policy reform, and community resilience in the face of climate change.
Education + Financial Independence = Climate Solutions
Women's education is a crucial player not only in breaking the cycle of poverty, but also in promoting sustainable development.
It has been widely recognized that investing in girls' education yields significant social and economic benefits, not only for the individuals themselves but also for their families, communities, and society as a whole.
One of the most extraordinary outcomes that arises from providing women with formal education is the life altering empowerment of financial independence.
Money Can Buy Happiness
The age old “money can’t buy happiness” simply isn’t true.
It is precisely a severe lack of financial resources that leaves women in such vulnerable positions to begin with. People without financial independence have no headspace to think beyond day to day survival. Who can bother with education of any sort when they or their children are starving? Of course, if one remains uneducated, the poverty cycle continues.
Poverty: Education's Gatekeeper
Poverty and gender inequality are deeply intertwined, with climate change exacerbating these challenges.
While poverty knows no gender, evidence via Research Gate shows that an astonishing 70% of those experiencing poverty globally are women, and they are largely women of color.
Furthermore, while there are already plenty of educational barriers girls face, environmental issues aside, climate change exacerbates them. That may be in the form of lacking money for school fees, for menstrual hygiene products, and even the increase in caregiver roles (roles which are predominately taken by women) that arise post-natural disaster. These are just to name a few.
If trends continue as they have been, the NGO Plan International estimates that by the year 2025 climate change will contribute to preventing a minimum of 12.5 million girls from completing their education all together.
Financial Independence is Essential to Empowerment
When women are educated and equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills, they are better positioned to secure stable employment, start businesses, and generate income. This financial independence all