How climate change affects women and girls

Climate change, a term that refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, has become a part of human vocabulary owing to its overwhelming influence and effect on our lives.

Experts say human activities — such as bush burning, gas flaring, emissions from cars and generating sets etc — contribute to the changes we see in our atmospheric conditions today.

While no one escapes the harrowing, heartbreaking consequences of climate change, research has shown that women and girls bear the brunt of adverse climatic conditions such as flood and drought.

During floods, most women and girls who stay in shelters for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) experience various forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).

While some women and girls are raped in exchange for food and other supplies, others bear days, weeks and months of verbal attacks and abuses. Worse is the fact that most of these women who have been violated are unable to report or seek help for fear of being denied food and supplies or chased out of the camps.

Aside the pain of the abuses, the emotional and phycological trauma these women and girls must live with all their lives are often left out.

The decreasing water levels experienced in some rural communities in Nigeria means that more women and girls must walk long unfamiliar territories in search of resources such as water to run households. This increases their vulnerability to attacks.

Experts have also established a nexus between climate change and early girl-child marriage. Communities that depend on subsistence farming have begun to witness poor yields as a result of low rainfall and other climatic conditions. In order to have fewer mouths to feed, some of these families give their daughters out in marriage at very young age. This reduces the literacy rate of girls when compared to that of the boys. What this means is that in the near future, there would be fewer women educated enough to compete for elective positions or defend their rights and those of others.

Climate change exposes more women and girls to diseases that may disrupt their sexual and reproductive health. Flood increase disease spread from place to place. Also, poor access to water in most rural communities, puts women at the risk of contracting diseases that spread through poor sanitation and hygiene.

As emergencies due to climate change become more frequent, health-care resources toward fighting the latest threat and away from services deemed less essential. Around the world today, countries are more concerned with addressing the Covid-19 pandemic thereby shifting the attention from reproductive health issues.

As humans, it is, therefore, important that we reduce our activities that contribute to climate change to save our planet.  There is no Planet B.