The Hidden Costs of Climate Change on Women's Lives
By News Desk
November 8, 2023 08:32 PM
Like numerous other countries, Pakistan is struggling to adapt to the devastating effects of climate change. Extreme natural disasters, unpredictable weather patterns, and rising temperatures have far-reaching effects on many aspects of society. The disproportionate impact on women is one issue that is frequently disregarded. The risks it poses to livelihoods, ways of life, health, safety, and security for women and girls around the world are caused by climate change.
The effects of the climate catastrophe are not felt evenly by all people; women and girls are disproportionately affected. Women find it more difficult to obtain necessities like food, water, and fuel since they are less able to access natural resources, despite their increased dependence on them. The core of Pakistan's economy, agriculture, is facing serious repercussions as a result of climate change. Women, who comprise a sizable share of the workers in this industry, are consequently suffering the most. Their ability to raise crops and provide for their family has been hampered by the shifting climate. Girls are particularly affected since they frequently have to drop out of school to assist their mothers in carrying the heavier load. Furthermore, in unstable and conflict-affected areas, the climate disaster exacerbates already-existing social, political, and economic tensions by acting as a "threat multiplier". This increases the risks associated with maternal and child health, increases the likelihood that women and girls may experience gender-based violence, and restricts their access to healthcare. For example, severe weather events, such as floods, can cause the spread of numerous diseases and negatively impact the mental health of residents, particularly women and children.
In August 2022, the Sindh province in southern Pakistan saw severe monsoon floods as a result of climate change that caused extensive destruction. Numerous people lost their houses, cattle, and crops, and a great number of people died. About 8 million people were displaced due to these floods. The residents utilized the cattle that remained, mostly cows and buffaloes, as a source of food in the aftermath. To survive, the people also started keeping poultry. In the province of Sindh, 32-year-old Asma lost her seven-month-old child in the floodwaters. She was compelled to leave her home and her family took shelter at a nearby school. The psychological and physical health of women and children especially those who were of childbearing age was significantly impacted by the flooding. There is a risk to the health of expectant mothers and their unborn children due to the prevalence of several diseases in climate-affected locations, including typhoid, dengue fever, malaria, watery diarrhoea, skin infections, and snakebites.
As Pakistan is a patriarchal country, women's roles are restricted to taking care of the home and raising the family. They are frequently kept inside their homes. But because of the consequences of climate change, these women are now fighting against a new set of difficulties for which they are unprepared. After their homes were destroyed and their families were upended by floods, droughts, and other natural calamities, they were forced to resign from their traditional duties and look for other sources of income. The lack of education and awareness among women about climate change makes it even more challenging for them to cope with its effects. Many women are unaware of the changes in weather patterns and do not have the knowledge or skills to adapt to these changes. They are thus compelled to leave their homes and families behind to travel to other places in quest of employment and better living conditions. The aftermath of the floods has led to a combination of food scarcity and unemployment, causing additional hardship. Furthermore, women are burdened with bearing children despite their physical weakness and anaemia.
The United Nations Population Fund stated in August 2022 that there were roughly 650,000 pregnant women in Pakistan's flood-affected areas. As a result of the disaster, over 1,000 health facilities in Sindh were either partially damaged or destroyed. This situation worsened in the subsequent months. In catastrophe situations, pregnant and nursing women suffer from a variety of obstacles, such as limited access to a healthy diet and difficulties adjusting to displacement. In addition to the challenges these women already face, the floods made it more difficult for them to get the healthcare they need. Numerous cases are observed in the affected areas one of them is a case of a mother found in Sindh who gave birth during the floods and lost her baby since the closest clinic was hours away but inaccessible by foot due to the flooded roads and when she arrived at the clinic, it was already too late.
I feel that empowering women is crucial in building resilience against climate change. Programs for education and awareness can provide women with the essential information and abilities they need to deal with this problem successfully. It’s possible that Investing in local women's groups and organizations provides a platform for them to voice their concerns and contribute solutions tailored to their specific needs. Women must get involved in climate change policy engagement and decision-making processes.
Hence, the impact of climate change on women in Pakistan must be acknowledged and addressed by the government and the international community. Financial and technological support must be provided to build climate-resilient infrastructure and promote sustainable livelihoods for women. The climate crisis is not gender-neutral and clearly requires a gender perspective to prioritize the well-being and rights of women and girls. I believe we can accomplish a transformative shift instead of just making declarations for a more inclusive and economically engaged society by involving women in the solution.
Written By Rida Arshad