Climate change is driving some of the greatest injustices unfolding right before our eyes, and the worst effects are felt by those who play the smallest role in causing the crisis: girls.
As countries meet for the 22nd Conference of Parties in Marrakesh (COP 22) to discuss how to implement last year’s Paris Agreement, much of the discussion will be around mobilising the promised $100 billion by 2020 required to take action to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
girls can be leaders and innovators of climate solutions
Countries have realised it will be critical to take urgent action to reduce the global emission of greenhouse gases causing climate change beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius. They also agreed to help the poorest adapt to impacts already occurring, such as increasingly intense storms, flooding, and prolonged droughts.
Last year, about 160 disasters occurred in Asia alone. The region’s rapid urbanisation and population growth are only exacerbating the problem.
Girls face unique challenges
Climate change will have a particularly negative effect on girls, who suffer disproportionately during disasters. When families struggle to produce crops because of changing rainfall patterns, or lose their homes due to flooding, girls are the first to be taken out of school. They are expected to do household chores, provide income, and care for younger siblings. Girls are seen as either assets or financial burdens.
If girls are removed from school, they are less likely to have access to timely and life-saving information, like where to go in the event of a disaster, or how climate change impacts their lives. For instance, in an area of rural Nepal where crop failures occur frequently and there is obviously abnormal rainfall, 59% of girls surveyed had never heard of climate change.
During the response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, keeping girls in school not only helped teach them about responding to disasters, but it helped minimise the risk of child trafficking and girls falling into a cycle of exploitation and poverty.
Despite this, few investments are made in girls from the billions being available for climate change adaptation. By targeting girls as beneficiaries of climate adaptation programmes, we also have the opportunity to address the root causes of inequality and transform girls’ roles in their communities.
Girls lead climate change adaptation
After learning about climate change in school, Shimu from Bangladesh played an active role in disseminating critical knowledge about adaptation practices to her community. She led preparations for seasonal floods, devised several solutions to ensure clean water would not get contaminated by flood waters, and developed an early warning system to alert the community of potential climate impact-related risks.
Join the movement for girls' rights Shimu’s story demonstrates that girls can be leaders and innovators of climate solutions and shows that governments must outline how they will focus on girls in climate change funding.
Countries at COP 22 should invest in girls. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change needs to be reconsidered to account for girls and programmes need to work for and with girls.
Ensuring that adaptation strategies are geared towards girls, and that countries are held accountable can lead to transformative change. We cannot have an inclusive, climate-resilient future without prioritising girls.
This blog was originally published on Thomson Reuters.