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The effects of climate change have caused many girls to spend extra time gathering water

Effects of climate change on girls’ rights

We are witnessing a human-made climate emergency that will continue to make humanitarian crises and gender inequality worse.

Climate change is a social and intergenerational injustice; those who have contributed least are most impacted. 

The inequality and discrimination experienced by marginalised girls and young women are amplified by climate change. These girls will feel the greatest impacts but will not have the information and resources they need to cope.

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How does climate change affect girls’ rights?

Education

In periods of crisis, girls are often the first to drop out of school to help their families make money, do domestic chores or look after their brothers and sisters. If they are out of school, they are less likely to learn about climate change and how to deal with its effects.

Child marriage

When families’ income and ability to survive are put at risk, child marriage can be seen as a way to reduce the financial burden of taking care of girls. 

Violence

During and after extreme weather events, girls are at increased risk of violence and exploitation, including sexual and physical abuse, and trafficking. These risks are heightened when collecting food, water and firewood, or when staying in temporary shelters.

Sexual and reproductive health

Disruption to health services due to disasters increases unplanned pregnancies and sexual and reproductive health problems. A lack of access to education can also limit girls’ understanding of these issues.

Health

Girls are more likely to go hungry when food is in short supply. Also, certain diseases may affect girls more than boys if they are already suffering from malnutrition or a lack of water, especially during menstruation or if they are pregnant or young mothers.

Girls on the frontlines of the climate crisis

See how the inequalities experienced by marginalised girls and young women are amplified by the impacts of climate change.

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How to reduce the effects of climate change on girls

Protect girls’ education

Education is crucial in building the knowledge, skills and behaviours girls need to adapt to climate change. In addition, it supports girls to be responsible for the environment and active in leading on these issues in their communities.

Support girls’ leadership

There is an urgent need for more girls and women to take the lead in climate policy and decision-making. This will ensure investment and action tackles the specific impacts on girls’ rights.

Provide equal economic opportunities

To limit global warming, economies must become carbon-free and sustainable. Girls and women must play a leading role in this transition so they will have equal opportunities and won’t have to face stereotypes around certain jobs not being suitable for women.

We must not leave climate change for children to fix

Young activists are increasingly taking action and speaking out about the urgency of reducing emissions. We must support them and put pressure on leaders to commit to tackling climate change, blogs Jess Cooke.

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What must governments do to support girls?

Currently 185 countries have agreed to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement. However, over half of their national strategies do not include any mention of gender, while girls are almost completely ignored.

The global climate movement is being powered by girl activists, yet national climate strategies barely consider their rights. Climate action without girls and young women will fail to tackle the climate crisis today and will create bigger challenges in the future.

Governments must: 

  • Recognise the social impact of climate change and respond to the risks faced by the most vulnerable.
  • Involve girls in the design, implementation and measurement of their climate strategies.
  • Support girls to learn the skills they need to respond to the impacts of the climate crisis, take a leading role in climate action and hold leaders to account.
  • Protect girls online and in public forums so they can confidently and safely speak out about climate change.
  • Deliver climate justice so richer countries, who are historically responsible for the most emissions, provide support for the people and communities most affected by the climate crisis.

Learn more about girls' rights and climate strategies

Climate change activism

See how we're supporting young people to become aware of their rights and take the lead on climate action.

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What is Plan International’s approach?

We support children to understand climate change, its impacts and how they can adapt. Through our work we also encourage children to take the lead on climate change issues and adaptation in their countries and communities.