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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-induced climate emergency that will continue to worsen humanitarian crises and exacerbate gender inequality.

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

The inequality and discrimination experienced every day by marginalised girls and young women is amplified by climate change. They will feel the greatest impacts but will not have equal access to resources to help them cope with the consequences.

How does climate change affect girls’ rights?

Education

In periods of stress or crisis girls are often the first to drop out of school to help their families make money, do domestic chores or look after siblings. 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, 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 that girls need to adapt to climate change. Research shows education is more important than economic growth in preventing deaths from disasters. In addition, it supports girls to be responsible for the environment and active in leading on these issues in their communities.

Provide equal economic opportunities

To limit global warming, economies must become carbon-free and sustainable. Girls and women should lead the transition to a sustainable economy. This has the dual purpose of challenging stereotypes that dictate which jobs are suitable for women.

Support girls’ leadership

There is an urgent need for more gender-balanced leadership in climate policy and decision-making. This will ensure investment and action recognises and addresses the specific impacts on girls’ rights.

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What do governments need to do?

Currently 185 countries have agreed to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius. However, over half of their national strategies do not include any mention of gender.

National climate strategies inadequately respond to the specific risks and inequalities faced by girls, but they can be a pathway to greater equality. 

For example, tackling increased urbanisation and pressure on public services can create opportunities to make services safe for girls and improve access to them.

Countries must not only be held to account for the pledges they have made, but they must recognise how girls are disproportionately affected by climate change. In addition, girls should play an active role in creating, implementing and monitoring these 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.