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Climate change has devastating impact on girls

19 September 2019
Climate change has a devastating impact on girls. Plan International is demanding urgent action to protect millions whose futures are at stake and stand in support of the youth climate strikes.

Tein, 19, from Cambodia gets up at 5:30am to collect water from the well before it dries up.
19-year-old Tein from Cambodia gets up at 5.30am to collect water from the well before it dries up.

Plan International will join young people striking across the globe to demand action on climate change from world leaders gathering at the United Nations for the climate summit on 23rd September.

“The inequality and discrimination girls face are amplified by climate change. One of the most damaging consequences of climate change will be a reversal of progress on girls’ rights and gender equality,” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International.

“Climate crisis is not just an environmental issue for scientists to solve and it involves more than curbing carbon emissions. Climate change is a humanitarian issue, an economic issue, a development issue, and a gender equality issue,” said Ms. Albrectsen.

Climate change impacts increase inequality for girls

Plan International is shining the spotlight on how climate change impacts girls, particularly those from the most vulnerable, impoverished communities that have the fewest resources to cope. Plan International’s experience of working in communities across the world shows that girls’ education is often the first thing sacrificed during a climate-induced crisis. Families may no longer be able to pay school fees, or girls may need to travel further for water and firewood, leaving no time for their studies. And when a family is faced with economic hardship caused by climate change, they are more likely to marry off their daughters at a young age, putting millions of girls at risk of early pregnancy and maternal death.

Of the 184 national climate strategies developed by countries as part of the Paris Agreement, just 41 mention children and youth and only 2 mention girls. This is scandalous

“Of the 184 national climate strategies developed by countries as part of the Paris Agreement, just 41 mention children and youth and only 2 mention girls. This is scandalous considering children and youth, particularly girls, will suffer some of the worst consequences of climate change,” said Ms. Albrectsen.

For Tein, a 19-year-old young woman in Cambodia, climate change has pushed her community to a breaking point. The dry season has progressively become longer and hotter over the last 10 years resulting in mass migration to cities and abroad. “I have to leave before 5 am to collect water from the well. If I don’t, others will beat me to it and the well will be dry for the rest of the day,” she said.

Young people are pioneers of the climate justice movement

“Global leaders convening at the United Nations must make bold and extensive commitments to address the impacts of climate change on girls and young women, and other vulnerable populations - those who have contributed the least but suffer the most,” said Ms. Albrectsen.

Global leaders convening at the United Nations must make bold and extensive commitments to address the impacts of climate change on girls and young women, and other vulnerable populations

Plan International is calling for increased investment in quality education for girls as one of the highest priorities in climate action. Research shows that for every additional year of schooling a girl receives on average, her country’s resilience to climate disasters improves. The organisation is also calling on governments to do more to make sure that the young people, especially girls and young women, can participate in the decision-making process around climate policy. “Young people are the pioneers of the climate justice movement. They are the ones pushing hardest for urgent action as they clearly see their futures, and their children’s futures, are at stake,” said Ms. Albrectsen.

“The biggest societal changes often start with grassroots movements, and it is time for leaders to start listening. Otherwise, children and young people will have to find the solutions to the climate crisis should current leaders fail.”

Learn about the effects of climate change on girls