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Emerging Countries Need Women-led Climate Action


In 2021, the OECD said-“ Gender equality and environmental goals are mutually reinforcing and create a virtuous circle that will help accelerate the achievement of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]”. Additionally, a study by the International Labour Organization in 2019 projected that by 2030, high temperatures would lead to a global loss of 2.2 percent of total working hours, equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs.


  • GS1-
    • Role of women and women organizations
    • Social empowerment
  • GS3-
    • Inclusive growth
    • Climate change

Mains Question:

Emerging countries need women-led climate action. Elucidate. (15 marks, 250 words).

Impact of climate change on women:

Disproportionate VulnerabilityClimate change disproportionately affects women in low-income areas due to their reliance on natural resources and labor-intensive livelihoods. The climate crisis increases the time and effort required to secure basic necessities. Rural women often bear the responsibility of ensuring access to clean water, sufficient cooking fuel, and nutritious food for their families.

A study by McAllister in 2023 projected the possibility of 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050. The United Nations noted in 2009 that women, across genders, are highly vulnerable and bear a greater burden of climate change impacts compared to men.  
PovertyWomen are more likely to experience poverty compared to men, primarily because they are responsible for unpaid domestic work related to food, water, and other household chores.  
AgricultureWomen in low-income countries, particularly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, engage in climate-vulnerable occupations like farming and other labor-intensive activities.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), over 60% of working women in these regions are employed in agriculture, often receiving inadequate pay and working under challenging conditions.

Despite being integral to food production, women own only about 10% of the farmland. Climate change has a detrimental impact on agricultural productivity, with heat stress affecting workers, especially in South Asia and Africa.

Altered precipitation patterns and more frequent extreme weather events further exacerbate problems. These effects disproportionately harm those who already struggle to access resources, knowledge, and technology.

Women involved in agriculture often lack access to quality inputs and possess limited education and technical skills, rendering them highly vulnerable and deeply affected.

Various studies also highlight how flooding exacerbates water scarcity and leads to increased violence and exploitation against women.
DisastersA UN study reveals that the majority (80%) of individuals displaced due to climate-related disasters are women and girls. Women, especially those from vulnerable communities, encounter distinct challenges during and after natural calamities.

When women are forced to leave their homes, they become more susceptible to discrimination and exploitation. For example, following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) observed that women faced a higher risk of human trafficking and exploitation.  
Additional ConcernsWomen may be at heightened risk to their health and safety because they must undertake arduous daily journeys to fetch water and fuel. Separation from their social networks, an increased vulnerability to gender-based violence, and reduced access to employment, education, and essential healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive healthcare and psychosocial support, represent just a few of the gender-specific challenges confronting women.  

Way Forward:

The impacts of climate change can significantly exacerbate poverty and socio-economic vulnerabilities among women. Climate change is closely intertwined with gender inequality. Estimates suggest that by 2050, around 130 million people could be pushed into poverty due to climate change risks, natural disasters, and rising food costs, with women disproportionately affected by this inequality.

  • Women have a vital role to play in adapting to a changing climate. Investments in women’s education, training, and access to resources are imperative for enhancing our resilience to climate change’s effects.
  • Reducing the adverse impacts of climate change on people’s living standards can be achieved by educating them in sustainable agriculture, water management, and energy generation. For instance, in India, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) instructs women farmers on how to adapt to shifting climate patterns, improving their financial stability.
  • Therefore, it is crucial to support organizations that educate the public, provide training for climate change adaptation, and invest in women’s education and training in environmentally sustainable farming techniques.


 The active participation of women in climate policy decision-making, at all levels, is vital for effective climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, as well as the attainment of decent employment opportunities. Given the greater risks women face in the context of climate change, achieving gender parity in decision-making bodies is indispensable. Initiatives like the Gender and Climate Change Development Programme in South Asia aim to amplify women’s voices in policymaking, and similar global efforts are required to ensure efficient climate change adaptation and mitigation. Developing and emerging countries urgently need climate actions led by women.

May 2024