With women and girls being much more harmed by the climate crisis than men, it’s vital to include them in the climate change policy- and decision-making. Including women will benefit families and local communities, but also nations and the planet.
Listen to the full interview with Sheila Oparaocha on The Beam Podcast, Episode 3: “Women at the Forefront of Climate Action”
In the world of organizations integrating gender into energy access and services agenda globally, Sheila Oparaocha is a well-known persona putting indescribable efforts into the fight for gender equality and access to clean energy for women.
She works as the International Coordinator and Programme Manager for ENERGIA International Network on Gender Sustainable Energy, hosted by HIVOS Foundation in The Hague. Involved in gender and energy access issues for more than 20 years, she brings extremely valuable insights on the gender-climate nexus on the latest episode of The Beam Podcast. Here are the highlights of the conversation with Sheila:
The first thing I wanted to ask you is: how are gender and climate interlinked and how are women and girls the most impacted by climate change?
Sheila Oparaocha: That’s a very important question. Climate change does affect women and men differently. Why does it do this? Well, simply because it depends on the economic status of women and men. It depends on the roles that women and men are playing in the households and in the community, the interest that they have and social norms and also the way that they experience it based on their geographical location.
There is a greater impact of climate change on those parts of our communities, those populations in all countries reliant on our natural resources for their livelihoods, but also those who have the least capacity to actually respond to either natural hazards as a result of climate change, for instance, from drought, from landslides, from floods, from deforestation, from hurricanes. And because women make up the majority of the poor in a lot of these communities and because of women’s responsibilities within these communities for collecting food, for securing water, for a lot of subsistence agriculture activities, a lot of the impacts and the burdens of climate change tend to disproportionately impact women. When it comes to decision making and participation in labour markets, women tend to have less access to decision-making resources or participate in decision making. And this has an impact on how they can mitigate and adapt to climate change and also their capacity to fully contribute to either climate change planning and policymaking and implementation.
It looks like climate policies headed by women have better results, would you agree?
Sheila Oparaocha: Now, from my 20 years of experience working in the climate-related sector, that’s really on gender and energy issues, I would tend to agree with you. It’s because women are very much involved in managing household and community resources. They’re taking care of children, taking care of the sick. They are also the ones that are taking care of the local farmers, they are the custodians of forests within their communities. So when you engage them in policymaking, they tend to prioritize these very important areas and then we tend to have climate change policies that are more people-centred, much more centred around people’s issues. So that does make them much more effective in terms of meeting development objectives and goals.
In Women at the Forefront of Climate Action, we also talk with Katherine Lucey, Founder and CEO of Solar Sister and Dr Katharine Wilkinson, Lead Writer for the book Drawdown – The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.