Women are up to how many more times likely than men to die from extreme weather events caused by climate change?
Source: UN Women Facts & Figures on Gender & Climate Change
Half the Sky
February 19, 2013
Extreme weather set the stage for the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2012. With winds of 260 km/h, Typhoon Bopha was the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines. Hurricane Sandy in the Americas caused $75 billion in damages and killed 285 people in seven countries. In the face of such climate extremes, is there hope for the future? As a delegate to the Doha conference, I can say—unequivocally—yes there is.
As Canada’s delegate for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), I spoke with the voice of 10 million members. Guides and scouts are passionate about the environment and girls’ and women’s role in positive change—and we have been for 100 years.
Women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change and are an essential part of the solution. We do hold up half the sky!
Bringing these linkages to light in an Islamic state was my core purpose for two weeks in Doha. With 10 other WAGGGS delegates, I lobbied for non-formal education of girls in environmental issues and the participation of women in the climate change decision-making process.
Whether in traditional Arabic tents bursting with colourful majlis-style cushions or muted caucus meeting rooms at the Qatar National Convention Centre, we shared ideas and personal experience to inform and inspire.
I was deeply moved by stories of climate change impacts sustained in the global South. Women and girls now must walk even farther to fetch and carry water. Female fatalities from natural disasters are enormously disproportionate because girls (who are not taught to swim or climb trees) cannot escape to safety.
The Doha conference concluded with the decision to adopt a universal climate change agreement by 2015. While many decried the lack of progress, the WAGGGS delegation had cause for celebration. A landmark decision on gender balance will strengthen women’s representation in the bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Though sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated and taxed by acronym memorization, I delighted in the local atmosphere. Offered impromptu warm Qatari hospitality under the palm canopied Corniche waterfront promenade, I savoured sulaimani (chai) tea and Arabian music, and felt hope for our shared planet.