What impact does climate change have on adolescent girls? This report argues that the double jeopardy brought about by gender and age has been largely ignored in the global debate on climate change. It highlights girls’ need for: 1) greater access to quality education and skills in relation to climate change; 2) greater protection from violence exacerbated by climate shocks; and 3) greater participation in climate change adaptation decision-making and risk reduction activities. It is important to allocate adaptation funding to enable girls to be effective agents of change.
This report, which draws on primary research in Ethiopia and Bangladesh, finds that increased climate stress is exposing a growing number of girls and young women to specific risks. Girls’ productive and reproductive roles and responsibilities, their reduced access to education and to participation in local organisations and decision-making all contribute to their greater exposure to climate risks. More girls and women are dying during disasters, an increasing number are enduring early and forced marriages, and more girls are being exposed to sexual violence and the curtailment of their education. For example:
- As climate shocks raise the income pressures on vulnerable households, girls’ work at home becomes more arduous and it becomes increasingly difficult for them to stay in school.
- It is difficult for girls to attend school when there is a lack of water there for sanitation and hygiene.
- When wells are flooded, girls have to walk longer distances to collect clean drinking water.
- In the period following floods, storms or cyclones, girls’ household workloads increase: they often have to take care of those left ill and injured, look after their siblings, and clean the home from mud, water and other damage.
- Girls are often sent to work in domestic service, agriculture and textile factories, while boys are more likely to be kept in school.
- In emergency situations, many girls face the danger of sexual abuse or rape when staying in temporary shelters, using unsafe latrine facilities, or collecting firewood and water.
- In the aftermath of a disaster, girls are often more susceptible to sexual exploitation, especially if they are separated from their parents or orphaned.
- There is emerging evidence of a rise in early and forced marriage. Families are resorting to tackling poverty through â€˜bride price’.
The gap between the impacts of climate change on adolescent girls and responses to address them remains large. It is important to use gender-sensitive strategies for climate change adaptation and to address gender inequality as a root cause of vulnerability to climate change. Policymakers can:
- Ensure adaptation work builds on existing efforts by women’s rights organisations, in partnership with men and boys, to establish an enabling environment for girls’ development and protection.
- Ensure adolescent girls are able to participate in decision-making and political processes that affect them. This requires tackling the inequalities that girls face in attaining education and employment through improved access to basic education. Curricula need to challenge gender stereotypes and promote girls’ rights and gender equality.
- Require and facilitate greater integration between climate change adaptation, disaster risk management, and poverty reduction efforts.
- Assign gender responsive indicators for all National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) projects, and enable adolescent girls to effectively contribute to decision-making on NAPA projects at local and national levels.
- Ensure national climate change policies and programmes are in line with existing government commitments on gender.
- Ensure adolescent girls have improved access to education, training and awareness-raising on climate change adaptation.
- Promote the role of adolescent girls as transformative agents for community resilience by funding CSOs to undertake programmes to support this work.