Climate migration is a feminist issue

| 14th September 2021 |

Carrying whatever possessions they can, women arrive in a steady trickle at a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) established next to a base of the African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) near Jowhar. Heavy rains in Somalia, coupled with recent clashes between clans, has resulted in over four thousand IDPs seeking shelter at the base.

Flickr
Women in all their diversities are disproportionately affected by climate breakdown due to existing structural and systemic inequalities.

We must engage in intersectional advocacy towards justice.

Climate breakdown continues to exact a signicant toll on people’s lives, livelihoods and communities with weather-related disasters becoming more frequent and intense.

Almost 25 million people had been displaced last year alone by 1,900 disasters spanning 140 countries and territories - the highest figure recorded since 2012. That equates to roughly one person being displaced every second.

These risks are increasing, and climate breakdown is an additional layer to the multiple vulnerabilities already faced by people of varying genders, races, sexualities and ages.

This series of articles has been published in partnership with Dalia Gebrial and Harpreet Kaur Paul and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in London. It first appeared in a collection titled Perspectives on a Global Green New Deal.

Inequalities

Climate-induced displacement is not gender neutral. Women in all their diversities are disproportionately affected due to existing structural and systemic inequalities. Six out of 10 of the poorest people in the world are women.

They bear the brunt of unpaid care work, and earn less than men for work of equal value.

And despite many advances on gender equality initiatives globally, many disparities remain both in developing and developed countries because of ingrained government policies, economic constraints and social norms.

Women continue to have limited access to resources, rights, mobility, and their voices are muted in shaping decisions and influencing policy. 

Women are hit by a triple whammy when disasters strike. Already poor and marginalized, more women than men lose their lives not due to physical differences but to social and traditional constructs such as restrictive clothing, being the designated caregiver in the family, or restrained mobility without the company of a male relative.

Colonialism

These constructs limit women’s abilities to protect themselves in the aftermath of disasters.

While seeking refuge in ‘safer’ ground, they face many other inequalities in accessing their fundamental human rights, social protection, and face systemic gender-based violence such as trafficking and other forms of bonded labour.

Proposals that aim to spur systemic transformations in the economy and environment in some of the world’s richest but heavily polluting countries through Green New Deal (GND) are capturing the imagination of many the world over.

But for any GND to be truly relevant, it must commit to changing the rules of the game not just within rich countries’ own borders, but must extend to correcting the injustices of centuries of colonial plunder.

We must engage in intersectional advocacy towards justice.

This also includes the continuing models of ecological colonialism, with unfair trade and investment agreements resulting in greater poverty and underdevelopment in the Global South.

A decolonial, feminist global Green New Deal must actively interrogate and resist racial, gender, class, caste and sexuality hierarchies. It must address the root causes of poverty and marginalization that results in the exclusion and multi-layered vulnerabilities of farmers, workers, fisherfolk, indigenous, migrants, half of which are women.

Considerations

The following are some key considerations to ensure this transformation is pro-migrant, pro-poor and pro-women:

• Decolonize the international trade, investments and financial architecture and redress ecological colonialism. A GND must commit to limit and redistribute wealth, including the establishment of a multilateral debt restructuring framework to counter the global debt crisis, address tax evasion and illicit financial flows that drain the South of resources critical for the provision of public goods.

• Advance the longstanding call for climate debt or reparations from developed countries to compensate for emitting the vast majority of historical carbon emissions, as well as for the loss and damage incurred by ecological harm over centuries.

• Move to create care economies that deliver on human, economic and social rights.

• Recognize that there is a right to move and a right to stay. No matter what the options are, fundamental human rights must be upheld and protected.

As feminist climate justice advocates, we must engage in intersectional advocacy towards justice. Neoliberalism and capitalism will always be at odds with this vision. But we will also not give up on our beautiful planet and will work hard to create regenerative and care economies.

This Author

Tetet Nera-Lauron is a an Advisor at Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, based in Manila, Philippines.

Donate

The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate here