“Why feminism is one of the main pathways for fighting climate change”
By Daniela Luna Pérez
When I was 16 years old, I started questioning my food consumption patterns and how these were contributing to the exacerbation of climate change, so I decided to become vegetarian. Thereafter, at the age of 18, I began asking myself why I had to be ok with men harassing me on the streets. This type of harassment is extremely common in Mexico, where 66 percent of women have faced some kind of violence (Excélsior, 2017). Today, I wonder how the correlation of addressing these two issues, climate change and violence against women, is crucial not only for the well-being of humanity as a whole, but for the well-being of the world we live in.
First, we must understand the interconnection between climate change and gender, especially in developing countries with poor populations. For instance, in 2004 a tsunami hit the coasts of Thailand, women disproportionately died more than men (70% of the deaths were women) because they did not have any type of training on how to act in a situation like that (Neumayer & Plümper, 2007). Research in Bangladesh has revealed that women are more likely to die when a cyclone occurs because they are not taught how to swim and they are not allowed to leave their houses uncovered (Nagel, 2015). Data from Mexico states that 24.4 million women live in conditions of poverty (Coneval, 2008), making them more vulnerable to climate change.
From the examples above we can see how climate change and the patriarchy have become a synergy against gender equity. Taking a deeper look into Mexico’s situation we will notice the importance of feminism and why it must be part of our agendas. According to Úrsula Oswald Spring, researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), women in Mexico are the base of “[...] daily life, family integration, reproduction processes, environmental management and psychological stability in conflict situations, as well as during and after disasters, and of course, for mitigation and adaptation to climate change [...]”.
As a strong believer of the radical feminist movement, I stand that the fight for women’s rights should not be about giving women the same opportunities as men, as if we were trying to achieve what they have and become who they are (because that would equal the patriarchal system), but about giving us women our own spaces to develop ourselves. Moreover, addressing climate change should not be about keeping “business as usual”, where everything has been developed and studied mostly from the male perspective (from the technologies that have been created, to how science is done).
That is why I am convinced that the way the world needs to adapt to the climate crisis is by giving women more opportunities to evolve, because we are capable human beings, and our success is not determined by our gender.
Thus, when we have more women working in science, more educated women, and more women involved in politics, we will have a world in which climate change is not addressed only from the male perspective, but from an equal perspective. A perspective that will include women who can raise their voice for every woman that has not had the chance to.
We can already witness how women are starting to change the world by leading movements to fight climate change. The 24-year-old, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, claims that the voice of african activists must be heard since many media have considered them as worthless. The well-known, Greta Thunberg, has inspired millions of young people to join “Fridays for the Future” (La Jornada, 2020). And we cannot forget the many indigenous women who keep defending and taking care of their land, like Tarcila Rivera, a Quechua indigenous leader, who believes that indigenous people need to have the opportunity to participate in national plans for evaluating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2017). These women are reducing not only the inequality gap that is still present in every single country, they are fighting to end climate change (something it has taken decades for male leaders).
In conclusion, I am convinced that including women in science, politics, engineering, and every aspect of our lives, is the answer we are looking for. That is why feminism is not only about giving us women human rights, but about giving us the opportunity to create and transform the world that we are part of.
About the Author
Daniela Luna Pérez (@dani_lunap2): Working as a volunteer in the literacy program of my high school gave me a big idea of what I wanted to do next in my life. Now, as a student of International Relations, I am starting to develop myself in the fields of feminism, sustainable development and social sciences, with the objective of collaborating in the realization of public politics that can have a positive impact in society.
n.a. (2017). En México, 66 de cada 100 mujeres ha enfrentado violencia. Excélsior. Retrieved on July 8th, 2020, from https://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2017/11/23/1203241
Nagel, J. (2015). Gender and climate change: Impacts, science, policy. Routledge.
Neumayer, E., & Plümper, T. (2007). The gendered nature of natural disasters: The impact of catastrophic events on the gender gap in life expectancy, 1981–2002. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 97(3), 551-566.
Notimex. (2020). Ocho mujeres jóvenes encabezan movimientos contra el cambio climático. La Jornada. Retrieved on July 8th, 2020, from https://www.jornada.com.mx/ultimas/ciencias/2020/02/09/ocho-mujeres-jovenes-encabezan-movimientos-contra-cambio-climatico-4059.html
Pérez, I. (2018). Especial Día de la Mujer: Cambio climático con enfoque de género. Ciencia UNAM. Retrieved on July 8th, 2020, from http://ciencia.unam.mx/leer/717/especial-dia-de-la-mujer-cambio-climatico-con-enfoque-de-genero
UN News. (2017). Los indígenas necesitan más participación nacional en la evaluación del progreso hacia los ODS. United Nations. Retrieved on July 8th, 2020, from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/es/2017/07/los-indigenas-necesitan-mas-participacion-nacional-en-la-evaluacion-del-progreso-hacia-los-ods/