Poor Women 'Bear Climate Burden'

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BBC News

Poor Women 'Bear Climate Burden'

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Women pluck rice grass from a nursery to plant on plots in Ahero, Kenya on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009. (AP Photo/ Khalil Senosi)

Women in developing countries will be the most
vulnerable to climate change, a report from the United Nations
Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned.

The agency said there was a disproportionate burden on those women and called for greater equality.

They
do most of the agricultural work, and are therefore affected by
weather-related natural disasters impacting on food, energy and water,
it said.

Slower population growth would help cut greenhouse gas emissions, it added.

The
report suggested family planning, reproductive healthcare and "gender
relations" could influence how the world adapts to rising seas,
worsening storms and severe droughts.

"[There] are fundamental
questions about how climate change will affect women, men, boys and
girls differently around the world, and indeed within nations, and how
individual behaviour can undermine or contribute to the global effort
to cool our warming world," UNFPA executive director Thoraya Ahmed
Obaid said.

'Cycle of deprivation'

She called for
any treaty that might come from the UN climate change conference in
Copenhagen next month to take into account individuals' power to
"reverse the warming of the Earth's atmosphere".

Temperatures
are predicted to rise by 4C to 6C by 2100, with a "likely catastrophic
effect" on the environment, habitats, economies and people, the report
said.

Migration could be affected, as rising sea levels and
droughts prompt people to leave uninhabitable lands, and poor people
could lose their livelihoods.

But women, particularly in poor countries, will be affected differently from men, the UNFPA added.

Describing
"a cycle of deprivation", the report said that women in developing
countries did a larger share of farming and had less access to
income-earning opportunities.

They also managed households and
cared for families, which limited their chances of moving around and
increased "their vulnerability to sudden weather-related natural
disasters".

'Centuries' to tackle

When drought strikes, the women had to "work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes".

"Given
women's significant engagement in food production in developing
countries, the close connection between gender, farming and climate
change deserves far more analysis than it currently receives," the
UNFPA said.

Societies which will be more resilient to climate
change are those with education, healthcare and legal protection for
all, and where people have more say in their own lives, it added.

It warned it was a long-term goal - taking "decades, even centuries" - to keep the atmosphere suitable for human habitation.

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