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My Voice, Our Equal Future

29 September 2020, Voices from the Field

Celebrating International Day of the Girl 

This year, as the world celebrates International Day of the Girl, it’s time to focus on the challenges girls and young women face in a world where climate change and climate-change induced disasters are affecting their right to education, to dignified work, and to their very survival. 

Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to climate change. It may surprise people and take a moment to untangle: why are girls so impacted?

Asha Bradley, Save the Children’s Gender Technical Advisor

“Internationally especially, a lot of household responsibilities fall to girls when times are tough. When parents have to work longer, or one parent migrates for work, the time girls have to spend on domestic chores is likely to increase. They may be tasked with making food or looking after younger siblings and fetching water, a task that becomes even more time-consuming as drought makes access to water more difficult. These things all take them away from attending school. They may attend less often, or drop out altogether.”

“Climate change increases poverty too,” says Asha. “And poorer families may try to marry daughters off to reduce the costs of the household, sometimes to get dowry.”

With girls in many countries often marginalized in favour of boys, it can be harder for them to access early warning systems that alert them to disasters and be equipped to survive them when they do occur. “When disasters strike, they usually are the last to know, and that can have huge ramifications for their chances of survival. Girls aren't taught things like how to swim or climb and their clothing may not be appropriate to do those things when a disaster strikes anyway.” 
    
It’s a devastating situation, says Asha. And it’s time the world took notice.  


Maiysha at the School Strike 4 Climate in 2019.
Photo: Ben Christensen

 

Girls just want climate action

Back in Australia, young women are speaking up on climate change. Maiysha Moin was one of the organisers of the 2019 School Strike 4 Climate. She says girls have an important voice in climate action.

Women have been traditionally excluded from decision-making spaces like Parliament or executive roles in their industry. But the disproportionate effect of climate change on girls and women means we must raise our voices louder than anyone else to create change.

Maiysha

The effects of climate-change induced disasters have hit hard in Australia too, she says. “We are likely to see in many bushfire-affected communities, young girls delaying university education and entering the workforce to make up for economic losses suffered. We’ve seen pregnant mothers give birth to babies who will be impacted for the rest of their lives by toxic bushfire smoke. There have also been concerns about the bushfires exacerbating domestic abuse and violence, putting women and girls at risk.” 

“Girls and women have a right to be protected. But the long-term effects of climate-change induced disasters affect girls, women and their children. Women are speaking out now, because it’s not just for them, they also want a safe future for all children.” 

Maiysha’s demands, and the demands of so many other young people for a clean energy future can be supported by adults and decision-makers. “Show your support for girls and young people by encouraging their calls for a net zero carbon economy. Come along to our strikes or online actions. Get your family involved. Make your next vote in a state or federal election count by voting with climate change considerations in mind. Give us hope.” 

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