Climate change is a reali­ty that is showing its ugly face now. Everyone is im­pacted, but not in the same ways. The consequences, and that too in a detri­mental sense, of climate change are felt more amongst nations that contribute the least to global warming. Chang­ing weather conditions pose a threat to resources in developing countries, and floods in Pakistan are a prime example of it in recent times. The elderly, handicapped, ethnic and gender minorities, as well as low-income populations are particularly vul­nerable to the effects of environ­mental torpedo. In these situa­tions, women feel the impact of climate change most severely. This adds to the already existing gender inequality.

Even though climate change is a worldwide occurrence, it has dif­fering effects on men and women. Understanding how people adapt to and manage climate change re­quires an in-depth study at the grass-root level, with a focus on gender equality. While it is of­ten believed that women are less likely to be affected by climate change than men due to their ex­clusive roles in home econom­ics. The truth is contrary. Women have a greater burden than males in terms of managing limited re­sources, travelling large distanc­es, and contracting water-borne infections. In locations that are al­ready economically and ecologi­cally unstable, women bear a dis­proportionate share of the burden of the drudgery that comes with adaptation to climate change.

Presently, Pakistan has been hit by massive floods. Over 35 mil­lion people are affected according to the government’s estimates, out of which 8 million are wom­en of reproductive age. According to the United Nations Population Fund, 650,000 pregnant women mostly expected to deliver next month require maternal health services, care and support dur­ing this time of natural disaster. In Sindh alone, more than 1000 health facilities have been dam­aged. There is an immediate need to ensure women’s safety, lifesav­ing services, provision of delivery kits and newborn care facility.

Moreover, women in Pakistan who live in the rural regions and along the shoreline where the im­pacts of climate change are felt most acutely must quickly adjust to these new conditions. Their quality of life, food and water availability, as well as natural re­source depletion are key issues that impact their survival. The ag­ricultural output is negatively im­pacted by excessive heat, shift­ing weather patterns and erratic rainfall. Women are hit worst be­cause of their lack of understand­ing of this issue. To get water for their homes, they travel large dis­tances which comes at the cost of quality time spent with family and children. This also explains why females are more likely to get wa­ter-related illnesses. Tharparkar, Thatta, and Dadu are some of the areas where women have to make the most out of weather condi­tions. There are extended stretch­es of drought interspersed with sporadic downpours.

Women who do the bulk of the housework in economically and ecologically vulnerable areas are also disproportionately affected by climate change. Gender stereo­types, unbalanced power dynam­ics, and unequal divisions of work also contribute to women’s hard­ships. Likewise, in developing na­tions, climate change has led to an increase in child marriages as a result of resource scarcity. Child marriage is a survival tactic used when supplies are low and thus, raises serious issues for the future of girls’ education. This way, there are at an increased risk of gender-based violence due to monsoon rains and floods causing damaged houses and infrastructure. Wom­en also have a higher rate of mo­rality than men when it comes to being barred from public spaces for cultural or social reasons. As a result, women not only sacrifice for their families at the expense of their own health, but they also risk their lives during natural di­sasters like floods.

Despite obstacles, women are doing their part to cope with cli­mate change. In addition to farm­ing, they also serve as forest rang­ers that provide essential services to ensure the safety of farmland. Giving them access to knowledge, resources, and opportunities will boost agricultural output. Be­cause of their knowledge and ex­pertise in the area, they are able to contribute to adaptation tech­niques in response to climate change. The plantation projects in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa prov­ince are a great example of the hard work that women do.

Nurseries rely heavily on the services of women. Women work both as labor and plant grow­er in nurseries. They were given access to private nursery as part of the Billion Tree Tsunami ini­tiative. To perform closure activ­ity in the Kaghan Forest Division women were assigned the roles of caretakers to help them pro­vide for their families, and regen­eration of the forest.

Women’s observations and ex­periences of changing weath­er events can help future proj­ects and decisions to fight climate change. This is why it is impor­tant to include them at all stages of dealing with climatic change, including planning, financing, im­plementation, and social inclu­sion. The deluge this year has ex­posed a bitter reality that Pakistan lacks in contingency planning, and the weaker sex is too vulnerable.

Mahrukh Khan

The writer is pursuing her degree in International Relation from National Defence University, Islamabad and is currently associated with Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). She can be reached at mahrukhk219@gmail.com