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Women’s leadership and women’s health

Women are leading the climate revolution. The role of women in dealing with all aspects of the climate change challenge is central, crucial and indispensable. Women are leading the way around the world in advocating for climate action and providing solutions. 

There are several mandated events at COP27 for advancing their leadership and highlighting the solutions of local communities and indigenous women, as indigenous women are at the forefront when it comes to mobilising their communities. But these women’s voices need to be amplified.

Bold, urgent action is needed to secure a global clean energy transition that leaves no one behind as we work towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 – access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 – and net zero emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. Women are key stakeholders in this energy transition and must be at the forefront of decision-making so that plans and policies fully address their specific needs and ensure a more prosperous future for all. At the same time, women continue to bear a disproportionate burden from the adverse impacts of climate change.

At COP27, Egypt intended to launch effective and impactful global initiatives and is keen on formalising and supporting these initiatives. Women’s health is one of the most crucial global initiatives of the COP Presidency. And here is the reason why. Current evidence regarding the impact of different climate changes on women’s health cries for a focus on maternal and newborn health. Women in developing countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change, where their health is severely compromised owing to increased exposure to heat, poor air quality, extreme weather events, altered vector-borne disease transmission, reduced water quality and decreased food security.

Climate change threatens to widen existing gender-based health disparities, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Health impacts, and gender differences in those impacts, are mediated through socioeconomic, cultural and physiologic factors. Hence it is imperative to have insights from women in terms of adaptation and mitigation strategies to build stronger resilience.

This initiative intends to focus on tackling the impacts of climate change on women’s health by ensuring health systems are adaptive to the changing climate and effective in responding to health challenges by reducing the global burden of diseases linked to climate change. This will also be achieved through integrating this perspective into existing climate, development, and disaster risk reduction policy frameworks through improving data acquisition, monitoring of gender-specific targets, coordinating between sectors and equitable stakeholder engagement.

The reports prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its sixth assessment cycle provide strong evidence of the differentiated impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable across regions, including women. According to the AR6, about 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in regions with high human vulnerability to climate change. Vulnerabilities vary by location and are shaped by intersecting processes of marginalisation, including gender, class, race, income, ethnic origin, age, level of ability and so on. There are already promising health system interventions to protect maternal and newborn health in changing climate conditions. These good practices need to be shared so that we could avoid exacerbating existing gender-based inequalities and foster transformative and effective climate action. 

Photos: Dr Barbara Botos and official page of COP27.

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