Climate change under gender lens

Shobha Shukla *

 Climate change under gender lens

Countries in the Asia Pacific region are in the forefront of bearing the onslaught of climate change. During the last three decades 45% of the world's natural disasters have occurred in this region, which is vulnerable to floods, cyclones, earthquakes, droughts, storms and tsunamis.

While climate change affects everyone but impacts of climate change related events are not gender neutral. Women and girls are more vulnerable and disproportionately impacted due to pre-existing gender inequalities that are perpetuated by patriarchal beliefs. These inequalities are exacerbated during the times of disasters.

Biplabi Shrestha, Programme Director at the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), cites some of the gendered impacts of natural disasters as revealed by numerous studies done by ARROW: "In Bangladesh, even upon receiving early warning sirens women did not immediately seek refuge at cyclone shelters. Instead they stayed back to manage the household and to safeguard their assets and livestock.

There is also the added burden within the households and girls drop out of school to help gather energy, food and water for the family. Early age marriage is used as a coping strategy in many poor communities in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos and Nepal, despite child marriage being legally banned in them. During any disaster, sexual and other forms of gender-based violence within family increases.

Also, women and girls are more exposed to sexual violence in shelter camps. Gender ascribed rules and household food hierarchy systems existing in most communities lead to food insecurity and malnutrition of women and girls. It also prevents women and girls from accessing healthcare services, especially sexual and reproductive health services. As a result, maternal mortality rate goes up, and so do unwanted pregnancies, because of unmet need of contraception and lack of access to safe abortion."

Natural disasters adversely impact maternal health and uptake of family planning services. However two studies conducted by Population Council - one in Cambodia and another in Pakistan - show some very interesting results to the contrary.

A study on the 2013 massive floods in Cambodia, done by Dr Ashish Bajracharya, Deputy Director (global country strategy), Population Council, suggests that floods did not affect maternal health and family planning services uptake and outcomes, perhaps because flooding in Cambodia is endemic. So resilience and adaptation is likely high through years of experience. Also maternal health service seeking behaviours might particularly be inelastic to shocks.

Another study done by Dr Zeba Sathar, Country Director, Population Council, Pakistan, on the impact of 2010 floods in 3 districts of Pakistan found that women's involvement in both agricultural and non-agricultural work increased (as more men migrated in search of work) and they were forced to come out of complete 'purdah'. Their health-seeking behaviour and family planning use also improved in comparison to the dismal baseline figures. This could possibly be linked with greater exposure and access to health services provided by responding organizations.

In fact unmet need for family planning and maternal mortality ratio are two important indicators of the general status of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) across cultures in the region and give the scale of challenge in each country.

The global targets, that are a part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are to (i) achieve universal access to family planning services - that is unmet need for family planning should decline to zero by 2030, and (ii) reduce global maternal mortality rate to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030. Achieving these targets will not only contribute to good health and wellbeing for women and girls but also lead to gender equality.

But perhaps it might be more realistic to achieve the goal of reducing unmet need of family planning to 10% instead of zero by 2030, feels Dr Adrian Hayes, Honorary Associate Professor, School of Demography at Australian National University.

He shares some interesting data on these two indicators for some countries of the Asia Pacific region: "As per estimates of UN Population Division, the unmet need for family planning target of 10% has already been reached by some countries of the region including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. But others have still a long way to go. In South Asia, only Bangladesh is expected to reach the 10% threshold by 2030, while Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, and Maldives are likely to miss it and remain around 20%. Similarly, in South-East Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar appear likely to just miss the 10% target by 2030. In the Pacific Islands there are many countries with higher unmet need at 20% or more in 2020."

Then again, at least 12 countries of the region currently have high maternal mortality rates of 120 or more, with Afghanistan topping the list at 638, followed by Myanmar (250), Bhutan (183), Bangladesh (173), Nepal (186), Laos (185), Indonesia (177), Cambodia (160), India (145), Papua New Guinea (145), Timor Leste (142), Pakistan (140) and Philippines (121).

However, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand boast of having the lowest maternal mortality rates of 15 or less for the last 20 years. Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam China, Mongolia, Fiji and Samoa too have reached maternal mortality rates of less than 70.

So while progress has been fairly good on these two indicators in some countries of the region, programmes in few South-East Asian countries need a dose of revitalisation to realise them by 2030. However, many countries in South Asia and the Pacific need major reforms in policies and programmes to make family planning services accessible to all women and to also reduce maternal mortality.

Biplabi rues that though sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender find a place in international agreements, there are no accountability frameworks within them to ensure that countries respect, protect and fulfil their commitments to basic human rights, which get further violated in times of crisis. There is lack or absence of gender mainstreaming and sexual and reproductive health and rights in most countries' climate-related policies and programmes. Women are made invisible in environment and climate-related discourses. This again perpetuates the vicious cycle of inequality for women and girls.

Noelene Nabulivou, co-founder of Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA) stresses upon the important linkages between sexual and reproductive health and rights and climate change, between disaster risk and response and elimination of violence against women and protection of LGBTQI human rights. She says that sexual and reproductive health and rights are central to any development response to pandemics (like COVID-19) and all natural calamities like floods and cyclones, because it is the body where the damage and human rights violations are felt most.

All said and done, there is a very clear linkage between climate change and sexual and reproductive health and rights but it is often neglected. For Adrian "the response to climate change should be rooted in sustainable ways. We cannot achieve the SDGs without resolving the looming crisis of climate change. Also as sexual and reproductive health and rights are an essential component of sustainable development, they are directly impacted by climate change."

All these deliberations took place during the fifth online session of the 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR10 Virtual). Undoubtedly, improving sexual and reproductive health and rights in Asia and the Pacific region will contribute to not only realising the vision of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, but also help in resolving anthropogenic climate change.

* Shobha Shukla wrote this article for
The writer is the founding Managing Editor of CNS (Citizen News Service) and is a noted health and gender justice advocate.
She is a former senior Physics faculty of Loreto Convent College and current Coordinator of Asia Pacific Media Network to end TB & tobacco and prevent NCDs.
Follow her on Twitter @shobha1shukla
This article was webcasted on August 23, 2020

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • How Irawat became a Marxist revolutionary
  • COVID-19 Status 29 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • October Calendar for Year 2020 : Tools
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Licypriya urges everyone to plant a tree
  • A roadblock to NEP 2020: Rote learning
  • Second online Lok Adalat of Manipur held
  • What lesson has Covid-19 taught us ?
  • Being the junior partner in Govt
  • Attracting tourists: few pointers..
  • Manipur Art Fest 2019 #3 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Mushroom cultivation @Singjamei : Gallery
  • Ownership of mineral rights : A case study
  • My idea of justice
  • NPF Legislature meets with NEDA Convener
  • How to use glycerine on the face
  • Mantra of trace, test and treat
  • Criminalization of politics
  • Irrelevance of 66 MW Loktak Downstream HEP
  • Thangol adu maya thangu thouna hey lao-uba
  • Inauguration of Destination NE 2020 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Programme on Irabot's Death Anniversary
  • RIST Popular Talk -45 : Quantum chaos
  • Salad days :: Poem
  • NPP : Adopt the wait & watch strategy
  • Last Day : Sangai Festival 2019 #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Irabot, one & only leader of oppressed mass
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Mavopam, Daikho, Rangnamei: eMing
  • World Tourism Day 2020
  • Belated Happy Birthday
  • In Unison with Divinity :: Poem
  • COVID Care Centre @UNACCO #2: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Hijam Irawat : Irawat the Legend #3
  • We do not stop playing because we grow old
  • Naga Talent Scouting Contest
  • 'Nagaland financial published is deceptive'
  • Politics of drop and induct Ministers
  • Playing a risky game
  • Swearing in @ Rajbhavan [24 Sep] : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Licypriya - Parliament to pass Climate Law
  • Hijam Irawat : Irawat the Legend #2
  • Petition to PM by farmers of Ningombam
  • Low ease of doing business in Manipur
  • My idea of justice
  • Offensive against party hopping
  • Politics is more than a game of numbers
  • RK Bikramjit (Flutist & Composer) : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2020 #4: Gallery
  • Hijam Irawat : Irawat the Legend #1
  • Nurturing young minds amidst lockdown
  • Training on mushroom cultivation
  • A hot test in a Darjeeling lodge
  • Number games before reshuffle
  • Preserving biodiversity amidst uncertainty
  • Barak: Our economic & ecological security
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Loan Distribution- Street Vendors : Gallery
  • Imposing fresh curbs, need of the hour
  • Youthful Years :: Poem
  • International Day of Peace 2020
  • 3rd Poshan Maah: Drive against malnutrition
  • New advisory for COVID-19 positive patients
  • Peace: an elusive concept
  • Foundation Day- Journalist Union #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Irabot Day & practice of volunteerism
  • Morung Dialogue: To Freedom: A Human Story
  • Mushroom Growth of Social media Influencer
  • Observance of Kuki Black Day Sahnit Ni 2020
  • Nagaland Lokayukta investigation into Dy CM
  • Spirit of Art 164-1 (A)
  • Significance of September 19
  • Nongin, the State bird of Manipur
  • COVID-19 Status 20 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Financial Assistance for Journalist Phase-1
  • National Education Policy - Review #5
  • Condemn Moreh Police on Child Rapist case
  • Music video chronicling true naga spirit
  • What is trademark ?
  • Below par recovery rate
  • World Bamboo Day 2020 : A Report
  • COVID-19 Status 19 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Pukning Pothasang #LetsTalkAboutDementia
  • 7th Khangminashi Lecture: Nanotechnology
  • Cancellation- Hyderabad Univ entrance exam
  • Condemnation on rape of 3-1/2 year girl
  • Calling social entrepreneurs from NE for UNDP
  • The Bright Lights :: Poem
  • Ensure health care service during COVID
  • Shirui Village, Shirui Hill, Ukhrul : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Life moves on
  • JRF (on Chakhao) @ICAR, NEH Meghalaya
  • Fruit face packs
  • BA/BSc Exam at Lilong Haoreibi College
  • Fingering of Ladakh
  • Shadow of Greater Lim or Nagalim
  • Calls for change in election campaign
  • Tongjei Maril 1942: Bridle Path to Motor Road
  • COVID-19 Status 17 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Khutheibam Abdur Rahman- Poet & Activist
  • Manipur StartUp Conclave 2020 : Gallery
  • Karmayogi Mission for reforms in civil services
  • Training on mushroom cultivation
  • Foundation Day- Journalist Union #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • The thirst for reopening schools
  • Vale of Tears: Untold stories of violence : Rvw
  • Career option in Ethical Hacking
  • Monkey justice
  • Tribal Ministry for seamless implementation
  • Disturbing daily spike & total figure
  • Rani Phi design on 'Doctor in 2020' :: Gallery
  • Aquapreneurship & present Fishery status
  • Discussion: Crime Against Women in Manipur
  • World Ozone Day 2020
  • National Education Policy - Review #4
  • Sole meaning of life is to serve humanity
  • Covid-19 accentuates the job crisis
  • BJP versus Cong versus NPP
  • Brahmacharimayum Roji: Actress #2 : eRang
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Cultivating the common ground : FNR
  • Reimagining Immunity & Immune System
  • Happy Engineers' Day
  • My Teacher - I Salute Thee ! :: Poem
  • Today a reader, tomorrow a leader !
  • Discussion : Myanmar's 2020 Election
  • Daily spike of 90 thousand plus
  • Buning Meadow / Piulong Valley #2 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 13 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Discovery of a novel biopolymer
  • Mrs. Laldinpuii : Success Stories from NE
  • Remembering our heroic martyrs
  • Alternative to online teaching during COVID
  • Teenage skin care
  • Tree Planatation at Chandel
  • Final pact sans NSCN (IM)? Uneasy peace
  • The cry for Justice! Kuki Black Day
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Flood-like situation @Thangmeiband :: Gallery
  • Khumang : e-Conference on 'Science & Tech'
  • National Education Policy - Review #3
  • Demand for a DNA Testing Machine Lab
  • Lilong Haoreibi College resumed functioning
  • A song of appreciation :: Poem
  • COVID-19 & after: Need for change in plans
  • On the Flag that was hoisted at Kangla
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Ambulance to Chief Medical Officer : Gallery
  • Highway projects in Manipur & agriculture
  • Keeping an eye on 'Eye health'
  • Academic Year Online for Assam DB Univ
  • Need to go in for more after RAT
  • By-election; play a fair game
  • Ras Leela @JNMDA, Imphal :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Southeast Asia: Strategic for Competition
  • Memory of Pranab Babu
  • Gandhi, self-help, khadi & Atmanirbhar Bharat
  • The reality we live today :: Poem
  • NEET & JEE: Balance betn student & health
  • 21 years of reaching out to the readers
  • Non Positive
  • Agri Fair at CAU Iroisemba #3 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Suicide: Chasing death
  • Women rights-based access to contraceptives
  • Delimitation & limitation of valley minorities
  • Understanding CET
  • Himalaya Diwas at IBSD, Takyelpat
  • Noting post Covid complications
  • Rechecking hospital's modus operandi
  • Azad Hind: Its Forgotten Govt & the Army
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • MPSC 2016: Social media mob injustice
  • Manipur women weave success in pandemic
  • FEGOCTA to resume academic activities
  • Live one day at a time :: Poem
  • Should animal be given same right as human
  • Countdown to by polls
  • Tungjoi Glory Day (Senapati) #3 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Skill Development Prog by CM: Gallery
  • National Education Policy - Review #2
  • Hope : The reason we keep living !
  • International Literacy Day 2020
  • Beauty benefits of rice water
  • Targeting young girls : Minds of retards
  • Should trading Frog amount to smuggling
  • Rendezvous with RK Bikramjit (Flutist)
  • COVID-19 Status 06 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Reminiscence of coming & journey : Book Rvw
  • And I sleep for the hunger of you : Poem
  • MPSC propose re-examination is not justified
  • Increasing local transmission
  • COVID Care Centre @UNACCO #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 05 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Naga story in Indigenous People movement #2
  • Revoke Agreement on 66 MW Loktak Project
  • My homage to Pranab Mukherjee
  • Eventide :: Poem
  • Protest against gangrape of a minor
  • Condemnation against the gang rape
  • Heat of the Internet
  • Sirarakhong Hathei Phanit #3 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 04 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Loans to vendors [Aug 25] : Gallery
  • Haipou Jadonang : A social reformer #3
  • National Education Policy - Review #1
  • Menstruation needs to be discussed openly
  • Serious internet jokes & reflections
  • Climbing number of cases, deaths
  • Akhunba Takhellei #2 : Film scene :: eRang
  • COVID-19 Status 03 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Naga story in Indigenous People movement #1
  • Tribal Resource Conservation Ethics
  • Vilification of MCSCCE selected candidates
  • Grand Chef Manipur at Luwangshangbam
  • Monument of friendship :: Poem
  • How will the Naga CSOs respond ?
  • Irritating season
  • Yaoshang Halankar #3 : Gallery
  • Tarpon: Annual offerings to dead by living
  • Legal awareness on 'Right to Food' at Lamlai
  • First E/online Lok Adalat held
  • Teacher for JEE Main & tutorials
  • Chaklam Khongchat Numit #2 : Gallery
  • Landscape to Dzukou Valley #5 : Gallery
  • Haipou Jadonang : A social reformer #1
  • Chaklam Khongchat Numit #1 : Gallery
  • Moirangthem Mani : Kalabhusan (Thang-Ta)
  • 13 August @BT Park #2 : Gallery
  • Patriots' Day @ Kangla #2 : Gallery
  • 16th Death anniv of Chittaranjan : Gallery
  • Manipur Independence Day [14 Aug]: Gallery
  • 'Zehara' - Manipuri Movie :: eRang Classic
  • Hentak :: An indigenous Manipuri food
  • HSE Toppers - Commerce stream : Gallery
  • HSE Toppers - Science stream : Gallery
  • HSE Toppers - Arts stream : Gallery