Press Release
March 8, 2009


Women in developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate change because it is they who fetch the water, cook the food, plant the rice, care for the sick children, educate them and manages the household and its finances, said Sen. Loren Legarda, a fiery advocate of women's rights and a green environment.

"Millions of women, in developing countries are the first line victims of climate change," Loren deplored. "Climate change causes drought, pollutes the air that sicken the children, causes food shortages and devastate the home finances. Women share a bigger burden than men in coping with these catastrophes at home."

Hence, according to Loren, the government should incorporate women-sensitive policies in risk reduction in the national development agenda and the general appropriations act. Loren is currently chair of the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, Health, the standing Committee and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Climate Change, aside from being the United Nations "champion" for combating climate change in the Asia-Pacific region. She is also co-author of many laws enhancing women's rights, including the pending bill providing for a Magna Carta for Women.

"Current policies have not recognized the gender specific effects of climate change. For it is women that bear the brunt of climate change's savagery. They are the main and the more prodigious, producers of staple crops. Any extreme weather event that affects agricultural production - whether it is a drought or rampaging floods - gravely affects the women tillers of the land. A starving mother carrying her ailing child is often the public face of famines and food shortages," she moaned.

The Senator added that out of season early rains affect the vegetable farmers of Benguet and the planting cycle of sugar planters in Negros. "This uncertainty in the climate impacts on the technology farmers use so that they shy away from new but high risk methods of farming for more dependable, traditional low yield technologies. The low yield means less income. This low-yield environment has also affected investments in farming.

"This dramatic change in the productive life of the marginalized impacts most on the women of our country and of developing countries all over the world. It is the women who manage the homes, fetching water from diminishing sources which are increasingly contaminated, managing decreasing incomes, finding food, trying to give the children education.

"Climate shifts play an important role in the explosions of malaria and cholera outbreaks. Women receive less medical services than men. Worse, they bear the burden of caring for the sick .Women have distinct nutritional needs that make coping with natural disasters tougher and harsher .

"Even disaster rescue efforts discriminate against women. Women made up 90 per cent of the 140,000 people who died in a 1991 hurricane in Bangladesh. African-American women made up the majority of those killed and injured by Hurricane Katrina. In the 2006 tsunami that killed scores in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, male survivors outnumbered the female survivors 3 to 1 or 4 to 1.

"In times of disaster and economic stress, women are the primary caregivers. They also carry out much of the household workload after a disaster. All these realities should lead to a single resolve: the efforts to combat climate change and mitigate the risks and challenges it poses to communities should be gender sensitive and gender responsive.

"This means: policies should come to terms with the fact that women disproportionately shoulder the brunt of shocks and trends of climate and environment change in the face of continued poverty. They must recognize that this stems from the way people position women in society. They should understand that this is all about power -- and how power works to exclude and marginalize women. It is time to redress the subordinate position of women in all spheres of their lives," Loren stressed.

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