Press Release
October 31, 2011

Rural Women Must Be Empowered to Respond to Climate Change - Legarda

Senator Loren Legarda today said that rural women must be empowered to respond to climate change not only to protect themselves from the impacts of this phenomenon but also to contribute to the overall effort of climate change adaptation.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said that women are more vulnerable to climate change than men and rural women are even at greater risk because they usually lack resources to cope with climate impacts.

"Women have distinct nutritional needs that make coping with natural disasters tougher and harsher. They are also the primary caregivers in times of disaster and economic stress, and they carry out much of the household workload after a disaster. Moreover, even disaster rescue efforts discriminate against women," the Senator lamented.

The United Nations Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia and the Pacific noted that 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. While in the 2006 tsunami that killed scores in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, male survivors outnumbered the female survivors, in a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 ratio.

The Senator explained that rural women are essential players in countryside development as they are usually involved in agriculture and in education, livelihood, and health care in rural areas. Thus, enabling them to influence and take initiatives is a critical aspect in building community resilience to disasters.

She noted that even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, during the observance of the International Day of Rural Women on October 15, said that nations must invest in rural women, provide them equal access to resources, craft policies that are responsive to their needs and make them part in decision-making as they are significant contributors to sustainable development.

"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 that 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. The Climate Change Act fully recognizes this as it calls for the integration of a gender-sensitive, pro- children and pro-poor perspective in all climate change plans and programs. This is a significant step to address women's needs amid climate change impacts," Legarda concluded.

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