In Guatemala, women in agriculture often lack formal ownership of the land they cultivate. This means that they are less able to make investments and plan to adapt to climate change. Pictured are women from the Madre Tierra agricultural cooperative. Photo: Jesper Klemedsson


Inequality is about life and death

Stupid, said the UN Secretary-General recently, about inequality in the world. He's right. Lack of respect for women's rights is one reason why women die in the fight for their land and against climate change. Sweden must push for women's democratic rights, writes the aid organization We Effects' board.

Women are hit harder than men by the climate crisis, as they make up a majority of the poor population in the most vulnerable countries. It is often the crops of self-sufficient peasant women that dry up or are drowned by floods, and these households often lack safety nets. Women in developing countries have less access to knowledge, financial resources and technology than men and they are often not involved in important decisions.

In climate-related disasters, such as floods or typhoons, 14 times more women and children die than men. Research shows that it is directly linked to women's economic and social rights not being respected. Women who become refugees due to the climate crisis are at risk of sexual violence or being disadvantaged in terms of support and resources.

The climate crisis puts women's lack of rights at the forefront. It's about life or death. Two issues are of central importance:

  • Women own only 13 percent of the arable land in the world, despite the fact that agriculture in the countries hardest hit by the climate crisis is often managed mainly by women. This means that millions of women cannot make decisions, make investments or plan for adaptation to climate change.
  • Women who are fighting for their land and their environment are being put under increasing pressure as democratic space shrinks. The situation in Latin America and the Philippines is particularly serious. 304 human rights defenders, women and men, were murdered last year according to Front Line Defenders, many of them peasants or indigenous people.

The Beijing Declaration on the Rights of Women was adopted by the UN 25 years ago, but too little has happened. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently compared the discrimination of women to slavery and called inequality "stupid". He's right. Lack of respect for women's rights is one reason why women die in the fight for their land and against climate change, and that they are hit harder than men.

At the same time, 2020 is a fateful year. It is now time to stop the climate crisis. Only ten years remain to achieve the goals in Agenda 2030, where both gender equality and climate are key elements.

Sweden should push for an effective action plan to implement the Beijing Declaration. To ensure women's right to land and protect women who are human rights defenders.

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