Women are missing from most national climate plans

‘The climate crisis is not gender neutral’: Women are missing from most national climate plans


The sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls are being left out of national climate plans in two thirds of countries, according to new findings by UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. 

Out of the 38 countries that have integrated sexual and reproductive health rights into their climate plans, only 23 reference maternal and newborn health, while only 15 reference gender-based violence. 

This alarming data comes out of the report, “Taking Stock: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Climate Commitments: A Global Review”, released today by UNFPA in collaboration with Queen Mary University London.

The report– a global first– examines the climate plans of 119 countries to establish how access to contraception, gender-based violence support services and maternal health care are integrated into climate adaptation goals. 

There’s been plenty of research showing climate change acts as a risk multiplier for women and girls.

Extreme weather caused by climate change increases food insecurity which exacerbates the risk of stillbirth and severely impacts maternal and newborn health. The report shows that women and girls make up the majority of the malnourished in countries where famine persists, such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan.

It’s also been shown that heat exposure can increase infant and maternal mortality as well as pose risks to pregnant women and those experiencing menopause.

Meanwhile, climate-related displacement can disrupt access to family planning facilities and gender-based violence protection services.

The report lists only nine countries that include a description of policies or interventions to address climate-related increases of gender-based violence– the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, the Comoros, Seychelles, Costa Rica, Jordan, Tunisia and Guinea.

“The climate crisis is not gender-neutral. In those countries most at-risk, women and girls are disproportionately affected even though they have contributed the least to the global climate emergency,” says UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem. 

“Highlighting emerging evidence of the impacts of climate change on the health and wellbeing of women and girls – from increased poverty and food insecurity to poorer maternal health outcomes to increased risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices – this review is a timely reminder of why it is so critical that countries prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights in their climate strategies.”

These disproportionate climate impacts highlight the need for women to be represented at the table, discussing sustainable and inclusive solutions. 

And with the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) set to begin in Dubai this November, UNFPA is calling on countries to commit 1 per cent of their climate finances to sexual and reproductive health and rights.


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