Women voters: Their growing influence in politics and policy

Why Climate Change Is a Gender Equality Issue

Saturday, 19 March 2016 By Georgie Johnson, Energydesk | Op-Ed

2014 EU study found that women are consistently more concerned about climate change than men, and are more willing to make sacrifices to reduce emissions.

Women are even statistically more likely to “believe” in climate change.

Perhaps that’s unsurprising since women around the world are both worse affected by climate change and prohibited from tackling it by their inequality.

The link between gender and climate change is gradually becoming more widely understood, as climate change is increasingly understood in terms of human rights and social justice.

But for those still in the dark, here are the two key things you have to know:

1. Women are affected by climate change differently due to their social and economic inequality (just as all marginalised groups are affected differently according to their inequality — including indigenous people, people of colour and the global poor).

2. Women can be incredibly powerful solutions to climate change for a number of reasons, but they’re consistently excluded from solution-making positions, from local government to international politics, despite their unique potential.

Now let’s break these down into a bit more detail, because this is the internet and any suggestion that women have it harder than men needs to be backed up by many, many, endlessly repeated hard facts.

Women Are Hit First and Worst by the Effects of Climate Change

Climate change is this huge, complicated planetary migraine with a million different symptoms, but in almost every scenario it’s women who bear the brunt of the effects, firstly for the simple reason that women make up the majority of the world’s most economically disadvantaged people.

Women accounted for 61% of fatalities caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, 70–80% in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and 91% in the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh

Living on or below the poverty line means you’re less able to adapt to the effects of climate change, from increasing food and water insecurity to deadly weather events.

In countries where gender inequality is more severe, death rates for women in climate-related disasters (hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, etc) are shockingly high. The reason could be as simple as women not being taught to swim.

But there’s also the fact that women in more unequal societies don’t tend to move about in public spaces, which means they won’t hear early warnings, and social expectations to stay in the house unless chaperoned means women don’t get out fast enough.

According to the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), women accounted for 61% of fatalities caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, 70–80% in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and 91% in the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh.

Even if women survive the event itself, the aftermath is just as perilous. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, 80% of those left behind in the Lower Ninth Ward after the storm were women.

More women than men were living below the poverty line, fewer women had cars, and women were more likely to have dependents, such as children and elderly or sick relatives — all of which impaired their ability to leave the affected area.

Another problem is gender-based violence (including sexual assault and domestic abuse), which dramatically increases in the aftermath of extreme weather events; in the year following Katrina, incidents were almost four times higher than they had been before the storm.

Violence against women and girls also increases in conflict situations, which can arise when populations are displaced by climate change or when shared resources, such as food or fuel, become increasingly scarce.

Forced migration and conflict also leaves women more vulnerable to trafficking. None of this is helped by the fact that crisis response treats women’s particular needs and vulnerabilities as an afterthought, rather than a primary consideration.

Women are also impacted by the more ‘everyday’ effects of rising global temperatures. Rising humidity and more frequent flooding means more mosquito-borne diseases, which women are exposed to as water-collectors.

Drought means food shortages, which means increased workload for women as food producers — plus women and girls are more likely than men and boys to go without food when there’s not enough to go round.

There are literally countless other ways that women are affected differently by climate change based on their different social position to men — but in the interest of challenging perceptions of women as simple victims, let’s move on to solutions.

Despite Being Obvious Candidates to Save the World, Women Aren’t Given the Chance

Around the world, women are on the front lines of climate change (largely because they make up almost three quarters of the global poor). This makes them uniquely placed to share information about climate impacts and to implement solutions.

Women across rural Africa are lifting themselves and their communities out of poverty by selling solar lamps that provide safe, clean energy and employment for women. The same thing is happening in rural Pakistan.

In El Salvador, women farmers are harnessing waste geothermal energy to replace wood and fossil fuels in their communities, which saves 1.8 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Human factors including climate change are drying out the paramos (high-altitude wetlands that provide water to huge areas of farmland, and to Bogota, Quito and other large cities), and women in villages around the paramos are leading efforts to conserve them, a task that falls to women because most of the men live and work elsewhere, coming back to their villages only rarely.

In many cases in the global south, women’s work in adapting to or working against climate change helps to increase their political power. 5,000 Malian women in impoverished rural communities were trained to measure and send meteorological data to the central government, which helps the agricultural sector adapt better to the increasing severity of climate change impacts.

Thanks to their vital contribution to the success of local and national food production, these women earn a higher community profile and greater influence, both within their families and at local government level.

Meanwhile in Europe, that 2014 study mentioned earlier shows how women are more likely than men to care about climate change and want to do something about it.

The reasons for this aren’t clear — perhaps something to do with the socialisation of women as caring and self-sacrificing, or maybe the feminisation of sustainable living (apparently taking reusable bags out shopping isn’t very manly).

Either way, you can’t help thinking that if we had gender parity in politics, climate change policy might have more teeth.

The gender imbalance in industries that contribute to climate change is also a problem. In the UK, more than two-thirds of the 100 biggest energy companies fail to count a single woman on their boards, and fossil fuels are the worst culprits: while women occupied 17% of board seats for power and renewables firms in 2015, the oil and gas sector managed a measly 7%.

But even the green guys aren’t getting it right yet. Women are seriously underrepresented in leadership positions in big environmental non-profit organisations, despite making up the majority of the NGO workforce in total.

There are women all over the world who are working to mitigate and adapt to climate change, either through direct on-the-ground solutions or as researchers, organisers and campaigners.

But they face a towering and sometimes lethal task. Just this week the environmental campaigner and indigenous land rights activist Berta Cáceres was assassinated in her home in Honduras, yet another in a long list of dead climate heroines.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.


Georgie Johnson is the social media editor at Greenpeace @Energydesk and the sub-editor at @tweetskindeep.


Chief Joseph and Abigail Scott Duniway best represent Oregon

By Oregon NOW Executive Director, Michelle Ganow-Jones and Oregon NOW President, Kristin Teigen  

March 12, 2016

If you’ve been to Statuary Hall in our nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C., you’ve seen the beautiful display of two statues from each state representing some of the inspirational people who have shaped our nation’s history.

But there’s a problem. Of the 100 statues, only nine are women and fewer are people of color. The rest? White men.

Statuary Hall is but one example of how people of color, women and especially women of color are grossly under-represented in our nation’s visual history.

Since 2014, Oregonians have considered replacing our two statues — John McLoughlin and Jason Lee — who’ve represented Oregon since 1953. To that end, former Gov. John Kitzhaber created a nine-member Statuary Hall Study Commission and directed its members to bring recommendations to the 2015 state Legislature. Ultimately, the commission recommended installing statues memorializing Chief Joseph and Abigail Scott Duniway, who both fought to expand rights for Oregonians and shape our state and nation for the better.

Part of the commission’s decision-making process included a public poll, which favored longtime Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield. The commission factored these results into its recommendations and still chose to recommend Chief Joseph and Abigail Scott Duniway.

Oregon NOW was pleased with the commission’s recommendations because it not only creates a more inclusive picture of our state and nation’s history in Statuary Hall, but also begins to make visible what’s for too long been invisible. It’s not just statues; women and people of color are largely missing in our public representation of history — from bridges, roads, buildings and schools to public art.

Despite the commission’s clear recommendation to send statues of a Native chief and a suffragette to our nation’s Capitol, legislation was almost passed this session that would have sent a statue of Hatfield instead of Duniway, replacing a suffragette with, yes, another white male. And we objected.

Sen. Mark Hatfield did, of course, make great contributions to the state and is someone of whom Oregonians can be proud. But his name already graces more public buildings, schools, trails and research centers than we can count. It’s high time for different people to represent us, those who tell other important stories about our history, stories of triumph but also of trauma. We need reminders of those parts of our history that have been marked by exclusion and displacement, but also by great progress, due to the bravery of those — like Chief Joseph and Abigail Scott Duniway — who were willing to push our nation toward justice.

If the people represented in Statuary Hall have any affect on our Congress today, there must be more like Chief Joseph and Abigail Scott Duniway, whose presence can remind and inspire our leaders to carry on their unfinished work and teach all who visit how far we’ve come and how far we must still go until we can all be truly free and at peace.

Kristin Teigen of Portland is president of Oregon NOW. She can be reached at teigenkm@hotmail.com.

Michelle Ganow-Jones of Portland is executive director of Oregon NOW. She can be reached at michelle@noworegon.org.

Standing on Principle

By Steve Crandall   March 13, 2016

Memorial statues to Vietnam war Women Nurse 2

Memorial statues to Vietnam war Women Nurse, Arlington, USA,with Capitol ghost picture behind – noise in purpose on the background

By 1970 troop unrest in Vietnam had grown to an all-time high. Peace signs were openly displaced and the military establishment was trying to figure out what to do about it. The unrest made it easy for just a few of us to start a revolution that would grow to encompass many more. But would there be a cost to our revolution?

Unrest was also high back home. The American population was so weary about the war in Vietnam that even Democrats bought into Nixon’s lies when he announced that the Vietnam War was coming to an end and his program to end the war was working. Then on May 4th, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on killing four and wounding nine Kent State students protesting the war. The shooting not only jolted the stateside population it also shocked many of us in Vietnam. You see, back then joining the National Guard was one way to almost assuredly escape having to fight in Vietnam. Some of us had been college students prior to joining the military so when we heard that the Guard had opened fire on student protestors we just couldn’t understand and we quickly labeled them as the establishment chickens.

I hated being in Vietnam more than ever but I didn’t think there was a way out so I continued to load bombs, rockets and ammo while I turned my emotional anger towards the military. It helped me to direct my anger by labeling the military as the “establishment”. Our weapons loading crew was one of the fastest crews in the Squadron but we were considered by the “establishment” to have a rebellious attitude. The authority cracked down on us by braking up our crew and assigned each of us to other crews but this tactic only helped us to spread our revolution. We used the establishment’s playbook against them by following the check list word by word. The check list was written under the direction of the Secretary of the Air Force so we challenged Officers who pushed us to deviate from it even though we had deviated from it in the past to get the planes loaded and off the ground to their strike zone. Even the aircraft maintenance crews joined our revolution by grounding aircraft that were missing parts and should not be flying but were often flown anyway.

Missions were being missed and within a few days of the start of our revolution a four star General’s staff car was seen in front of the Headquarters building. The military “establishment” was feeling the heat and the following day a meeting of all personnel was called to order. We were told we could resume our duties as before, there would not be any retribution and all that is asked of us was to be safe.  We saw this as a win for our freedom (as much freedom you can get in the military) to express our dismay with the war. I never heard if any of the missed missions resulted in the death of American soldiers who were in need of air support. Would I do it again if I knew lives lost had been lost due to our stand on principles? The answer is NO!

My story and direct experience about standing on principle brings me to question Bernie supporters who say they are willing to stand on principle and not vote for Hillary in the general election if she is the nominee. They say a loss to the Republicans will teach the Democrats a lesson. Some will probably say that it’s not like taking a stand in Vietnam where there were life or death situations but if that’s what they are thinking they are dead wrong.

Just think about a Trump or Cruz presidency for a minute and then consider what it would be like to roll back time prior to Roosevelt’s New Deal because that is what they want to do. They want to abolish or cut back more than 100 government programs and departments like the Department of Education, the EPA, the US Postal Service, the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the EDA, Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities and HUD just to name a few. They want to privatize the VA and the Social Security System. They want to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act and Obamacare as well as all of President Obama’s executive orders. They want to eliminate or restrict the rights of organizations like Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ and many others that don’t fit their so called American view. They want to round up and deport 11 million immigrants. They are more interested in saving money than the lives of residents of Flint, MI or any other city that suffers from the lack of critical infrastructure upgrades. They want to control the decisions made by the Supreme Court by appointing right wing conservative judges. How about loss of religious freedom, not theirs but yours, for those who aren’t Christian. The abolishment or cut backs in any number of these programs can result in poor health, financial loss and even death to those that depend on them.

Is standing on principle so important that you are willing to see any one of these or all of these programs go down in defeat just to make a point?