Women, Climate Change and Human Rights in Africa

Michael Addaney, Ph.D.

Lecturer, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani, Ghana.

Climate change has indisputable long-term consequences on the environment, which, in turn, seriously undermine the enjoyment of human rights. The African continent is projected to be one of the hardest hit by the negative effects of climate change. The consequences of climate change are not only disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and poorest populations, there are also disparities along gender lines. The connections between climate change, gender equality, and women’s rights are complicated and multidimensional. In contrast, most existing studies on gender and climate change action offer a narrow conception of what gender equality and women’s rights mean in the context of climate change action.

By considering the thorny linkages between climate change, gender equality, and women’s rights in Africa, this article relies on the lived realities of women and geographical vulnerabilities of the African Continent to highlight that the rights of women are disproportionately undermined by the adverse impacts of climate change. The article provides options for policy and social interventions by different stakeholders to ensure that women are not further marginalized by the negative impacts of and responses to the global climate crisis.

Women and the climate crisis in Africa

Climate change undermines the enjoyment of human rights, such as the rights to life and security of the person; health; adequate food and water; and shelter and property. The adverse effects of climate change, however, are not equally distributed. Women, children, and minorities often bear the brunt of the impact of climate change. Joane Nagel observes that gender differences influence how men and women are impacted by climate change. These differences lead to vulnerabilities in access to resources related to recovery from climate-induced disasters, approaches to climate risks, and involvement in the political processes that shape adaptation and mitigation activities.

Women across the world are more prone to poverty in comparison to men as a consequence of uneven access to economic resources, finances, and decision-making capabilities. For example, the UNDP has underscored that women in developing countries experience unequal access to resources and decision-making processes, with constrained agility in rural areas. Moreover, women