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The Nexus Between Violence Against Women and The Climate Change Crises


The nexus between violence against women and the climate change crises

                                By Oladosu  Adenike

         Photo from I Lead Climate Action Initiative on women's empowerment

Violence against women and climate change are complex issues, but they can intersect in several ways. For instance, women often bear disproportionate impacts of climate change due to societal roles and vulnerabilities. Climate-related disasters can exacerbate existing gender inequalities, exposing women to higher risks. Additionally, displacement and resource scarcity resulting from climate change can contribute to conflict, potentially increasing the incidence of gender-based violence. Addressing these issues requires comprehensive approaches that consider the intersectionality of gender and environmental challenges.

Climate change crises affect Africa in various ways including; altered rainfall patterns, increased temperatures, and more frequent extreme weather events. These changes can lead to water scarcity, food insecurity, and challenges for agricultural practices. Additionally, rising sea levels pose a threat to coastal regions, impacting communities and ecosystems. Addressing climate change in Africa requires international cooperation and sustainable adaptation strategies to mitigate its far-reaching impacts. Currently, East Africa is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, affecting over 37 million people. By 2030, up to 86,000 Kenyans will be impacted by rising sea levels and ocean temperatures, amplifying coastal flooding and storm intensity. 

Violence against women has profound effects on democracy, access to education, and gender equality. It undermines democratic principles by suppressing women's voices and participation in political processes. Fear of violence can deter women from engaging in civic activities and seeking leadership roles, hindering the development of inclusive and representative democracies. In terms of education, violence against women creates barriers to access. Girls may be forced to drop out of school due to safety concerns, limiting their educational opportunities and perpetuating gender inequalities. In a broader sense, violence fosters a culture of fear that can discourage women from pursuing various aspects of public life, including education and professional development. Moreover, gender-based violence reinforces existing gender inequalities. It perpetuates stereotypes and power imbalances, contributing to an environment where women are marginalized. Efforts to achieve gender equality are impeded as women face obstacles in pursuing education, careers, and active participation in society. Addressing violence against women is crucial for fostering inclusive democracy and promoting equal opportunities for all genders. The review showed high levels of domestic violence among women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa: about 25% of women in Malawi had experienced physical/sexual spousal violence; levels were higher in Cameroon, Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe (35%-45%); and highest in Uganda (60%). Women and girls of the Central Sahel experience some of the highest rates of recorded Gender-Based Violence in the world. 76% of women and girls in Niger are married before the age of 18; Burkina Faso and Mali are also in the top 6 countries in terms of the prevalence of child, early, and forced marriage. Unfortunately, these areas are prone more to climate crises. Recent studies have implicated climate change as the driver of inequality and social injustice especially in the worn-torn African countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Northern Nigeria. Scientific studies have implicated ecological crises as the leading cause of social inequality and hence driver of this gender violence. Thankfully, the United Nations in its wisdom has listed the 25th of November as a day slated to combat the menace of gender-based violence or invariably International Day against Violence against Women.  Since women are the protectors of the environment, all efforts must be put in place to ensure violence against women is put in check. Access to gender-based policies that place green opportunities for women should be put on board. Ecofeminist policies and laws should be legislated across the various tiers of government that give room for more green investment in women-based agricultural settlement and growth. 

Certain regions in Nigeria-- particularly the northeastern and northwestern parts have experienced higher levels of violence against women. Factors such as insurgency, conflict, and cultural practices contribute to this issue. The Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2018 found that 9 percent of women aged 15 to 49 had suffered sexual assault at least once in their lifetime and 31% had experienced physical violence

Pollution and environmental degradation can indirectly contribute to violence against women by exacerbating existing social and economic challenges. Environmental degradation may lead to resource scarcity, such as water and arable land. Competition for these resources can intensify, potentially causing conflicts that disproportionately affect women who are often responsible for resource management in many societies. Pollution and environmental disasters can force communities to migrate or become displaced. Women in displaced communities may face increased vulnerability to violence, including sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Environmental changes can impact livelihoods, especially in agricultural societies. When traditional ways of life are disrupted, economic pressures may increase, potentially leading to higher levels of domestic violence as stress and frustration rise. Pollution can have severe health consequences, and women often bear the primary responsibility for family health.  Poor health can lead to increased stress within households, potentially contributing to domestic violence. Environmental issues can lead to economic downturns, affecting education opportunities. In such situations, women may face increased challenges in accessing education, limiting their ability to break out of cycles of poverty and violence. Addressing violence against women in the context of environmental challenges requires comprehensive strategies that consider social, economic, and environmental factors simultaneously. Collaboration between environmental, social, and women's rights organizations is crucial for effective solutions. More specifically, direct physical violence gives way to indirect forms of extermination through undermining place-based livelihoods, such as deforestation causing food instability, pollution causing health impacts, or structural inequalities increasing vulnerability to violence and ecological consequences.

Adenike Oladosu ( is an Ecofeminist, climate justice advocate, and writer. Current fellow at The New Institute Hamburg, Germany.



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