Women bear the brunt of climate change: Hasina

Bangladesh's prime minister Sheikh Hasina, presents her national statement as part of the World Leaders' Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on 1 November 2021.AFP

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday said structural inequalities in human society along with inherent social customs are causing disproportionate impacts of climate change on women.

"Generally, women across the world don't have equal access to resources. In addition, in many societies, they don't have the decision-making power and are often engaged in low-paid and unpaid jobs and activities. All these factors contribute to more adverse impacts of climate change on women than on their male counterparts," she said.

The prime minister said this while addressing the Women's Climate Leadership Event-COP26: High-Level Panel on Women and Climate Change at Scottish Pavilion.

She said most vulnerable and marginalised people around the world are also the greatest victims of the adverse impacts of climate change for a number of socio-economic and cultural factors. "Women and girls are major among them," she said.

"We believe recognising the vulnerabilities of women in climate change response is critical," Hasina said.

She said the government is fully committed to making women part of the solutions to climate change by creating space for them to contribute to all aspects of sustainable development.

Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson greets Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as they arrive to attend the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on 1 November 2021.

"I call upon all of you, especially the women leaders, for taking bold and decisive actions in this COP for a global compact to build communities resilient to climate change in a way where everyone -- both man and woman -- can participate equally," she said.

To address the vulnerability of women due to climate change, it is important to create space for them in the decision-making process, said the Prime Minister.

"In a bid to ensure that, Bangladesh has already secured women's leadership from the national Parliament to the grassroots levels of decision-making processes," she said.

Hasina mentioned that the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) of Bangladesh has incorporated gender in a comprehensive manner as part of adaptation solutions. "We've prepared the National Climate Change and Gender Action Plan to ensure gender equality in climate change-related policies, strategies, and interventions."

She said the current updated Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) includes gender as one of the core strategic areas to undertake practical and action-oriented programmes to tackle climate change.

"Most importantly, my government has introduced Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB), allocating around a 30 per cent share of expenditure on women development to mainstream gender in all policy and decision-making processes," she said.

Hasina argued that it is a scientific fact that women are more resilient than men. Even in the most difficult cases of natural calamities, it is women who first turn around to take care of their families and households.

"Therefore, starting from policy-making to the ground response to climate led disasters, we're ensuring equal participation. In climate disaster prepared programmes, we've engaged 76,000 volunteers and 50 per cent of which are women," she said.

The prime minister said Bangladesh's disaster preparedness programme is a success story as it reduced the death toll from half a million in a cyclone 50 years ago to only a couple of hundreds in a similar cyclone a year ago.

She also said the government is going to implement the "Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan" named after Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In this Plan, a strong role of women in the journey of climate vulnerability to climate resilience to climate prosperity has been mainstreamed, she added.

Hasina said this is high time to connect the climate change ambition with a future that will be inclusive of both men and women. "For this, we must reflect the priorities and concerns of women in various climate related policies."

She said women should be included in the driver's role in every level of initiatives, starting from the planning to resource allocation and implementation. "Therefore, financing gender responsive adaptation and mitigation measures will be the key."

The prime minister urged all to amplify the voices of women across the world to ensure equal access to finance to address the needs and priorities of women on climate change issues.