Around the world, climate change has set alarm bells ringing and made it increasingly apparent that women will be disproportionately affected by climate emergencies. Fortunately for Pakistani women, the country’s climate change policies are designed to facilitate them in their productive, reproductive, and caregiving roles. In Pakistan, women already have a low socio-economic status and face several obstacles daily, which will be further intensified because of climate catastrophes. Therefore, prioritising women in policies is pivotal for empowering them and will support Pakistan in meeting the UN SDG 5, which is gender equality along with climate action.
According to research, women face significantly high health risks from the impacts of climate change compared to men. The conservative cultural norms and gender discrimination prevalent in Pakistan have entrenched women within their gender roles and little has been done to emancipate them. During natural disasters or extreme weather, women are more likely to be left behind either because they have no male relative to escort them or they are required to look after their homes. In rural areas, many women participate in farming activities i.e. sowing, weeding, harvesting, threshing, and more. Given that Pakistan is already witnessing changes in weather patterns with heatwaves becoming more regular and lower annual rainfall coupled with a loss of biodiversity and deforestation, women will be more vulnerable. Within the last few years, global climate catastrophes have demonstrated disastrous results i.e. mass displacements, scarcity of resources, loss of income, absence of safety, and unrest, which has fuelled gender discrimination and sexual violence against women.
Considering that women are under-utilised in Pakistan due to barriers, widening the scope of climate change policies to include women is crucial for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Although the implementation of the policies will be a challenge, the government must take this as an opportunity to promote women’s rights, gender equality and inclusivity through rigorous action. Different areas should be targeted through a tailored approach as it will engage more people towards understanding climate change and realising the role of women.