Climate change-induced instability and gender-based violence

16 Days of Activism

It is an injustice to women everywhere to ignore climate change.

Climate change is a threat multiplier; it escalates conflicts and worsens social, political and economic conditions all over. And what we’ve seen time and time again is that when conflict arises, women and girls are threatened with all forms of gender-based violence (GBV), from conflict-induced sexual violence to human trafficking.

The environmental degradation caused by climate change puts women and girls at heightened risk to GBV, too. Take Uganda, where worsened periods of drought mean that women and girls now must make more frequent and longer journeys to get water, making them more vulnerable to sexual assault along the way. The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone saw similar impacts; where “girls…are out in the street very late at night or as early as 4 a.m. in search of water,” which makes them particularly vulnerable to GBV. 

Even in industrialized countries, climate change-induced natural disasters lead to an increased risk of domestic violence in rural regions. But it’s the already most burdened women – indigenous women, poor women, woman refugees – that are at greatest risk for increased GBV as climate change worsens. We owe it to the world’s women to combat climate change on all fronts.

As climate change worsens, resilience and mitigation measures need to take gender into account. At the top, meaningful climate action means greater involvement of women in the policymaking process. Climate change is hitting women and girls the hardest, and decision-makers need that perspective guiding their policies to truly combat these threats.

At the ground level, GBV prevention can be targeted in communities vulnerable to climate change. Take the pilot project being undertaken by UNDP, where violence prevention is being taught to two Ugandan communities directly parallel to resilient community training. Learn more about how to support this on-the-ground work here.

How can you help?

  • Support leaders and organizations that address the intersection of gender-based violence and climate change and advocate to policy makers and other decision-makers.
  • Promote and learn about educational resources about climate change and GBV.
  • Engage in critical dialogue and local engagements that provide awareness and support to GBV survivors.



Authored by Annabel Gregg, NGO CSW/NY Advocacy Intern