Muzaffarabad, February 28, 2022 —Given recurrent natural catastrophes such as floods, droughts, heatwaves, and cyclones, Pakistan has been ranked as one of the top ten countries most affected by climate change in the past 20 years. From 2000 to 2019, Pakistan scored 29.1 on the Climate Risk Index on average, had 502.45 fatalities per year, suffered a USD 3.77 billion economic loss, and witnessed 173 disastrous events. Although the worsening climate crisis threatens and affects all humanity, climate change impacts are not gender neutral.
The fallout of climate stress on vulnerable communities is clearly visible, especially on women and young girls. They have access to fewer resources and agency during periods of climate stress, as well as the heaviest burdens to bear. 70% of the world’s poor are women, and the pandemic has exacerbated the gender gap in extreme poverty.
To unravel the challenges faced by women and solicit potential feedback to reduce the vulnerabilities of climate-stressed women, UNDP Pakistan in collaboration with the National Commission on the Status on Women, and the Planning Commission of Pakistan, has been holding consultations all over Pakistan with gender and climate change experts. The findings of these consultations, and the feedback received from relevant stakeholders, will culminate in an NCSW and UNDP Pakistan report entitled ‘Women and Climate Change in Pakistan: Impact, Challenges and Solutions’.
UNDP Pakistan, with the support of its Pakistan Administered Kashmir SDGs Support Unit, and in collaboration with NCSW, held the last consultation in Muzaffarabad, on the theme of ‘Women and Climate Change: Impact, Challenges, and Solutions’. It brought together a diverse group of experts on gender and climate change and provided them with an opportunity to discuss the repercussions of climate change on women, and to explore potential solutions to reduce vulnerabilities of climate-stressed women and other marginalized populations in the region. Previously, similar consultations were also held in Gilgit-Baltistan, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Speaking on the occasion Chairperson, National Commission on the Status of Women, Ms. Nilofar Bakhtiar said that AJ&K is disaster prone region and women are the most effected during any disaster. Climate change also impacts the lives of women in the region. Women should be the part of policy making.
“Climate change has exacerbated socio-economic fault lines in every society and placed a heavier burden on communities struggling to survive with complex inequalities. We at UNDP strongly believe that it is critical to ensure gender-sensitive investments in programmes for adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer and capacity building.” said Dr. Sabeeh Zaidi, Head of the Management Support Unit, UNDP Pakistan.
The adverse impacts of climate change have already started affecting the permanent ice cover in areas of Pakistan Administered Kashmir. The temporal analysis conducted between 2000 to 2017 has revealed that the permanent ice cover has been reduced from 15000 hectors to 11000 hectors. The glacial retreat is accompanied by the creation of new lakes, which were 50 in 2000 and 62 in 2017. This phenomenon enhances the prospects of Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), which, besides causing adverse impacts on river health, embodies serious consequences for the human life and property. This is expected to lead to more frequent and larger floods, landslides, and avalanches due to extreme rains. Consequently, this forces migration or displacement, increasing the plight of already resource-deprived, disadvantaged populations such as women.
Dr. Shabnum Sarfaraz, Member, Social Sector and Devolution at the Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, explored the need for gender-informed policy in greater detail at the consultation through virtual participation. She presented the government’s gender responsive policy and planning framework and asked the session participants to ideate on recommendations to improve policies, procedures, implementation, and outcomes for women impacted by climate stress.
Other notable speakers and participants at the consultation included Ms. Tahmina Sadiq Khan, Chairperson State Commission on the Status of Women, Mr. Dewan Ali Khan Chugtai, Minister for Education Elementary & Secondary , GoAJ&K, Prof Taqdees, MLA, Parliamentary Secretary Education, Mr. Javed Ayub, Secretary Social Welfare and Women Development, and Ms. Nisara Abbasi, MLA (PMLN), and senior representatives of civil society organizations, government departments, the private sector, academia, and media.
The NCSW and UNDP Pakistan report based on these country-wide consultations will be presented at the 66th session of the Global Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2022 in New York.