We are in a climate crisis—and it is not gender-neutral. Women and girls are already bearing the brunt of impact. In many African countries, 90% of the female labor force is involved in agriculture. As weather patterns become more erratic, women smallholder farmers and their families are at increasing risk. This reality is exacerbated by pervasive inequalities related to access—to contraception; to financing, supplies and land ownership for food production; and to claiming their rightful place at the decision-making table. There is an inextricable link between securing the fundamental rights of women and girls, and stemming the most devastating effects of climate change. Simply put, women are the solution. Collaborating across reproductive health, climate-smart farming, women’s rights, and bold storytelling, our team will amplify the power, strength and skills of rural women in Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria—countries with large agrarian populations—to build more food-secure, climate-resilient communities.
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In rural Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria, where agriculture is the primary livelihood, the impact of the climate crisis is already acute. Desertification, widespread soil erosion, increased flooding or drought, and unprecedented natural disasters put these communities at particular risk for increased hunger, poverty and conflict. Women and girls face disproportionate harm because climate change is a powerful “threat multiplier,” making already tenuous situations or existing vulnerabilities worse. This is particularly true for women smallholder farmers in the focus countries, who are dependent on natural resources—now threatened by climate change—for their livelihoods. Currently, women farmers account for 45-80% of all food production in the Global South yet own less than 20% of land and have less access to financial credit. If women smallholders receive equal access to productive resources, their farm yields will rise by 20 to 30 percent. Lack of access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services is a compounding factor. In our focus countries, more than 13 million women who want contraception still don’t have access to it, and unsafe abortions contribute to high rates of pregnancy-related mortality. Bodily autonomy, choice, and access to reproductive health services is the necessary foundation for women to plan their futures and take control of their livelihoods. Another critical disparity: global funding falls short in elevating smallholder women farmers to lead their communities through the climate crisis; only .01 percent of grant dollars support projects addressing both climate change and women’s rights.
Securing the rights of women and girls is a crucial strategy for addressing climate change that is comparable to wind turbines, solar panels, or forests. Our solution brings together leading organizations in gender and reproductive justice, agriculture, women’s rights and empowerment, and behavior-change communications in a coordinated approach to more quickly build climate-resilient communities in rural Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria. As traditional stewards of natural and household resources, women smallholders are well positioned to lead. We will unleash their power by supporting them to exercise their fundamental right to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services. We will increase their access to financial resources, tools, and training on climate-smart farming techniques. Working through self-led women’s groups and movements, we will facilitate the engagement of women farmers in decision-making processes to further secure rights around land ownership, for example, and their leadership in building community resilience. To disseminate this community-based work more broadly, we will harness the power of storytelling to normalize key themes and behaviors, emphasize best practices for sustainable agriculture, gain community buy-in for protecting the environment, and feature women as “solutionaries.” The outcome? We will build more resilient communities by reaching an estimated 1.3 million people with reproductive health services, 2.1 million smallholder farmers, and millions more through Population Media Center programming. Global Fund for Women will partner with up to 20 self-led women’s groups in each country to secure rights related to reproductive, economic, and climate justice, deepening impact from local to national and regional levels.