Girls are powerful agents of change, yet their rights and their potential to combat the climate crisis are not being considered by governments in global climate strategies.
These are the findings of our latest report – produced in partnership with UNICEF and Brookings Institution – which revealed that girls’ rights are currently being ignored in climate strategies and policies.
The report titled Girls’ Rights in Climate Strategies was launched at the UN’s 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25), an event that has seen world leaders, scientists, business leaders and climate activists gather in Madrid to discuss how governments will meet agreed global targets on emissions over the next five years.
Plan International representatives from around the globe are attending COP25, in order to influence discussions on the rights of children – and particularly girls – in the climate crisis and to make sure that the specific risks faced by girls are recognised and addressed.
The report found:
With the release of this report, we’re calling for governments, policy-makers and wider society to ensure girls are included in climate action.
Hayley Cull, our Director of Advocacy, explains how although women and girls are leading the charge in climate action, they continue to be denied a seat at the decision-making table:
“The global climate movement is being powered by inspiring girl activists including Greta Thunberg, yet governments barely consider their rights. Climate action without children and young people will fail to tackle the climate crisis today and will create bigger challenges in the future.”
When it comes to the impacts of the changing climate, girls – especially those from the poorest and most vulnerable communities – are the hardest hit.
Climate change magnifies the everyday inequalities girls face, such as poor access to sexual reproductive health and education, child marriages, early pregnancies, violence and human trafficking. In times of crisis, girls are the first to drop out of school to help their families earn money, to tend to domestic duties or look after relatives, and they face an increased risk of exploitation, and abuse.
“This is incredibly unfair because those who will be most affected by climate change are the ones who have contributed least to the problem,” explains Hayley.
“Despite the fact that girls’ education is one of the most powerful ways to combat climate change, the lion’s share of national climate strategies concentrate on technological fixes, ignoring social concerns and the contributions that people, particularly girls and young women empowered by education and information, might make.”
Barsha is a perfect example of what is possible when girls are included in the conversation. At 14 years old, she lives in the Dhaka slum in Bangladesh, a location that is particularly vulnerable when natural disaster strikes.
But rather than fearing or fleeing potential floods, earthquakes and tornadoes, Barsha wants to stay and improve the situation for children and particularly girls in her community.
Since joining a children’s group in her area run by Plan International and Social Economic Enhancement Program (SEEP), Barsha has been working to build a safer and more resilient city for children and young people.
With a focus on climate-related disasters, the project aims to support and educate young people in the community around what to do in the face of a disaster, while also teaching them to manage and reduce the disaster risks associated with climate change.
Barsha is passionate about giving all girls the right to an education, stopping child marriage and continuing to educate her community about disasters.
The Girls’ Rights in Climate Strategies report also found that completing a quality education and being able to freely control their sexual and reproductive health empowers girls to contribute to more resilient and adaptable societies and greener economies.
“Girls play a vital role in the solution to climate change. Educating girls is one of the most effective, and most overlooked, ways to mitigate climate change. In fact, for every year a girl stays in school, her country’s climate resilience measurably improves.”
The launch of the report also coincides with the UN’s Gender Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness on the importance of gender-responsive climate policy.
Plan International Australia is calling for the following actions: