Girls and Women are Disproportionately Affected by Climate Change in Trinidad and Tobago

Women and girls suffer more from climate change, facing increased risks during crises. Limited resource access worsens this, heightening vulnerability to disenfranchisement and violence.

Girls and women are disproportionately affected by climate change. Gender disparities have resulted in threats to the safety, health, and livelihoods of these groups, all of which are amplified during a climate crisis. As stated by UN Women, “across the world, women depend more on, yet have less access to, natural resources. In many regions, women bear a disproportionate responsibility for securing food, water, and fuel.” This form of inequity for girls and women is exacerbated by climate change. The socio-economic, political, cultural, and environmental challenges are heightened during a climate crisis. In turn, this places girls and women at extreme risk for disenfranchisement, gender-based violence (GBV), and other forms of violence.

Women and girls suffer more from climate change, facing increased risks during crises. Limited resource access worsens this, heightening vulnerability to disenfranchisement and violence.

The interconnections of gender disparity and climate change are prevalent globally. In Trinidad and Tobago, this is no exception, as the country continues to experience climate-related disasters and conditions such as extreme heat, drought, tropical storms, landslides, and flooding. The striking factor during these events is the reduced accessibility for this demographic to access educational facilities, hygiene services, safe spaces, and employment opportunities.

Addressing the gender disparities in climate impacts in Trinidad and Tobago and globally is a vital component of achieving climate justice. It involves not only reducing emissions but also ensuring that adaptation and resilience-building efforts consider the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls. Promoting gender equality and empowering them to participate in climate-related decision-making is also key. Climate justice aims to create a more equitable and sustainable future where climate impacts are shared fairly and the responsibility to address climate change is distributed justly among nations and communities.

Non-profit organisations such as Feminitt are continually working towards gender justice initiatives through the intersection of factors such as climate change. Ashlee Burnett, founder of Feminitt, has familiarised herself with such circumstances for girls and women, accounting for the many ways that they can be affected. She said, “Changes in weather conditions have increased flooding in Trinidad and Tobago, placing families at risk of internal displacement, loss of income, as well as an increase in health issues. When women and girls are forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters, they are placed in state shelters, which can increase exposure to various forms of gender-based violence.”

Burnett reflected on how weather conditions reduce the accessibility of safe spaces for girls and women during a crisis. From her experience, she highlighted working with a team to provide resources and clean up affected areas. She said,” In 2018, I vividly recall the floods in east, central, and south Trinidad and Tobago, which severely impacted households. I joined a team of people to assist in clean-ups and to provide clean, dry clothes and food for affected families. Some communities we assisted had households of mainly women and girls who were unable to leave due to a lack of safe transport to get out of their flooded homes and communities.”

The gender inequities also reduce opportunities for safe commuting and access to shelters during a climate crisis such as tropical storms. When the environment that they’re in becomes hazardous due to climate and environmental conditions, seeking external care becomes a challenge. Following exposure to tropical storms and rainy weather, heat exposure is on the rise. Heat exposure remains an ongoing concern throughout the country, with increasing temperatures being recorded and even broken periodically. This significantly impacts the livelihoods of women who work outdoors. It also creates immense health risks. The prevalence of women working in outdoor settings isn’t uncommon, and in a variety of fields, women have navigated work settings with fewer resources and greater financial instability than their male counterparts.

Women and girls suffer more from climate change, facing increased risks during crises. Limited resource access worsens this, heightening vulnerability to disenfranchisement and violence.

In a report provided by Nicole Leotaud, Executive Director of the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), she accounted for the vast involvement of women in the system of goods and services, handicrafts, natural medicines, ecotourism, agro-processing, and more. She said, “Women have entered traditionally male-dominated sectors like forestry and fisheries and are dealing head-on with practical challenges.” Challenges faced by women who work outdoors rely on existing policies and gender gaps. These challenges inhibit women from being suitably protected from hazardous conditions caused by climate change. Heat stress is becoming of greater concern, and women are feeling the brunt of it while working outdoors. Burnett shared, “The increase in heat and the weather changes in late 2022 have caused great concern. Research has shown that the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can negatively affect air quality, reducing iron and zinc in plants.

This can affect people who menstruate and may have medical conditions that result in iron deficiency.” Heat records in 2022 were already of concern; what can be said for 2023? For starters, a hot spell warning was recently declared for the period from Friday, September 15th, 2023, to Friday, September 29th, until further advised. From health effects to the limitations of navigating outdoor settings to reduce exposure, this means that there are greater reductions in wages, and in some cases, women must seek medical care to alleviate symptoms. Amidst all this, what can be done? What is being put in place to reduce these effects for girls and women? Dealing with such a crisis alongside the climate crisis requires a multi-faceted approach that accounts for other intersecting factors such as race, age, demographic, and class status. This means that there must be an equitable distribution of resources, employment opportunities, safe access to facilities and safe spaces, and a general acknowledgment of the gender dynamics in place that make these factors inaccessible for many.

Women and girls suffer more from climate change, facing increased risks during crises. Limited resource access worsens this, heightening vulnerability to disenfranchisement and violence.

Once girls and women are included in the decision-making processes and conversations, more can be done at all levels. This is of great relevance to the work done by Feminitt through the development of programmes that provide menstrual resources and educational content to vulnerable communities. Burnet said, “Through our work, we explore how inequalities in access to sexual and reproductive health services can be impacted by climate change. We do this through cyber-activism, workshops, and teach-ins. Noting that issues like climate change have economic impacts, Feminitt Caribbean, through its Safe Cycle program, provides free menstrual products and menstrual health education in communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago. To date, we have established 11 Care Banks located in central, east, and north Trinidad and Tobago. ”

Alongside the work of organisations such as Feminitt are the many recommendations to further catalyse change for these groups. A gender analysis of the impact of climate change on girls and women recommends strategies to address the challenges. These include strengthening the capacities of key coordinating agencies in the nexus between gender and climate change, conducting gender audits in key sectors to determine how many women are in decision-making roles, and establishing measures to advance to leadership positions in both technical and non-technical areas for women. These strategies amplify the call for climate justice for girls and women in Trinidad and Tobago. It is important that, at an individual, communal, and institutional level, such disparities are recognised and followed by the necessary measures for adaptation and mitigation. Through these, climate resilience can be further inclusive and ensure that such groups are always accounted for in the focus of climate change.

Women and girls suffer more from climate change, facing increased risks during crises. Limited resource access worsens this, heightening vulnerability to disenfranchisement and violence.

Climate justice calls for addressing the specific vulnerabilities faced by women, ensuring their active participation in decision-making processes, and recognising the interconnectedness of climate change with broader social inequalities. It also emphasises the historical responsibility of developed nations for emissions and their obligation to support vulnerable communities. Achieving climate justice in Trinidad and Tobago involves not only reducing emissions and building resilience but also promoting gender equality and empowering women to shape climate-related policies and actions, ultimately striving for a more equitable and sustainable future.


This story was published by News 5 Belize with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.

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Princess Charles

Princess Charles

Princess is a Trinidadian writer and blogger with articles in the fields of human rights, labour laws, and occupational safety and health. She is an advocate for labour rights, mental health, disability rights, and climate justice. With a degree in Occupational Safety and Health, she centres her work on providing safer spaces and risk-reduction strategies for communities and the environment.

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