Climate change is the defining human development issue of our generation. The 2007 Human Development report acknowledges that climate change threatens to erode human freedoms and limit choice and the report further underscores that gender inequality intersects with climate risks and vulnerabilities. Poor women’s limited access to resources, restricted rights, limited mobility and muted voice in shaping decisions make them highly vulnerable to climate change. The nature of that vulnerability varies widely, cautioning against generalization but climate change will magnify existing patterns of inequality, including gender inequality. In the agricultural sector, rural women in developing countries are the primary producers of staple food, a sector that is highly exposed to the risks that come with drought and uncertain rainfall. In many countries, climate change means that women and young girls have to walk further to collect water, especially in the dry season. Women in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, spend 40 billion hours per year collecting water – equivalent to a year’s worth of labor by the entire workforce in France; moreover, women can be expected to contribute much of the unpaid labor that will go into coping with climate risks through soil and water conservation, the building of anti-flood embankments, and increased off-farm employment.
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