Educating Girls to Address Gendered Impacts of Climate Change

Colorful drawing of a planet in the background with superimposed, multicolored shadows of women in front of the planet.

Image Caption: Research shows that when more women are involved in decision-making, their countries have better environmental outcomes and climate outcomes. Image courtesy @Alexandra Jade Garcia, via Canva.com.

Script by: Alexandra Jade Garcia Audio by: Alexandra Jade Garcia Blurb by: Elizabeth Sherstinsky

Educating Girls is a Climate Solution

Today, an estimated 80 percent of people displaced by climate disasters are women and girls, and women living below the poverty line are as much as 14 times more likely to die in a climate disaster. An already more at-risk population, women and girls are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly if they live in economically disadvantaged communities. Low-income countries tend to be “young” countries with a large under-15 population. Climate change is a youth-centered problem – it will have a greater impact on children and future generations. Girls in these countries often have lower access to education compared to their male counterparts. 

But education, and especially education about climate change and climate policy, can contribute to climate resilience for girls. Involving girls in climate education, action, and leadership gives girls a “seat at the table” in climate policy discussions, and resilience against climate disaster can keep more girls (and all children) in school. Girls in low-income countries are the least responsible for climate change yet often bear the brunt of its effects. By equipping girls with tools to combat the climate crisis, and centering women’s rights in climate discussions, countries can reduce the negative impacts of climate change for girls and the rest of society. 

Who is Christina Kwauk?

Christina Kwauk is an education consultant and policy analyst who specializes in the intersections between gender, education, and climate change. She is currently the Research Director at Unbounded Associates, a woman-owned small business that works with a broad network of non-governmental organizations, multilateral agencies, governments, and researchers to improve the global education space. Christina is also the founder and director of her own practice, Kwauk & Associates. Previously a fellow in the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, she researched and developed expertise in girls’ education and climate change in developing countries, publishing numerous articles and reports on the subject. Christina holds a Ph.D. in Comparative and International Development Education from the University of Minnesota, an M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, and a B.S. in Psychology from The University of the South. 

Learn More

Education is key to addressing climate change | United Nations

Girls’ education in climate strategies | UNGEI 

Gender transformative education | UNGEI

Plan International USA


Transcript

Ethan: I’m Ethan Elkind, and you’re listening to Climate Break — climate solutions in a hurry. Today’s proposal: how educating girls can build climate leadership and resiliency. We spoke to Christina Kwauk, Research Director at Unbounded Associates with an expertise in gender, environment, and education, to learn more about this connection.

Dr. Kwauk: Young girls, especially adolescent girls, because of existing gender inequalities, they face sort of a disproportionate risk in terms of experiencing the negative impacts of climate change. And these are because their, their roles typically are heavily tied to their natural environments. Education provides girls with the knowledge and the skills and the attitudes to be able to respond and to adapt to their changing environments.

Ethan: Kwauk emphasizes that educating girls will require a different approach in each country.

Dr. Kwauk: We know from research that when we have more women in decision making spaces, their countries have better environmental outcomes, better climate outcomes, better carbon footprints, even. Women can be driving green transitions, but to do that, they need to have the opportunity to go to school. In countries where existing gender inequalities are manifested in large gender gaps in schooling, these investments are especially critical. 

At a global level, I think it’s really helping to support and amplify voices of young climate activists who are really trying to draw greater attention to the intersections of gender, education, and climate change. Just really kind of demonstrating the importance of addressing the social issues of climate change and not just the technical issues of climate change.

Ethan: To learn more about how educating girls can help fight climate change, visit climatebreak.org.

Educating Girls to Address Gendered Impacts of Climate Change