When natural disasters, often made worse by climate change, strike, it is typically the most vulnerable populations that suffer most — and in many countries that means girls and women.
But making sure girls and women get educations is a sure-fire way to help a community recover more quickly when disaster strikes, a new study says.
“Educating girls is one of the most effective but overlooked ways to mitigate against climate change,” the Brookings Institution wrote in a post about its findings.
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Climate change tends to exacerbate poverty as well as gender inequality, particularly in places where girls are not valued as equals to boys, and therefore, receive less investment in their development and education, the study said.
The risk of child marriage increases during vulnerable times and periods of instability, the report says. After a natural disaster, families’ financial resources may be stretched and marrying their daughters off could help to reduce their resource strain. If a bride price or dowry is customary, marrying a daughter off could even result in financial gain or increase household resources that could help the rest of the family cope with climate change-related disasters.
In places where girls’ education is not valued, girls are more likely to be pulled out of school to help deal with the impacts of climate change-related events, like being forced to leave school to help fetch water during a drought.
But the Brookings Institution’s recent study suggests that in order to better respond to and stop climate change, greater investment in girls education is needed.
“For every additional year of schooling a girl receives on average, her country’s resilience to climate disasters can be expected to improve by 3.2 points,” the report says.
By incorporating reproductive rights, leadership training, and other life skills into girls’ education curricula, the think tank says women and girls could notably help combat climate change and its impacts.
Global Citizen campaigns to support equal access to education and gender equality. You can take action to ensure that all girls have the opportunity to get an education here.
Teaching girls about their rights, specifically about their reproductive rights, helps to improve their health and could help stabilize poverty levels and keep girls in school longer.
And by staying in school longer, girls acquire the knowledge and develop the skills they need to become more independent, capable people who will not be seen as burdens, but rather assets during crises.
Equipping girls with leadership and life skills through education could have a significant impact, the report found.
“Studies show that female leaders are incredibly effective in conservation and protection efforts, and are more likely to pursue more sustainable futures for their communities,” a Brookings Institution blog post says.
So teaching life skills focused on competencies like public speaking, critical thinking, and self-confidence can help to increase girls’ abilities to problem solve and respond to urgent situations like those they would have to deal with after a climate change-related crisis.
By increasing gender equality through education, girls can be made less vulnerable during natural disasters. They can more fully participate in recovery and response efforts, and help change perceptions so that girls will be seen as potential resources rather than resource strains.