Women are facing disproportionately high risks to their livelihoods and health from climate change, as well as associated risks such as human trafficking, states a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Investing in low carbon, efficient green technologies, water harvesting and fuel wood alternatives can strengthen climate change adaptation and improve women's livelihoods, says the report titled 'Women at the Frontline of Climate Change: Gender Risks and Hopes'.
The report was released at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa, according to a press release issued by ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) headquartered in Kathmandu.
Impacts of climate change, such as droughts, floods and mud slides are affecting a growing number of people worldwide, according to the report.
"From 1999-2008, floods affected almost one billion people in Asia, 28 million in the Americas, 22 million in Africa and four million in Europe."
In parts of Asia and Africa, where the majority of the agricultural workforce are women, the impacts of such disasters have a major impact on their income, food security and health, according to the report.
"Women often play a stronger role than men in the management of ecosystem services and food security. Hence, sustainable adaptation must focus on gender and the role of women if it is to become successful," said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
"Women's voices, responsibilities and knowledge on the environment and the challenges they face will need to be made a central part of Governments' adaptive responses to a rapidly changing climate," he stressed.
The reports also highlights how organised human trafficking, especially that of women, is emerging as a potentially serious risk associated with climate-related disasters; as floods or landslides disrupt social safety nets, leaving more women isolated and vulnerable.
In Nepal, which is witnessing peace process after the end of a decade long conflict, figures, based on data from anti- trafficking organisations, suggest that trafficking may have increased from an estimated 3,000-5,000 people (mostly women, as well as children and youth of both sexes between the ages of 7 and 21) in the 1990s to current levels of 12,000-20,000 per year.
Around 30 per cent of these end up in forced labour and 70 per cent are exploited in the sex industry, the report suggests.
Human trafficking increases by around 20 to 30 per cent during disasters, because exposure of women to trafficking increases as families are disrupted and livelihoods are lost in such period.