According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the effects of climate change have been occurring for decades and will worsen in the coming years. In Latin America, human mobility processes will be increasingly influenced by this phenomenon, with women and girls being one of the populations most at risk.
Women's vulnerability is due to multiple variables, including socio-cultural conditions and norms that intensify discrimination against them at the socioeconomic level and push violence (UN, 2020). Finding themselves in mobility situations due to disasters, environmental degradation, and the adverse effects of climate change, women and girls are at greater risk of experiencing gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, and face more significant barriers to finding durable solutions to their situation.
So far, the relationship between migration, gender and climate change has been little analyzed. However, studies like "Promoting Gender Equality in the Environment, Migration and Disaster Displacement in the Caribbean", by IOM and ECLAC, present significant advances in understanding the role of gender in environmental migration.
The gender approach requires considering the vulnerabilities and capacities of women and girls and addressing the differentiated impacts of these phenomena on different genders - including LGBTIQ+ populations. A gender approach also requires considering the cross-cutting situations of various characteristics such as age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
The following are five central findings of the research mentioned above:
1. Gender is a key factor in understanding environmental migration and disaster displacement.
Migration and other human mobility processes linked to disasters, environmental degradation and climate change are closely related to gender. Empirical evidence shows that traditional gender structures make women, girls, indigenous and LGBTI populations more vulnerable in times of crisis or transition. They also affect the ability of gender-vulnerable groups to access resources in their communities of origin during migration, at destination (whether temporary or long-term) and in possible return processes.
2. Disaster situations, displacement and temporary shelter require gender-sensitive interventions.
Disasters, especially those linked to sudden-onset hazards such as hurricanes or storms, tend to affect women and girls to a greater extent than other population groups. In times of crisis, women can be victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking. They also face the most significant problems when trying to rebuild their lives or find long-term solutions to the need for displacement. This is related to social factors such as women's role in the care and security of their homes, limited access to health care and drinking water, among others.
3. Limited access to resources and opportunities influences gender-specific vulnerabilities and capacities to return to communities of origin after displacement.
Conditions of inequality and marginalization affect women's possibilities to access critical resources and livelihoods to prevent forced or involuntary migration in times of crisis. The data suggest that the difficulty of accessing the labor market negatively impacts women's ability to cope with disaster situations, rebuild their lives and return to their communities of origin.
4. Gender-based violence is a key issue to be addressed in migration and disaster situations.
In many Central, North American and Caribbean countries, gender-based violence is considered a public health issue that requires policy formulation. Human mobility processes are no stranger to this complex reality. On the contrary, they exemplify high-risk situations for women and girls where they often experience violence and different types of abuse and threats to their integrity. Vulnerabilities can occur at different stages of the migration process and in internal or international displacement situations.
5. There is a need to improve evidence and data to facilitate gender-responsive policy making.
It is vitally important to continue collecting data to generate evidence regarding the nexus between migration, environment, climate change, and gender. There is a lack of available studies that contribute to understanding this relationship. For this reason, improving the capacity to collect, interpret and exchange disaggregated data at local, regional and international levels is a critical task for the formulation of policies to reduce the vulnerabilities of women and girls in the face of adverse environmental events.
Environmental migration is a process that must recognize the different needs, priorities, risks and capacities of migrants of all genders. In the particular case of women and girls, who experience discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, social status, ability, etc., it is essential to address these cross-cutting inequalities and guarantee their rights.