Technovation equips girls with the skills needed to take action against climate change. Image: Technovation
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- In countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, women and girls are disproportionately affected.
- Disruptions caused by climate change affect everything from access to education to gender-based violence.
- These interventions can help leaders create a gender-equitable and sustainable future.
With each breath they take, residents of Delhi endure the dark and dense smog resulting from crop burning. Even though these practices pollute the air and damage health, many rely on it to clear space for new crops. Determined to address these effects on behalf of urban residents, three young women, Unnathi, Aarushi, and Tarana created a solution to mitigate pollution’s human impacts. Backed by Technovation, they built AgriCultured, a digital app that helps farmers in India increase crop yields sustainably. The three girls recognized and delineated a problem, brainstormed a solution, and engaged an ecosystem of support to bring that solution to life.
Stories like this are rare, but they shouldn’t be. Women and girls everywhere have the drive to address challenges like pollution. But too many lack access to technology and digital training that often power the solutions. At the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, called the digital divide “the new face of gender inequality”.
Closing the digital divide takes on new urgency as climate change worsens, creating new vulnerabilities for women and girls. While they remain excluded from opportunities and solutions, the consequences will be devastating. The following interventions can help leaders champion this group and grow their potential.
1. Include women and girls in creating community-led, gender-responsive solutions to climate change
Since women and girls are, on average, more economically and socially vulnerable, they bear unique vulnerabilities to climate crises. A Lancet report documented the rise in gender-based violence amid extreme weather events across several countries. During droughts, traditional gender roles cause girls to suffer disproportionate education disruptions, creating higher risks of child marriage. Climate change also affects women’s health more acutely than that of men across most health categories.
Because of their experiences, women and girls can more easily identify and target gender-specific vulnerabilities post-disaster. As primary caretakers, they can help strengthen the overall health of their families, or build extra income security. Studies have found that women with higher education levels improve disaster preparedness in their homes and villages. According to the World Bank, formalizing women’s participation in disaster risk management and response can improve outcomes and create healthier long-term gender dynamics in communities.
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2. Give women more opportunities to participate in the highest levels of decision making
Despite their stake in the fight, women face systemic barriers to political participation. As of early 2023, women filled only 34% of all elected positions in local deliberating bodies. These disparities spilled into global “climate politics”; at COP27, women filled only seven of 110 leadership seats.
The dearth of women in global politics has generated policies and laws that neglect women’s needs or even harm them. From the 77% of countries that lack laws ensuring equal land ownership rights for men and women, to the environmental programmes that fail to account for the perspectives of women, women suffer systemic exclusion and under-representation in decision-making. To protect the interests of women in climate decisions, governments must critically examine gender parity in office and actively work to increase it.
3. Empower more women and girls to harness the revolutionary potential of AI in our fight against climate change
AI enables more efficient data collection and sharing, citizen reporting, and actionable insights. After natural disasters, the American Red Cross uses AI to rapidly assess damages and unlock federal funding. Frontier organizations like Digital Democracy apply open-source maps and geospatial satellites to stop illegal logging and poaching.
But women and girls remain largely excluded across the lifecycle of AI development – due to systemic discrimination, social norms, and embedded stereotypes. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), women are 16% less likely than men to be online. The “leaky pipeline” effect causes female enrollment in STEM to decrease from 89.9% in primary school to 43.2% in tertiary school. In the global workforce, women constitute only 22% of AI professionals. By intentionally targeting AI education to girls, increasing support for training in LMICs, and fostering global communities of practice for women in AI, women can apply these tools to global challenges and even help combat gender biases in the datasets that train them.
4. Engage women and girls in the design and deployment of AI to improve tools, optimize climate action, and generate better outcomes
As primary caretakers in their communities, women can help deploy AI tools to at-risk populations, including the children, elderly, and other women. Given their prominent role in agriculture, women can also use AI to collect and understand data, optimize production, and generate better solutions to food insecurity.
Many women and girls are already leveraging mobile apps and AI to help fight climate change. For instance, Inna Braverman founded Eco Wave Power to generate clean energy from ocean waves through a generator she developed. With more support, girls across the globe can address the impacts of climate change in their own communities.
5. Foster future-ready skills in women and girls to create a better future for everyone
The skills of the future include digital and AI literacy, leadership, and an entrepreneurial mindset. Through global commitments to equip all girls with such skills, the next generation of women can lead their community’s response to climate change, design AI tools to serve vulnerable populations, and drive gender-informed climate action.
Cross-sector collaboration and accountability are key. For example, Technovation partnered with the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation to equip girls worldwide with AI and leadership skills to catalyze climate action. Governments can advance national education reform – building curricula that integrate STEM and AI training for all children. Governments, businesses, and other organizations can examine and improve their inclusion of women in leadership roles.
Systemic and structural barriers limit women and girls from building solutions to our greatest challenges. Unnathi, Aarushi, and Tarana paved the way for girls in their own community to dream, innovate, and problem solve. As public leaders, changemakers, technologists, and philanthropists, we have a responsibility to scale existing efforts and support countless others like them, determined to propel their communities forward.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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