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Weathering the Storm: Girls and Climate Change

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A. Swarup
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How do girls experience climate change in Ethiopia and Bangladesh? This report, based on participatory research in the two countries, argues that programmes and policies that do not recognise the different ways in which girls and boys are affected by climate change risk exacerbating pre-existing gender inequalities and are failing to tackle one of the root causes of vulnerability to climate risk. The research found that many girls were being obliged to work for cash during difficult periods of droughts to obtain an income for their families, thereby sacrificing their education and long-term prospects. In the Lalibela region, for example, following periods of drought many school girls – some as young as 11 or 12 years old – ended up working as domestic labourers in the local town, where they were more exposed to abuse and exploitation. A common practice for girls during drought periods was to sell firewood in the local markets as an alternative income-generating activity. This creates the burden of having to spend several hours looking for a substantial supply of firewood and then carrying this by foot to local markets in nearby towns.During the period following floods, storms or cyclones in Bangladesh, girls reported an increase in household work such as taking care of those left ill and injured, looking after their siblings while their mothers were forced to seek alternative livelihoods when their land was damaged, and taking on additional tasks such as cleaning the home. The report also notes that as families struggle to survive, a growing number are resorting to tackling poverty through marrying off daughters at a price, which then reduces the economic burden on the family.

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