We have seen record-breaking rainfalls, billions of dollars in damage, and countless lives affected by the recent environmental catastrophes. Hurricanes like Henri and Ida caused flash floods that devastated the Gulf Coast and shut down major New York subway stations. Even in Europe, Germany lost 173 lives to flash flooding. Wildfires and drought are ravaging the US’s West Coast and the Australian Outback.

One thing that has become clear is the extraordinary impact these disasters have on people living in poverty, especially women. The United Nations is spearheading initiatives on climate change, and they will begin regular sessions this month. Their studies have been essential to understanding how women and girls are disproportionately affected by the damaging effects of climate change globally. According to the UN, women are “the last to eat or be rescued; they face greater health and safety risks as water and sanitation systems become compromised, and they take on increased domestic and care work as resources dwindle.” In 2005, 80% of people left behind from Hurricane Katrina were women. In other words, climate-induced disasters exacerbate existing inequalities between men and women.

Without access to financial resources, training and technology, and limited access to political decision-making, women will face difficulty playing a meaningful role in tackling climate change and other environmental challenges. That’s why UN Women trained more than 19,000 women in Bangladesh on disaster response, and women like Wangari Muta Maathai, earned a Nobel Peace Prize for starting a movement to plant trees and combat deforestation. The UN asserts, “As early adopters of new agricultural techniques, first responders, entrepreneurs of green energy, or decision-makers at home, women are agents of change who must equally be part of the solution towards a sustainable future.”  

In every humanitarian crisis, the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation believes that we should be aware of how women need our help the most. Despite women being at a disadvantage, they have historically proven to be capable leaders and solutions-based thinkers. By putting these women in positions of power and trusting their authority, they can become the change that we want to see in the world.