Climate change worsening gender-based violence

21st September 2022

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Climate change is worsening gender-based violence and mental-health problems for vulnerable women in Malawi, a study by the Glasgow Caledonian University has found.

Researchers found evidence that climate change is making gender-based violence and mental-health problems worse for the most vulnerable women in Malawi.

Surveying 213 women, the researchers found that 86% had seen their mental health and wellbeing affected by changes in weather. Mothers worried about disasters making it impossible to provide food for their children, leading to malnutrition and hunger – which would have an effect on education, health, and development. Abuse was also a theme, with 24 women disclosing that they had been physically abused, and 44 saying that “husbands beat their wives” frequently.

Professor Tahseen Jafry, director of the Mary Robinson Centre for Climate Justice, said: "These testimonies are harrowing and provide clear evidence that climate change does contribute to changes in mental health and issues of violence faced by women.

"This research is important to ensure that solutions to the impacts of climate change are people centred; in that they do not ignore what vulnerable groups are personally experiencing."

Malawi, in south-eastern Africa, is highly susceptible to climate change and can experience extreme and unpredictable weather events such as drought, flooding, and cyclones. This can lead to loss of life and contribute to food shortages, destruction of livelihoods, displacement, and deepening poverty, all of which, the researchers say, negatively impact the population's physical and mental health.

It is hoped that these testimonies will help Malawi’s decision-makers to identify, design and develop community-led climate adaptation solutions that minimise the risk to women’s mental health.

Image credit | Shutterstock


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