Mapping Vulnerability to Climate Change

Sheela Patel, founder and director of SPARC, India, discusses priorities and needs of women living in informal settlements and tenements in light of COVID-19. She explains why women are best equipped to use their own knowledge and skills to map vulnerability to climate change in their community and city.

Women face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of Climate Change in situations of poverty. Woman and girls are the most effected by fallouts from disaster, for example by the massive burdens of care and household work. Also, economic economic downfall and strengthening of inequalities has had a particularly harsh impact on women's conditions around the world. In the wake of the pandemic girls are more likely to miss out on school, domestic violence increased, and child marriage is often seen as the only option.

Women and girls are on the frontline of responding to climate disaster. It is primarily women and girls who have the ability to pull together their communities in the face of worsening conditions. It is also often women and girls leading the charge when it comes to grassroots campaigning and inspiring change.

Based on this risks and challenges for women the need for Mapping and profiling informal settlements is absolutely essential and can brin great benefits by guiding and informing responses and policies to climate change risks for women. But Residents often distrust the collection of data, and the people who collect them. But this can be overcome by including residents early on in the planning process and afterwards in the data collection.

Slum Dwellers Iinternational’s (SDI) Know Your City campaign has engaged and supported slum profiling in thousands of informal settlements in 450 cities. They identified that the underlying driver of women moving to cities is their vulnerability to climate change and being unable to find work in rural areas because of climate change’s negative impacts on agriculture and on rural populations.

To address those challenges, we need to understand the links to climate vulnerability and build capacity, so women can deal with these challenges themselves. When disaster hits, there must be a mutual, trusting relationship between the urban population, especially women and girls and the city to openly address all these issues.

Having a detailed vulnerability map of informal settlements is an effective starting point for grabbing the attention and informing  local governments. With these maps civil society organizations and local government representatives developed a plan together to address different problems. Listening to those who are excluded and vulnerable,  and trusting in their ability to define what they need, leads to solutions that are built around them. The outcome is new ways to engage a range of actors and stakeholders who can contribute to solutions that become the new normal.

For more information and examples regarding SDI’s Know Your City campaign and the Race to Resilience campaign, please click here.