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OPINION: The climate crisis has a female face

Sunday, 8 March 2020 14:38 GMT

Hilda Flavia Nakabuye of Fridays for Future Uganda (left) and Leonie Bremer of Fridays for Future Germany (right). HANDOUT/Fridays for Future

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Groups of climate activists are dominated by women because they suffer the most from the climate crisis fuelled by our patriarchal economic system

Below is an open letter to political leaders written by young climate activists Hilda Flavia Nakabuye of Fridays for Future Uganda and Leonie Bremer of Fridays for Future Germany, to mark International Women's Day.

To the heads of state and government worldwide

We are Hilda and Leonie; women who are fighting at the forefronts against the climate crisis and gender injustice.


I grew up in three different places in Uganda. At my aunt’s, mom’s and dad’s place - and all that mattered for me was going to school as I always enjoyed it. However, the time came when my family could not pay my tuition fees any longer. As a result I missed school for three months. The climate crisis started to claim our garden, as strong rains washed away the crops, constant dry spells left the streams dry, and strong winds led to the outbreak of invasive pests so that the money was running out. Unjustly, the countries who have contributed least to the climate crisis are the ones being hit hardest.

I have seen many people dying because of the climate crisis and there are people dying of it every day, as the situation keeps getting worse. However, nothing is being done by the people in power to combat or solve this crisis. The impacts of the climate crisis remind me of the rampant racism and apartheid that my ancestors endured. I am constantly suffering under the severe effects brought on me by actions, words and greed of those in power, with very little or no aid from developed countries. Instead they are contributing wholeheartedly to the rising emissions due to which millions of innocent lives are already lost in the Global South. Actually, this should be the time in which these countries stand up their moral duty and clean up their mess.


While Hilda became a Fridays for Future activist due to the direct impact of climate change on her life, I would never have become aware of the current tremendous impact of the climate crisis, as I am living in Germany where people can still afford the luxury of ignoring the impacts of the climate crisis. This country is rich enough to just compensate for damaged harvest through droughts by importing products. My life so far was untroubled and I never missed school, a meal or holidays. 

On the train to the world climate conference, Hilda confronted me with her story and that the country where I am from isn’t living up to its responsibility. Germany is always called the pioneer of climate protection, which is contradictory to the fact that it has the world's 4th highest CO2 emissions per capita (CO2-Bericht des Joint Research Center).

It is appalling that Germany’s biggest goal is a thriving economy although it costs, at worst, the lives of people. The climate crisis is the result of the economic and industrialised system directed by a patriarchal society. On the contrary, groups of climate activists are dominated by women as they suffer the most from the climate crisis.

Women have to be at the front of fighting against the climate crisis. According to the United Nations, 80% of people displaced by this crisis are women.  


The climate crisis has a female face. 

In my neighbourhood, the majority of crops are being farmed by female small-scale farmers. The climate crisis immediately affects women’s livelihood, causes hunger and health hazards and has a tremendous impact on our families. Droughts and floods cause harvest losses, but the landowners have the chance to receive compensation payments from the state. Women, however, are traditionally denied their rights to ownership of land, which leads to a direct threat to our basic means of existence.

As a woman from Africa, I am often oppressed by racism, sexism, culture, classism, and now the climate crisis is added on top.

This is why we, Leonie and Hilda, teamed up. We all need to listen closely to each other’s pain, fear, grief and other emotions caused by the climate crisis. 

We have understood that the climate crisis is the most existential danger for human beings, and especially for women. 

We need to unite and fight against the climate crisis beyond continental boundaries. We need to fight for climate protection without sexism, racism, and oppression, and to force governments to do the same.

Fridays for NOW!

Hilda & Leonie