Right to Environment

*This is an excerpt from PKKK’s Rural Women Status Report on CEDAW 2011.

UN agency  reported that the Philippines ranks third in the world in terms of vulnerability to climate change.[1] The 24.32 percent disaster risk index puts more rural and indigenous women in vulnerable situations.

Disaster risks to rural women are results of environmental degradation.  CEC reported that only 3% of our original forest remains.[2] From 2000 to 2005, there are 1.98 %  of our forest that is lost annually.   Only 4% of our coral reef has excellent condition, most have severe condition.  Mining displaced indigenous peoples, depleted mineral resources and caused landslides.  More than 20 typhoons visit the Philippines annually.

Climate change impact affect rural women differentially according to Peralta.[3] Faced with disaster such as typhoons and droughts, women have lesser capacity to recover since they have fewer assets to sell. Also, more women than men fall into chronic indebtedness related to climate-induced crop failures since more women borrow. When food shortages arise from poor harvests linked to weather problems, women are the last to eat in their households.They prioritize the food needs of male household members and children over their own.

Globally, UNDP cited that during disasters, women, boys and girls are 14 times more likely to die than men. [4] IUCN and UNDP in 2009 noted that most of the debate on climate so far has been gender-blind.

PKKK conducted 9 FGDs on gender, climate change and disaster risk management.  The research sought to identify what are the impacts of climate change on rural women’s lives and livelihoods.  The research also shared how rural women cope and adapt when disaster strikes.  They also formulated recommendations to address these concerns.

Baladad noted that rural women’s vulnerabilities are intensified by their subordination in the household and their low participation in decision-making structures and governance.   Rural women after disaster situations experience massive poverty, lack of income, death and destruction of properties, health problems and lack of clean water. [5] Rural women suffer discrimination in terms of access to relief goods that do not reach intended beneficiaries. Their special needs were not properly provided such as sanitary napkin.  Psycho social processing was not provided to rural women who experience psychological trauma.

Rural women leaders articulated issues that exacerbate women’s burdens. [6] These are:

  • Disasters add up to the multiple burdens being carried by rural women. Lack of water and enough food for the family is exacerbated by lack of source of income.

  • Hunger

  • Lack of health services afforded to women and the floods brought by heavy rains lead to increase cases of UTI in women.

  • The economic difficulties experience by the family oftentimes leads to family problems.

  • Because of economic dislocation, and low self esteem drives away rural women and migrate to cities or urban areas and enter prostitution, just to make money.

Rural women cope with disaster in various ways.   Ka Angie,  a rural woman leader in Quezon helped her husband cope with depression due to the loss of the amargoso or bitter gourd crops.  Some respondents cited that LGUs and barangays helped in the relief efforts and provision of loan.  However, there are instances, when access to relief items depends on political patronage.  Bayanihan, traditional support system among Filipinos served as the communities’ social protection in times of need.  Husband and wife help each other to recover.  Rural women sell livestock primarily during times of disaster.  They also accessed loans from CARD and TKFI for agriculture. After the typhoon, they borrow for seeds, livestocks and other farm inputs.

In Sorsogon rural women planted mangroves and coconut trees.  They also helped each other recover from the losses. The province of Leyte experienced typhoon and drought.  They proposed that a disaster management plan should be in place.  Evacuation centers should also be secured. To combat El Nino, a community in Bohol engaged in organic farming.  There were cases when typhoons destroy rice and vegetables.  Canduay participated in an environmental awareness training sponsored by DA and BOCAP. Northern Samar practice disaster preparedness.

In Mindanao, the Teduray Lambangian wrote a petition to the DENR-ARMM and to Malacanang. They asked for the suspension in the granting of logging permits in North and South Upi.   In Agusan del Sur, rural women do informal work as a means of coping.  In Bukidnon, rural women organizations advocate against mining that is environmentally destructive.

Policies that promote a sustainable environment

The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights provides for the right to  a safe and healthy working conditions that includes the environment. Human rights of women are considered in Climate Change Justice as articulated in the equality clause of CEDAW.[7]

In the Philippines, it is clearly stated in the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710) that women have the right to protection and security in times of disasters, calamities, and other crisis situations especially in all phases of relief, recovery, rehabilitation, and construction efforts. The Philippine Strategy Framework on Climate Change states  “that processes such as policy formulation, development planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation are gender responsive and non-discriminatory. For equitable programs and actions, purposive researches on the differentiated impacts of climate change on women and men as well as their levels of participation in governance and socio-economic activities shall be conducted.”  The REPUBLIC ACT No. 10121 states that the act shall ensure that disaster risk reduction and climate change measures are gender responsive, sensitive to indigenous know ledge systems, and respectful of human rights.


The environmental cluster of PKKK recognizes the role of rural and indigenous women as traditional keepers of the environment.  Peralta in her research commend women who are leaders of community revitalization  and natural resource management. Women should have equal representation in environmental concerns and should have increased environmental awareness.  Women should have access to credit to ensure sustainable livelihood. Women should also have access to services of local agencies.

PKKK recommends the following to address environmental concerns and climate change impacts:

  • 10% of whatever climate fund should be allocated for rural women.

  • There should be a clear advocacy on how to access the climate funds, to make sure that the rural women’s needs in times of disasters are adequately address.

  • Build cyclone center in provinces frequently visited by typhoon and heavy flooding and disaster prone areas to ensure the safety of rural women and their families. It should provide for the specific needs of rural women.

  • Disasters cannot be avoided so there is a need to strengthen the organization. If local organizations are reinforce and build up its capacity, the rural women members can be empowered to face any kind of disasters.

  • Waste segregation should be a project of PKKK.

  • Stop quarrying activities and other mining activities that destroys the environment

  • There should be culture change to stop the exploitation of other countries like Korea and lobby the government not to support any activity that destroys our environment.


[1]United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security and the German Alliance Development Works report


[3]Peralta 2008 as cited by Elvira Baladad. A Working Paper on the Struggle of Rural Women to Beat Odds Brought About by Climate Change. 2010.

[4] Elvira Baladad. A Working Paper on the Struggle of Rural Women to Beat Odds Brought About by Climate Change. 2010.

[5]Luzon Rural Women consultation

[6] Visayas-Mindanao Rural Women consultation

[7] http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw56/egm/IAW-RP-1-EGM-RW-Sep-2011.pdf