Recent advocacy efforts have raised awareness about the need to prioritize girls’ education as a critical facet of addressing the vulnerabilities that societies are facing related to the climate crisis.
Advocacy and raising awareness is the first step for supporting girls and women in low- and middle-income countries facing climate change impacts. The next critical step is to ensure education practitioners are responding with education programming that “walk the talk” by building girls’ “green skills” (or a breadth of skills by which to address both social and environmental issues) to engage in climate action.
The programming should also provide them with opportunities to practice the leadership skills they will need to make their voices heard within the climate movement.
When we analyzed 19 education programs and more than 200 English-language curricula, we found that the current education landscape is not stepping up to the task. Here are three insights that we uncovered from this exercise:
- More programs and curriculums supporting gender equitable climate change education are seriously needed.
We found that only one organization is offering educational programming that addresses the intersecting issues of gender equality and climate change. Furthermore, none of the curricular materials we sampled touches on these topics concurrently. Consequently, young people, especially girls, are not being given the opportunity to learn about the gendered dimensions of the climate crisis, nor the opportunity to take action and change things.
- Girls need supportive spaces to develop climate leadership skills.
Programming that focuses on fostering climate leadership often centers around adult women, not girls. Failure to promote girls’ participation in climate leadership not only wastes their tremendous potential, but it also perpetuates the lifelong effects of girls’ and women’s exclusion from decision-making.
- Education efforts must target both individual and systems-level change.
Most actors in our analysis focus on the individual woman or girl as the locus of change. While building of capacity and skills of women and girls are critical, the impact of these efforts is limited without an additional focus on addressing the systemic issues that individuals face, especially marginalized girls. More effort is needed to transform gender dynamics and relations of power in order to facilitate the success and inclusion of female climate leaders.
A path forward
Education programming for girls currently is lagging behind global advocacy efforts to address the climate crisis through an intersectional feminist lens. This is a perspective that sees gender as a launch point for understanding how multiple and simultaneous forms of oppression, exclusion, and inequality shape one’s experience of the climate crisis.
Room to Read – a global nonprofit focused on children’s literacy and girls’ education – is stepping up to fill this gap by integrating a feminist-informed climate change education into education programming for girls. Focused on building girls’ green skills and strengthening their climate leadership, Room to Read is helping to build climate resilience and adaptive capacity in communities experiencing some of the harshest impacts of climate change.
We hope that the international community will join us in taking the next step and support organizations like Room to Read deliver climate education programming that empowers girls and their communities.