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It's not the disaster that kills you.

We came together as Artists, Designers and Educators from very different backgrounds. As individuals, we have our own unique interpretations of our experience in the world. As a collective, we decided to pull apart our experiences to examine what connected us, what separated us and what ultimately matters most to us. We decided to look deeper into climate change – more specifically to look at displacement caused by climate change, primarily natural disasters. As we delved further into research and statistics on the topic, one thing became very clear. Climate change does not affect all people equally.

UN figures indicate that women are disproportionately affected by climate change. In the past five years, 21.5 million people a year have been displaced by climate change. This figure interestingly is twice the amount that were displaced by conflict or violence in that same period. Despite this, the term “climate refugee” falls outside the 1951 Refugee Convention which pertains only to persons fleeing war and/or persecution. This means that those displaced by climate are largely internally displaced. 80% of the 21.5 million people displaced by climate change are female.

Studies show those most susceptible to the impacts of climate change are the poor, the disempowered and the marginalised across the world. Women make up the vast majority of this vulnerable category. Our research found numerous reasons for this gendered inequality. Although these differed across countries and cultures, many factors remained constant:

  • Family Role: Women’s role as primary caregivers and providers of food and fuel makes them more vulnerable when flooding and drought occur.
  • Poverty: Women make up 70% of the world’s poor.
  • Education: Women’s lower level of educational attainment places them at higher risk of living in poverty.
  • Decision-making: A large gender gap remains globally in women’s access to decision-making and leadership roles.
  • Survival Skills: Women are less likely to know how to swim or climb, whereas boys are taught these skills from childhood.


We found that although women make up the majority of the people affected by climate change, they are hugely under-represented in all decision-making processes. For example, of the 200 senior ministers in Irish governments from 1919 to September 2018, only 19 have been women. In stark terms, about 90% have been men. Similarly, the average representation of women in national and global climate negotiating bodies is below 30%. In response to this shocking reality, we felt it was important to create a piece of work highlighting the huge climate injustice facing women. We created 100 homes to visually make sense of the vast amounts of women displaced by climate change, and the disparity between the amount of women versus men affected in this way. 80 homes are marked with
a red “X” to represent the disadvantage faced by women.

Prior to our research, we had very different perceptions of who is affected by climate change. Following our research, we learned that there is no grey area. Women are 14 times more likely to die in a natural disaster. The reasons women are more affected are varied and complex. They are a hybrid of female roles, both chosen and given, and cultural oppression due to sex. It is difficult not to conclude that women have become something of the “sacrificial lamb” in the face of climate change. If women make up 80% of those displaced by climate change, then women must make up the majority of those making decisions on climate action…and fast.

I mean, can you swim?