As the world’s most influential climate experts convene in Dubai for COP28, new research by Plan International and young people from three countries across the Asia Pacific has revealed the immense impact the climate crisis is having on girls’ and young women’s access to education. The For Our Futures report was co-researched by young people in Plan International's 'Youth Activist Series' across Australia, Nepal, and Indonesia.
The idea of education being impacted by the climate crisis and that being disproportionately felt by girls isn't altogether surprising. What gave us pause was the sheer magnitude of it and the depth of just how interconnected these two issues are.
The key stat for us to take away from the report: a third of young people surveyed said their schools had been closed, damaged or destroyed due to climate change-related events in the last year, while almost half said they felt unsafe travelling to and from school due to climate-related disasters. Do we seriously need more of a wake-up call?
Research by the Malala Fund predicts that by 2025, climate change will be a contributing factor in preventing at least 12.5 million girls from completing their education each year. In Nepal, students are on average losing three months of their education each year due to climate disasters, while in Indonesia in 2021, approximately 100,000 children had their education interrupted by flash floods and landslides. If you're thinking, it's just countries of the Global South facing this issue, think again. Australia isn't off the hook. Last year’s devastating floods in Australia in New South Wales and Queensland led to the temporary closure of almost 1,000 schools. It's clear that now, more than ever, action is needed to tackle climate change and its disproportionate impact on women and girls.
Georgia Shakeshaft and Iremide Ayonrinde, are participating in COP28 to present the For Our Futures report, and are calling for three specific asks:
1) The Australian government to make a commitment at COP28 to contribute to the UNFCCC Loss and Damage Fund
2) 'Disruption to education' to be recognised as a specific form of non-economic loss (this has long been the call of youth activists including Malala Yousefzai and Greta Thunberg)
3) The establishment of a National Council of Young Women on Climate, to amplify diverse voices and focus on young women with lived experience of the impacts of climate change. Missing Perspectives would have some recommendations on that one...
These all sound like reasonable asks that make sense to us. The kind of things we need to do to secure ourselves a future. So, what are you waiting for Prime Minister? Let's go, Australia. The time was honestly long ago, but better now than never.