Today is my birthday. Along with organizing a summer BBQ bash and the annual reflections on your life, goals, and relationships that happen around a birthday, I am also realizing that much of my life is impacted by global circumstances.
I will be turning 28 years old and I am one of the billions of people who have only lived in an above average climate. Anyone born in April 1985 to present (including myself and anyone younger than me) has only lived in a changing climate. According to a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report released last year, we have had more than 366 consecutive months of above-average temperatures. Wow.
As a young professional, I don’t feel like “the next generation.” The actions we take every day matter. And there’s no time to wait. A video by Oxfam America featuring Good Old War’s song “Better Weather” reminded me that climate change is already happening. Now. And the reality of climate change is felt daily by women and families globally who are the least prepared to deal with its impact.
A woman in her late twenties in Malawi likely already has several children—on average, a woman there has between 5 and 6 kids in her lifetime—and her day-to-day may be further complicated by severe weather, erratic rainfall, drought, crop failure, or inconsistent access to safe drinking water.
The Population and Climate Program at PAI is dedicated to empowering the women and children around the world who, like me, are impacted by global climate change that has been gaining momentum since before their birth. We see voluntary family planning, coupled with investments in girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment, as fundamental to improving livelihoods and protecting the environment. Yet, family planning is often overlooked in climate adaptation strategies and plans. Just six of 41 National Adaptation Programs of Action for Climate Change (NAPAs) developed by least-developed countries identify family planning as a potential adaptation strategy, and only two prioritized family planning programs for adaptation funding. Even the UNDP gender guidebook for community-based adaptation at the local level fails to mention any topics of reproductive health, childbearing and childrearing. It is imperative that women’s health and needs be addressed in these climate and development frames.
I feel fortunate that – despite the ongoing domestic ‘war on women’ – I have the choice of and access to family planning. And I might even say that access to reproductive health services is my birthday wish for everyone.