Efforts to curb climate change must include women

Efforts to curb climate change must include women

Date: August 20, 2013
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Wilson Millanzi, a family man who does business at Golomoti Trading Centre in Dedza explains that deforestation is silently contributing to gender-based violence in rural areas, because their culture forces women to get firewood and many are unprotected walking long distances. “It is indeed high time we think of having woodlots and planting a lot of trees during rainy season as some of solutions to this problem,” says Millanzi.

Ida Banda, a farmer from Namakoma Village in Mangochi agrees saying, “We travel long distances to fetch firewood, and it involves climbing up hills. In fact, I know of families in our village which are shaken, as spouses accuse that their wives of meeting other men because they spend a lot of time in the bush. In reality the distance and lack of trees for firewood make collecting wood for fuel a time consuming chore for a woman.”

Banda explains that although men continue to bemoan the time women spend collecting firewood, most men in the district do not assist women and nor do they participate in reforestation efforts. Banda stresses that women in the community that bear the brunt of the effects of deforestation in their area.

The 2013 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer states that the impact of climate change will spread differently among different regions and different groups of people. In Southern Africa, the poor who are mainly women will be the hardest hit.

Climate change affects men and women differently because of on gender differences such as in property rights, accessing information, cultural, social, and economic roles. Moreover, most of the women in developing nations are responsible for climatically sensitive tasks such as securing food, water and energy, which ensure household well-being.

Speaking at a parallel session to the SADC Heads of State Summit earlier this week, Pricilla Chileshe, Executive Director of Women in Law and Southern Africa (WLSA)-Zambia, says women are also at a greater vulnerability during natural disasters like floods and drought.

“Since climate change is already an issue on development agenda of most countries, it needs to be pushed further because it is affecting a lot of livelihoods, in a direct manner. We cannot talk about poverty reduction without talking about climate change and addressing it,” says Chileshe.

All SADC countries have experienced an increase in the number of extreme climatic events.
According to the National Disaster Profile for 2012-2013 compiled by the Department of Disaster Management Affairs, 12 543 households in 18 districts in Malawi were affected by various forms of natural disasters or extreme climatic events of various kinds between November 2012 and January 2013.

Not only are women hardest hit by extreme weather and climate changes, but like most private and public sectors, women are excluded from mitigation efforts and decision-making positions. Across SADC, women only account for 23% of key decision-makers in ministries concerned with climate change and sustainable development, far from the 50% target.

Following these concerns, the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance has embarked on a regional campaign to lobby and advocate for the adoption of an Addendum to the SADC Gender Protocol to address climate change and sustainable development. The Alliance has collected 1027 signatures from SADC countries in favour of the Addendum. Women’s organisations, together with the Alliance have now drafted an addendum on Gender and Climate Change and are targeting the Heads of State Summit to make a significant push on this front.

Winstone Kaimira is journalist for Dzimwe Radio, a Media Centre of Excellence in Malawi. This article is part of Gender Link’s Opinion and Commentary Service special coverage of SADC HOS Summit in Malawi, offering fresh views on everyday news.



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