Southern Africa: Pushing the envelop for an Addendum on Gender and Climate Change

Date: August 14, 2012
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Johannesburg, 14 August – Gender activists have issued a strong call for an Addendum on Gender and Climate Change to Heads of States of Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Maputo, Mozambique on Saturday this week.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group predicts that Africa’s warming trend will be 1.5 times more than the global trend and that Southern Africa will be about 3-4 degrees warmer by the close of the century. Already, Southern Africa has been experiencing a warming trend over the past few decades.

In Botswana, drastic shifts in climate patterns and seasons has continuously manifested in prolonged dry spells and delayed rainfall in Botswana. At the end of July 2012 the Government of Botswana declared the year 2012/2013 a partial drought year. Mozambique is already one of the Southern African countries most affected by natural disasters, and this is likely to be increased by climate change. Zambia is experiencing increased droughts and floods, and other knock-on effects: ‘social, economic and environmental problems, such as increased poverty and deforestation due to charcoal burning’.

Yet in all this, women in the south contribute the least to climate change and feel its effects the most. Among other things, women bear the brunt of water shortages and have to travel extra distances to fetch clean water. Women are the most affected by ill health in communities, as they also have to provide care for the sick. Climate variability can fuel nutrition-related diseases and epidemics like malaria, water borne diseases and respiratory illness. Of late, incidences of gender violence as a result of climate change have also been on the increase for example in the aftermath of disasters; travelling long distances to fetch water or wood to use for cooking.

The 2008 SADC Protocol on Gender and Development does not have any provisions to guide interventions on gender and climate change. However, it has progressive provisions that can be used to advance a climate justice agenda. The preamble of the Protocol speaks of the spirit of ensuring “the elimination of all gender inequalities in the region and the promotion of the full and equal enjoyment of rights”. Articles 15-19 concern productive resources and economic development including easing the burden of the multiple roles played by women. In the context of climate change this means that gender equality and women’s empowerment should drive climate change financing.

Although this issue can be read into existing articles, they point out that the matter is too important to be left to chance. It is against this background that the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance is leading the campaign for an Addendum to the Protocol on climate change. The Ministers responsible for gender/women’s affairs have already adopted the principle of the Addendum as per minutes of the November 2011 Extra Ordinary meeting held in preparation for the Conference Of Parties 17 (COP17: 28 November – 9 December 2012, Durban South Africa).

There are six main calls that the draft Addendum proposes. First, that the Addendum on Gender and Climate Change makes reference “to ensuring women and men equal participation in all decisions related to climate change at all levels by 2015, as specified in Article 12-13 of 2008 SADC Gender Protocol.” According to the 2012 SADC Protocol Barometer, women account for only 21% of representation in key environmental affairs and sustainable development ministries. Decision-makers in the selected sectors include ministers, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries, heads of departments and other key persons.

Second, it is proposed that the Addendum calls on all SADC states to ensure, by 2015, that the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism takes into consideration the different roles and impacts on women and men when integrating the concerns and priorities of local communities and forest dependent communities; and of sharing of benefits, land and forest rights.

Currently, Namibia is the only country with specific gender considerations in policies relating to climate change, environmental affairs and sustainable development. Three main policies exist in this regard: National Policy on Climate Change for Namibia (2011), the proposed Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (2009) and the National Gender Policy (2012 – 2020). These policies all take cognisance of particular vulnerabilities of women and children and the differential impact of the severe and often unpredictable changes in climate on women, men and children.

Third, it is proposed that the Addendum calls on all SADC states to establish, by 2015, a system to collect sex disaggregated data and develop qualitative and quantitative indicators on climate change. No country in SADC has successfully collected or collated sex disaggregated data on the effects of climate change or natural disasters: Where reporting has been carried out, for example in Namibia, it has been conducted by international NGOs and/ or UN agencies.

Fourth, it is proposed that the Addendum calls on all SADC States to develop, deploy and disseminate sustainable technology that is responsive to women and men, for example, promoting cleaner burning fuel for household use that will reduce air pollution and cut annual cooking costs for women by 25%. States should also invest in large-scale research on renewable energy sources.

The fifth proposal calls on states to conduct gender sensitive education, training and public awareness campaigns on climate change and sustainable development and; ensure that public media plays a significant role in sharing information on gender dimensions of climate change and sustainable development.

Lastly, it is proposed that the Addendum calls on member states to ensure that women and men can equally access climate change financing vehicles available to SADC. So far, there is no indication of targeted gender financing where climate change and sustainable development are involved.

With these proposals in mind, the Alliance embarked on a petition campaign to lobby SADC governments to adopt an Addendum on Gender and Climate Change in April 2011. By the eve of the 2012 SADC Heads of State Summit, the Alliance had collected a total of 854 signatures from all 15 SADC countries at various events such as Sixteen Days Campaign activities, village level meetings to raise awareness on the SADC Gender Protocol and gender workshops. Out of these, 172 signatures were collected through an online petition.

Forum Mulher, the focal network for Mozambique, the country hosting the 2012 SADC Heads of State Summit, has been tasked to engage with government officials to hand in the petition. The Network will hand in the petition to the Ministry of Environment on behalf of the Alliance. Coupled with the SADC CNGO communique drafted last week in which the Alliance strongly motivated for an Addendum, the Alliance hopes that this will provide an avenue to accelerate debate on gender and climate change at SADC level.

An Addendum on climate change will go a long way in addressing the effects of climate change on women and men in Southern Africa. It will facilitate a multisectoral approach to mitigating the effects of climate change and give states an opportunity to be proactive on this front.

Saeanna Chingamuka is Editor while Loveness Jambaya-Nyakujarah is the Alliance and Partnerships Manager at Gender Links. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service, special series on the 2012 SADC Heads of State Summit, bringing you fresh views on every day news.


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