Women speak out on climate change

Date: March 12, 2010
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Women from Africa and Asia are pointing accusing fingers at their governments and donors for neither analysing climate change from a gender perspective nor putting in place mechanisms to cushion them from its ravages. Discussing the matter at the CSW54 Beijing+ 15 Review held 1-12 March, they say most governments have an idea of the broader impact of climate change on the well-being of their countries, but are yet to focus on its gender dimension.

At the global level, the problem starts with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCC), which does not address the issue of gender, especially in adaptation and mitigation sections, according to Cate Owren, Programme Director at Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). “This is despite that those dying in large numbers and bearing the burden when climate change related disasters happen are women,” adds Monique Essed-Fernandes, WEDO interim executive director.

Through what they refer to as “Tribunals,” women’s organisations in Nigeria, Botswana, Nepal and Pakistan gather women to share testimonies about how climate change is redefining their lives. During these meetings, government officials and other stakeholders are invited to listen to women’s views. The proceedings are then complied and transmitted to the relevant government authorities like ministries of agriculture and health for consideration and action.

“These tribunals are being used to bring issues at the local levels to the national and international arena so that women concerns can be listened to and acted upon,” says Rosa Lizarde of Feminist Task Force, addressing participants at the UN Church Centre, on the impact of climate change on women’s lives.

Sharmila Karking of Nepal and Rehana Khilji of HOPE-PK, a Pakistan based NGO, say they also use the tribunals in their countries to hold governments accountable, to discuss policy issues, and to educate women on how to mitigate the impact of climate change.

In the Niger Delta in Nigeria, Caroline Usikpedo-Omoniye, the National President of Niger Delta Women’s Movement for Peace and Development, says one of the things women complain about is the worsening poverty levels forcing men to migrate to other areas in search of employment. They say this wave of migrating men is leaving behind poor and unemployed wives and children without means of survival.

Another woman lamented the time and money being spent caring for sick children as unprecedented numbers of diseases ravage the Niger Delta. While these women may not know the scientific connection of climate change and the health burden, studies show that as temperature rise, new diseases such as malaria, cholera and yellow fever are becoming prevalent, even in areas where they were never before.

The burden of care is falling on the women. “The current trend calls for governments and donors to budget for care work as part of the intervention to mitigate the impact of climate change on women,” says Mpho Laing, the coordinator of the Feministic Task Force for Global call to Action against Poverty in Botswana.

A delegate from Nigeria highted the need to consider the girl child. “Girls are the ones who are send to walk for three to five kilometres in search of water as wells dry. This has negative on their education, health and makes them vulnerable to rape or other forms of sexual violence,” she said.

Both Usikpedo-Omoniye and Laing called on their governments and donors to address the gender impacts of climate change before it is too late.

In a separate interview, Césaire Pooda of International Planned Parenthood Federation-Africa Region said climate change experts and some donor countries are calling on African countries to control their population growth to reduce human impact on the environment. Pooda argues that while this call is good, donor countries or climate change experts are not talking about what needs to be done to reduce this population.

“Under the current circumstances, their concern need to be matched with increased funding towards family planning to help women take charge of the reproductive lives,” he says. Many countries in Africa face constant stock-outs, erratic, or inadequate contraceptives supply for their populations.

Arthur Okwemba is a journalist with the African Woman and Child Feature Service. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service, produced during Beijing +15.



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