World’s poorest women will bear brunt of climate change_Dispatch10Aug2009_SA

Date: November 23, 2009
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This article may be used to:

  • Highlight climate change impact on women, especially rural women.
  • Advice global leaders to take women issues into consideration while drafting a climate change deal in Copenhagen, this December (2009).
  • Bring to government’s attention that strategies to limit the greenhouse gas emissions in South Africa must address the vulnerabilities of women, especially the poor.
  • Press the government to implement a renewable energy programme.
  • Raise awareness that climate change is a reality and an action must be taken immediately.
  • Showcase that wealthier people can easily adapt to climate change while rural women would have limited options due to gender based roles.
  • Indicate that of the 2 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide, two-thirds are women.
  • Points out that natural disasters affect women directly and severely because of their social roles and the impacts of poverty.

Trainer’s Note:
This article brings to attention the impact of climate change on women, especially rural women because of poverty and social roles across the world. As reported in the article “in rural communities women are largely dependent on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihood.” This means that if the impact of climate change rise to the tall with floods, droughts, cyclones etc happening at a fast rate women will be at a centre of all the trouble that comes with it. This will include worrying about food scarcity, stressing about their children’s safety when it comes to floods and their security while going in far areas to salvage wood for fire.

This article has done well in realising the need to take women issues in consideration while making decisions about climate change adaptations and mitigation; and also the need to include women in that process of decision making but it has missed an opportunity to source women’s voices so that they speak for themselves. Unlike the reporter being the one that speaks on their behalf. This is the challenge that most news stories reporting on women issues face by concluding theories around all issues that of concern to women without consulting them to hear from the horses’ mouth.

The only source that the reporter quotes is the authoritative voice in the name of President of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. This lack of women voice in the story unfortunately projects the stereotypes that women are inferior and subordinate while man are dominant. The article could have avoided this by sourcing a female voice to complete its intention of including women and addressing women issues in the media.

Although the article seems to be gender aware and seek to promote women issues it promotes gender stereotypes when the writer say: “because women, as primary caregivers still have a reduced ability to earn a living, have less access to land and natural resources and have less of a voice in decision making.” By this the writer implies that women are the only once responsible for cooking and feeding children/baby sitting.

This in addition, would force the gender stereotype that women belong in the kitchen. Furthermore, this quoted sentence push the gender stereotype that women are passive as they hardly speak up to raise their issues on their own. In this way the article loose some marks to be fully gender aware.

Even if raising valid points at some points, it is unfortunate that the entire seems to be presenting women as victims and men as heroes. Women remain victimised in the entire article with statements such as “When there are floods, cyclones, or drought, women bear the brunt,” and “South African women are not immune to these climate change threats.” Statements like this makes the situation look like when it floods or when there are cyclones men become inexistent and only women are left on earth to face these threats.

The article present men as heroes when the writer says: “In December this year, leaders from around the world will gather in Copenhagen to negotiate a new global climate deal. “If a fair and effective deal is not reached, the poorest women in developing nations like ours stand to suffer the most.” These sounds like only men are The Leaders while denying women’s potential to be leaders. Who said during this meeting in Copenhagen women will not be amongst the leaders who will be drafting the climate change deal? This article unfortunately missed out on an opportunity to fully reflect the transformation taking place in the media to include women in media reports, avoid presenting them as victims and limiting perpetuating gender stereotypes.

Discussion Questions

  • Does this article have facts?
  • Do you think the writer did well by excluding female voices within the article?
  • Discuss the coverage of this story? Is it fair and balanced? Are there other angles you would have addressed?

Training exercises:

Exercise one: Underline the language within the story which is insensitive. Discuss the following:

  • Do you find the language degrading? How and why?
  • What does the language used by the writer tell us about his attitude towards gender issues?
  • Do you think the writer undermined women’s potential of being leaders?
  • Are men affected by climate change at all? If so how?
  • Comment on the headline of the story.

Exercise Two
Do a research to establish how many women leaders will form part of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. What kind of positions do they hold in their respective countries?

Other training resources:




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