DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 7 (IPS) Civil Society organisations are adamant that women are the ones who will be hardest hit by climate change because of the role they play in society as providers for their families.
And those in rural areas, who depend on agriculture for survival, will be even worse off.
Dorah Marema, coordinator of Gender and Climate Change in Southern Africa, a network of gender civil society organisations, activists, and experts spoke to IPS about the importance of highlighting gender at the climate negations at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) in Durban.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
Q: Do you find that enough attention is being paid to gender issues at this year’s climate change negotiations?
A: Well there has definitely been a shift when we consider how gender issues have been considered in the previous COP’s. At this COP there is a lot of motioning of gender issues, there are over thirty side events focusing on women and climate change. Whether this indicates a substantive positive change we don’t know, so we are unable to evaluate whether they are making an impact.
Q: You advocate for climate justice as gender justice. Can you explain why you want to separate gender from the mainstream conversation and place it as a top priority on the climate change agenda?
A: When we talk about climate change and the issue of justice we talk about the global South being impacted the most. We then zoom in and say that Africa will be the worst affected in the South, simply because it is a poor continent.
…Although climate change will affect all countries, its impacts will be differently distributed among various regions, generations, age and income groups, occupations and genders. The poor, the majority of whom are women, will be disproportionately affected.
Over the past decade, the relationship between climate change and poverty in countries where people’s livelihoods depend on natural resources and environmental services has increasingly become a developmental issue.
This relationship between climate change and people’s livelihoods is seen to have strong linkages to poverty. To this nexus is an added strong gender component, which if ignored could lead to inappropriate policy measures and increased poverty, especially amongst the disadvantaged, poor population.
We say that women are poor in those nations and we say that women are the majority of the poor and we know that they are very reliant on natural resources.
They are also the food producers who are very reliant on agriculture. Those two things, including water (scarcity), mean that they are vulnerable because they are dependent on rain, and they are dependent on rain-fed agriculture.
Q: What sort of recourse are you looking for for women and how do you think they can be better empowered to adapt to climate change?
A: One example that I can give is that now there is the conversation around finance, the Green Climate Fund. What we are asking for is direct access to the funds.
(We want access) not just for countries, but also for organisations with projects that work with empowering women. They need that money so that they can implement adaptation and mitigation projects.
Also in terms of mitigation we need to consider the gender issues there. There are a lot of high-tech mitigation projects, which are not talking about empowering women.
So what we are doing is advocating for jobs that are decentralised so that women would be able to benefit by getting jobs. (END)