ATTEMPTING TO CHALLENGE CLIMATE CRISIS THROUGH THE GENDER LENS
Does everything have to be gender-based? How exactly does gender come into a global challenge such as climate change? Here’s how:
Fact 1: Though climate change has a global effect, its impacts vary especially among different regions, social groups, social roles, income classes, and generations.
Fact 2: Research evidence shows expressly that marginalized and vulnerable people and groups are likely to experience the most significant impacts of climate change. From studies, women are considered the most vulnerable.
Fact 3: Women are under-represented in most relevant decision-making processes for climate change adaptation which often means most times that women’s needs are not met by climate change intervention programs.
Fact 4: Empowering women and promoting gender equality catalyze human development, good governance, peace, and harmonious dynamics between the environment and human populations (UN women 2015).
Gender inequality against women limits the contribution of women to curbing the climate crisis. What can or do women contribute? Their knowledge, skill, resilience, and adaptive capacity. But still, why women?
More than 50% of the women are engaged in agricultural work in developing countries, thereby accounting for a greater percentage of food production. Why are these same women troubled by issues such as land tenureship? And why do they share in the burden of food insecurity and the accompanying consequences?
Climate change promotes the unpredictability and scarcity of food sources. Farmers suffer harvest and income losses in addition to the inaccessibility of food. Investments that foster technology improvement, provide financial support and climate insurance while promoting gender equality provide even greater impacts, especially in rural communities. Non- discriminatory access to land, equitable representation in decision-making is a more sustainable option we need to consider. If women had equitable access to resources, their yields would increase by 30%, food production by 2–4%, and 12–17% reduction in malnutrition (FAO 2011)
Women in vulnerable regions are significantly affected by water scarcity or floods. Women can be described as water managers of every household and as expected, are most affected by issues related to water. They depend on this water for farming, fishing, and many other household and industrial needs. In many African homes, women and young girls have to compromise their education to fetch water.
In many cases, they have to walk over long distances to access this water. Women are naturally vulnerable to every water crisis, such as scarcity, contamination, health effects, community clashes, etc. Water crisis disempowers women whose livelihood literarily depends on water. Undervaluing the challenges and contributions of women in water crisis mitigation further disempowers them. To build a sustainable resilient and peaceful water management framework, women must be equitably represented.
60% of greenhouse gas emissions come from man’s energy consumption practices, and women, as household managers, are responsible for energy production in homes. Women spend their time and energy sourcing alternate affordable traditional fuels such as wood, charcoal, animal dung, etc., for cooking, heating, and lighting. In many developing countries, women suffer more from indoor air pollution, which affects their health.
In addition, the increase in environmental changes makes it even more difficult for them to source these primary sources of energy. The energy industry and decision-making process have seen meager female participation. The low inclusion of women in energy planning also translate that women’s needs and interests may hold little value in decision-making.
Natural disasters are on the increase with the increase in climate change. Floods, droughts, and other severe weather events are likely to worsen in the future. Developing countries are more likely to feel the impact of these disasters due to inadequate economic and cultural structures to mitigate disasters. Everyone is affected by disasters but are women more impacted? Yes. The household managers, farmers, water, energy, income, and care providers often feel the greatest impacts.
Pregnant and nursing mothers have heightened risks as well as men who are defenders who face higher mortality risks. Women who are the majority among the poor often find it difficult to survive during and after such disasters. With men’s higher mortality, more female-headed households would emerge after disasters. Women are primary to disaster prevention; their resilience, food preservation, mental and health care skills often prove very useful. Specific attention needs to be paid to women in vulnerable regions, and survival must be made gender-sensitive.
Policies and programs compulsorily need to include gender dimensions. This goes beyond the numerical declaration of women but ensures active participation and promotion of women’s voices in climate policy development and implementation. For a policy to pass as implementable, it should answer the question of ‘how equitably beneficial is this to the affected men and women?’
Before a policy is approved, it must equitably address the diverse needs, priorities, and deciding votes of all genders. Extension services should reach men and women by all channels necessary; women are equally innovative and should be allowed to express themselves. Program monitory and evaluation should not be homogenized but viewed from a balanced gender lens as this is the only accurate indicator of change and impact. Marginalization and segregation of genders would not solve our problems but leave us with greater burdens for the future.
In conclusion, we need to:
- Engage more women in the decision-making process as they are at the fore; more likely to notice emerging threats, resilient and adaptable to changes.
- Research gender-sensitive accurate data that can promote desired balanced changes.
- Review existing policies for gender sensitivity and make corrections where necessary.
- Advocate for gender-responsive climate change policies.
- Implement strategies that address the most urgent gender-sensitive climate issues, and adequate budgetary allocations should be made for this.
We do not only need to re-establish the balance between man and nature, which has been thoroughly disrespected but also between genders (Christina Figueres)
Author: Christiana Ugbem