Climate Change and Women
Climate change is a widespread threat to sustainable development and although it affects all countries and people, its impacts are distributed differently among regions, countries, communities, ages, income groups and gender. Women are more vulnerable to climate change than men since they comprise 70 percent of the world’s poor and are more dependent on natural resources for their livelihood.
File:Uganda-landslide-008.jpg|landslides in Bududa, Eastern Uganda in 2010. Photograph: Peter Busomoke/AFP/Getty images
Table of Contents
What is Climate Change?
Climate change is defined as a change in climate, which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods UNFCCC, 1992: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/conveng.pdf accessed 1st August 2012. Climate change is caused by protracted emissions of Green House Gases (GHGs) from anthropogenic activities. Climate change is a reality and a serious problem, experienced in many parts of the world in various forms such as droughts, heat waves, retreating of glaciers in Polar Regions and melting of ice caps on tropical mountains. Signs of climate change are written on many walls in both developed and developing countries. Recent worldwide events have clearly shown high costs involved in adaptation and mitigating impacts of adverse effects of climate change. Many countries, such as Uganda has suffered from the impacts of droughts and landslides resulting into heavy property and human losses http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/26/uganda-landslides-dead-villages-destroyed
Major effects of climate change
- Reduced agricultural productivity
In Uganda, agriculture is subsistent, rain-fed and therefore vulnerable to climate change and climate variability. Agricultural performance fluctuates with climate variability and climate change and is also affected by rudimentary means of production, poor markets and storage facilities. Prolonged droughts have serious impacts on agricultural production, therefore leading to famine, pasture insufficiency, low production and productivity of crops and animals. Given the fact that 56.3 percent of women in Uganda are employed in the agricultural sector, they continue to be the most vulnerable segment of population to these changes as they bear the major responsibility for food provision and health for their families. Uganda Bureau of Statistics,December 2007,” Report on the Labour Force Market Conditions in Uganda” Overall food scarcity results in nutritional insufficiency with serious health consequences that affect women more than men since they are the major food managers and producers at the household level.
- Increased flooding from sea level rise and heavy storms/rainfall
Climate change exacerbates extreme weather conditions such as tropical storms, heat waves, and heavy precipitation leading to flooding IPCC (2007) Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Summary for policy makers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Women are more likely to die as a result of such disasters and if they survive, they suffer the most from the consequences. Reasons for this disparity have been attributed to women’s lack of capacity to cope during such situations. For example one factor in the higher female mortality rates following the 2004 tsunami (although not caused by climatic factors) was women being unable to climb trees women environment network, Gender and the Climate Change agenda: ” the impacts of climate change on women and policy”. Like many other parts of the World, during the “El Niño” floods, East African countries had diverse loss of lives, destruction of homesteads and other infrastructure. FAO/GIEWS – Special Report : Eastern Africa ” Heavy reains attributed to El niῆo, 5th Februarry 1998, http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/w7832e/w7832e00.htm#E12E4
This normally results into injuries, increased risk of various infectious diseases like cholera, dysentery, asthma and other cardio-vasicullar illnesses due to migration, overcrowding and contamination of water. Because of their traditional roles in the home and as carers, women often experience an increased workload as they attempt to rebuild their households and care for other affected family members Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, The State of Uganda Population Report 2009
- Declining water resources
Prolonged and severe droughts have led to lower water levels in rivers, underground aquifers and reservoirs affecting the hydrology, biodiversity and water supply http://www.unep.org/geo/geo4/report/04_water.pdf.. This affects water availability which is essential to people’s livelihoods since it is used for both domestic and productive purposes. This phenomenon reduces the time women would have spent performing other income generating activities and attaining an education since they have to walk long distances in search of water http://unfccc.int/files/adaptation/nairobi_workprogramme/partners_and_action_pledges/application/pdf/wedo_furtherinfo_water_190411.pdf. In some communities, young women have been subjected to sexual violence on their way to and from fetching water by unscrupulous men; also, the time spent at school has reduced, since children in water-stressed areas spend most of their time lining up and fetching water in far-off places Project Have Hope Website ,http://www.projecthavehope.org/about-us/womens-issues.html.
- Spread of vector-borne diseases to new areas
Many vector, food and water-borne diseases are sensitive to climatic conditions. It is projected that climate change will be accompanied by an increase in heat waves, often exacerbated by increased humidity and urban air pollution, which would be caused by heat-related deaths and illnesses IPCC TAR, 2001a. Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. IPCC Third Assessment Report, Cambridge University Press. Heavy rains are associated with flooding and landslides which destroy health infrastructure like latrines, bridges and water sources. This provides grounds for outbreaks of communicable diseases by harboring disease-causing pathogens. Besides, droughts can result in frequent dust storms causing respiratory as well as eye infections in the lowlands. This increases women’s burden of caring for the sick and the elderly.
To be successful, adaptation policies and measures within both developed and developing countries need to be gender-sensitive. In Uganda, this is catered for in the gender policy (2007), which provides for a framework for gender-responsive development. There is also a strong need to include women at the highest possible decision-making level since they are often under represented at international, regional and national levels.
There is a strong need for increased awareness given the fact that the level of awareness of planners and decision-makers is relatively low and therefore climate change continues to remain a low priority area. National Planning Authority, April 2010, “The National Development Plan 2010/11 – 2014/15”, http://www.npa.ug/docs/NDP2.pdf It is not until Climate change and its effects are understood that gender issues will be taken into consideration. In principle, gender could be relatively easily integrated, for example into stakeholder analyses, livelihoods analyses and multi-criteria decisions tools if the users are aware of such a need and choose to do this.
To achieve climate stabilisation there is need for radical changes in lifestyle and behaviour. The vast gap in resources between the rich and the poor, evident in the gap between the most developing and developed countries is one of the biggest injustices of our times. This failure of resource-fairness makes it impossible for billions of humans to lead decent lives, the sort of life-opportunities that a commitment to true equality should make an absolute essential.
Climate change is a major threat towards the attainment of sustainable development, especially the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – particularly in Africa given the level of vulnerability of the continent and its limited capacity to cope with extreme events. Much as the rich countries have greatly triggered climate change, the most vulnerable are the poor countries and particularly its poor citizens who entirely depend on natural resources. Unfortunately, such people in those poor countries are not even aware of climate change and still have the least or poor capacity to adapt to climate change.
It is therefore the responsibility of Governments, development partners and other climate-knowlegable stakeholders to inform people of this disaster and forge a way forward. Raising awareness without demonstration has practically yielded dividend, therefore addressing this by pooling resources, sharing of skills and implementing climate change adaptation projects will help in minimising the effects of climate change. Responses to climate change should be geared towards critically understanding what impact climate change is predicted to have, and what this will mean to everyone’s livelihoods, health, rights and development.
- Gender and climate change
- Women and Climate Change Online Discussion
- Women and the Environment
- Women and Agriculture
- Climate Change (Wikiprogress page)
- Sustainable Development (Wikiprogress page)
- United Nations Women Watch