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Generation Equality: Gender-Just Climate Solutions

By Anne Karago

 

Human activities have led to disastrous loss of biodiversity, endangering the planet interconnected ecosystems, hence compromising our ability to co-exist in harmony with nature. This has resulted into endless crises, including extreme weather events, food crisis, settlement crisis, abject poverty and inequalities.

 

Industrialised countries and multinational corporations have been blamed for the current climate crisis.  The effects of climate change, however, are largely felt by people in the least developed countries in the global South and among the low-income communities in the industrialised North. These are also the people who have least access to resources and technology to adapt to the consequences and take actions to reduce emissions. In sub-Saharan Africa an estimated 70% of the population rely on subsistence rain fed agriculture.

 

Globally, climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable social groups, particularly women and girls, because of gender roles they are assigned by society. Due to their work responsibilities, women rely heavily on resources such as forests, rivers, livestock and small-scale agriculture. The susceptibility these resources have to the changes in the climate, when combined with other factors such as poverty, weak governmental policies, and population growth, aggravates the disproportionate impact of climate change on women.

 

Women and girls are responsible for cultivation of food, fetching water and caring for their families. However, because of patriarchy and the resultant discrimination against women and girls, they have restricted access to resources and to education. Consequently, they are affected more than men and boys by the impact of climate change. In the event of natural disasters, the risk of death is 14 times higher among women and children than among men.

 

Because of extreme climatic conditions and the resultant displacement of communities, the risk of violence and sexual assault against women and girls are exacerbated. Additionally, the impacts of climate change have disastrous consequences on their health, food security, increased waterborne diseases, violation of their rights and adverse economic conditions.

 

The good news, however, is that women are not merely victims of climate change. They are critical agents of change and the bearers of solutions. During natural disasters, for example, women play a crucial role when they are integrated in the designing and implementation of responses. Because their knowledge of their social networks, they can easily identify the victims, where they are located, and the specific needs of women, men, girls and boys.

 

More so, women are at the forefront of climate change adaptation strategies.  Women in rural communities often live in synergy with  their environment, having a thorough knowledge of it, and playing a leading role in defending, preserving and protecting it. The environmental knowledge of women in rural communities in particular has been undervalued and could make a significant contribution to climate change research and policies.

 

Particular attention needs be given to women who are the main custodians of environmental conservation and sustainability and who are highly threatened by environmental degradation and climate change. They have in-depth knowledge of the territories, which are the source of their livelihoods for generations. Their knowledge is on a much finer spatial and temporal scale than science, and includes understanding of how to cope with and adapt to environmental variability and trends. Women in rural areas, for example, whose forest area is largely for subsistence, generate specific and valuable knowledge through their daily practices as seed, fuel, and fodder collector.

Various studies point to the direct link between the under-representation of women in decision-making bodies and the lack of knowledge of greenhouse gas reduction mechanisms. This under-representation seriously compromises the effectiveness of climate change mitigation measures, which require the involvement of all stakeholders.

Feminists are calling upon governments, development partners and civil society organisations to work on the improvement of women’s land rights, the security of tenure and the recognition and redistribution of unpaid climate work. In Eastern Africa, despite various legal and policy measures, customary values and practices still determine who can access and use crucial recourses such as land and credit services.

There is need for international climate governance to integrate an intersectional and inclusive approach in understanding and responding to the challenges faced by women and girls in their full diversity.  Gender gaps remain a challenge for example in Ethiopia, where rural women experience a subordinate and marginal status because of the dominant patriarchal values and beliefs that dictate gender relations, responsibilities, roles and opportunities, In Somalia maternal mortality rate, rape, female genital mutilation, violence against women and girls and child marriage rates are extremely high.

Policy makers and implementers need to recognise that climate justice must include gender, racial and economic justice. There is need for international climate governance to respect the consultation and cooperation in good faith with indigenous peoples and communities in order to obtain free, prior and informed consent.

Under Generation Equality, Action coalition leaders and commitment makers are making strong commitments to realize the transformative vision of the Global acceleration plan on feminist action for climate justice. They are advocating for an increase in the direct access to financing for Gender-Just Climate Solutions, especially for women and girls at grassroots levels. By 2026, it is anticipated that governments, the private sector and donors will increase the percentage of global climate finance flows, public and private, directed towards and invested in gender-just climate solutions in particular at grassroots and rural levels, including through an increase to 88% in the proportion of marked climate bilateral finance targeted towards gender.

 

It is also imperative that women and girls are facilitated to lead a just transition to an inclusive, circular, regenerative green economy. Deliberate efforts will have to be taken to increase the proportion of women and girls in decision-making and leadership positions throughout environmental governance and sectors relevant.

 

Funding will be directed to building the resilience of women and girls so as to address the climate impacts, disaster risks, loss and damage of the ecosystem and securing their land rights and security of tenure. Different stakeholders will also create an enabling environment and increase the collection and use of gender environment statistics for policy making.

 

 

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