On Tuesday 8th December, 2015 the was a debate at the conference room of France Pavillion, Blue Zone- Le Bourget on the theme “women and climate” in the presence of Vandana Shiva, a Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, Mary Robinson, Foundation Climate Justice and Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International.
The was discussions on the role of women in combatting climate change as women are often faced with difficulties when it comes to the general accessibility of financial resources, capacity-building activities and technologies.
This often stands in the way of women’s empowerment in general and their role in relation to climate change adaptation and mitigation in particular. Women also tend to be underrepresented in the decision-making on climate change at all levels. This severely limits their ability to contribute and implement solutions and apply their expertise.
According to Winnie Byanyima of Oxfam International, Even though, women are therefore disproportionately affected, at the same time they play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation actions. It is increasingly evident that involving women and men in all decision-making processes on climate action is a significant factor in meeting the climate challenge and achieving the long-term objectives of the Convention.
Women can make a strong body of knowledge and expertise that can be used in climate change mitigation, disaster reduction and adaptation strategies in Ghana and all these qualities suggest that when women are empowered, they can be extremely effective agents of adaptation to climate change.
Women in Ghana are among the poor and the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as drought, floods, extreme weather events and reduced food and water security which affect them and men differently with the poorest being the most vulnerable and are predominantly responsible for food production, household water supply and energy for heating and cooking.
When crops fail due to flooding, drought or soil erosion, less food is available and women find themselves under stress to provide food for their families. As food, fuel and water becomes scarce; women have to walk farther to collect them and long treks often put them at a greater risk of violence. When extreme weather conditions do hit, women suffer the most and is often linked to their lack of rights as many can't leave their homes during emergencies if they lack a male escort.
In continents like Africa, where women are responsible for 60-80% of food production, unpredictable growing seasons and increased incidence of droughts and floods place women, their families and their livelihoods at risk. About two thirds of the female labor force in developing countries and more than 90% in many African countries are engaged in agricultural work. In Ghana, women tend to have lower incomes and are more likely to be economically dependent than men. When drought or unseasonable rain, for example, threatens agricultural production in Ghana, men use their savings and economic independence to invest in alternative income sources or otherwise adapt. In times of food scarcity and drought, women will often give priority to their husbands—his nutritional needs will be met before hers.
According to Vandana Shiva, a Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, in times of drought and erratic rainfall, women walk farther and spend more of their time collecting water and fuel. Girls may have to drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks, continuing the cycle of poverty and inequity. Changing climates also affect the health of crops and livestock, and women, who are often responsible for producing the food eaten at home, must work harder for less food.
Women make up the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent than men on natural resources for their livelihoods and survival. Women are also more vulnerable because they have less access to education and information that would allow them to manage climate-related risks to agriculture and livestock. The indirect effects of climate warming and increased humidity have greater consequences for women.
An increase in rising temperatures will mean an increase in the transmission of malaria and various physiological changes, such as increased exhaled breath and heat dissipation, make pregnant women more appealing to malaria-carrying mosquitoes, leaving them particularly vulnerable to malaria in the country.
Studies have shown that women disproportionately suffer the impacts of disasters, severe weather events, and climate change because of cultural norms and the inequitable distribution of roles, resources, and power, especially in developing countries.
Awareness of the differential impacts of climate change on men and women is increasing. However, according to Mary Robinson of Foundation Climate Justice, women have knowledge and coping strategies that give them a practical understanding of innovation and skills to adapt to changing environmental realities as well as to contribute to the solution.
Fariya Abubakari is the climate tracker fellow for adopt a negotiator.