By Perpetual Sichikwenkwe
Women are likely to bear the heaviest brunt of the impacts of climate change due to their dependence on agriculture for their livelihoods, gender roles that increase their responsibilities for providing water, fuel and good sanitation for their families, and their limited access to information on climate change.
Panellists speaking Tuesday at the third annual Gender Justice and Local Government Summit [held in Johannesburg, South Africa] called on local government councils to integrate gender and climate change into their service delivery at local level to educate communities and to mitigate against the effect of climate change on women's lives.
Seventy per cent of the world's poor women are more likely to suffer the consequences of climate change if no measures are in place to curb the problem, said former Gender Links (GL) Gender Justice Programme Manager Shuvai Nyoni.
Maize production in the region may decline by about 30 per cent in the next 20 years if no measures are in place, and prolonged droughts will have severe effects on planting and harvesting seasons. The people most affected by food insecurity will be women and children, Nyoni said, adding that climate change will push vulnerable women into a "tight corner."
Eighty-five per cent of the women who die in climate change natural disasters and 75 per cent of the environmental refugees are women, Nyoni said. Local and municipal governments have a duty to raise awareness and factor climate change into day-to-day service delivery, she added.
Climate change's effect on women has been evident in Mozambique where heavy floods displace families, many of which are female-headed, said GL board member from Mozambique Eduardo Namburete. Women, he added, often are left out of discussions and planning on how to solve the effects of climate change.
The Senior Policy Advisor at Norwegian Church Aid, Phumzile Mabizela, told the summit that churches can supplement the efforts of local government and other stakeholders to walk the green talk, and she urged participants to sign the on-line petition coordinated by the SADC Protocol Alliance for an Addendum to the SADC Gender Protocol on Gender and Climate Change.
Perpetual Sichikwenkwe is a journalist with The Times of Zambia. This article is part of GL Opinion and Commentary Service, special news and analysis series on the 2012 Gender Justice and Local Government Summit