International Women’s Day #BreakTheBias …time to mainstream gender in climate change resilience

SANF 22 no 07 – by Nyarai Kampilipili

Climate change is impacting southern Africa in many ways, with hazards such as flooding and droughts causing serious harm to people, including death.

However, the impacts of climate change affect men and women differently.

The impacts of climate change are gendered, and women in most countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are disproportionately affected and experience the effects more severely than their male counterparts.

Massive deforestation and lack of access to clean water has caused women to walk longer distances to collect firewood and water, which is heavy, compromising their physical health and wellbeing.

The SADC Executive Secretary, Elias Magosi said in his statement on International Women’s Day, that there is need to mainstream gender in all climate change initiatives to cushion the burden that most women face in their daily lives, while removing the barriers that hinder acceleration of gender equality.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March each year to raise awareness of the need to address inequalities, while honouring the important role that women play in society and in socio-economic development.

“In the face of climate change, which threatens to set back development efforts in the region, women continue to feel its disproportionate impacts, through increased difficulties in accessing water and agriculture activity practices, areas that are dominated by women,” he said, adding that climate change-related disasters often displace people, exposing women to sexual abuse.

“We must, therefore, incorporate a gender perspective into climate change policies, projects and funds to ensure that women contribute to and benefit from equitable climate solutions.”

Magosi said it is critical for women to take leadership and stewardship in the areas of natural resources management and environmental conservation, as well as finding solutions to address the water-food-climate nexus.

Women must also take an active part in the response measures to climate change adaptation, mitigation, technology, capacity building and financing.

“I call on all stakeholders to accelerate the implementation of the different frameworks on climate change and disaster management which include, among others, the SADC Protocol on Environmental Management for Sustainable Development, and the revised SADC Regional Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2021…to combat desertification,” he said.

“In implementing these policy instruments, all efforts must be made to put women and girls at the centre, guided by the overarching SADC development frameworks of the RISDP2020-2030 and SADC Vision 2050.”

Magosi said the region must continue to promote gender equality and equity to ensure deeper integration and development.

According to the SADC Gender and Development Monitor 2018 produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) in partnership with the SADC Secretariat, the level of gender inequalities in the region remains high.

Women still face unequal access to decision-making, formal financial systems, land ownership, reproductive health care and education and information.

Available data also indicate that women in SADC are the most vulnerable among social groups, due to the general subordinate legal status, limited access to productive resources such as land, technology, credit, education and training, formal employment, as well as susceptibility to HIV and AIDS.

These inequalities have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is our collective duty to break gender biases and reduce stereotypes and discrimination to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the SADC region,” Magosi said.

The theme for this year is “Breaking gender bias and reducing stereotypes and discrimination to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion”, which is promoted under the hashtag #BreakTheBias.

This theme recognises the existence of gender inequalities and makes an unequivocal call to address societal norms, unjust laws, and missing human rights which pose a challenge to equality for women and girls around the world.

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