One key lesson emerging from Cyclone Idai crisis in Southern Africa is the need to give the gender dimension of climate change impacts the seriousness it deserves.
Looking at the Cyclone Idai which swept Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, conservative estimates puts the death toll at 1000. But that is not the story. The untold story of the matter is that most of the victims happened to be women of different ages and children who were unable to run orhave sufficient energy to climb higher places, swim, hold onto anything, or wait for rescuers.
But then, thisis the tragic reality wherever disaster strikes; wherever there is extreme drought or floods, the victims are always women and children, while strong men relocate to urban areas.
Even when young people are fleeing climate-related harsh economic conditions in the Sahel, the first victims to drown in the Mediterranean Ocean are girls and young women andif they are lucky to cross the seamost face sexual harassments while fleeing, and face the same jeopardy and upon arrival at their destinations.
Numerous studies have shown that women face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that include harmful stereotypes, social, economic and political barriers that limit their adaptive capacity, limited or inequitable access to financial assets and services, education, land, resources, and decision-making processes, as well as fewer opportunities and less autonomy hence making them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) years of work and research have shown that inequality, patriarchal structures and systemic barriers, as well as the different views, experiences and needs of men and women contribute to an overall higher risk of women experiencing harmful effects of climate change.
PACJA has stated time and again that climate change perpetuates gender inequality. Gender inequality and the violation of women’s rights, in turn, hinder women’s participation in climate action.This informs PACJA’s clarion call that;
- Women and men must be ACTORS for climate protection
- Women and men must be DECISION-MAKERS on climate action
- Women and men are differently IMPACTED by climate change
In the African Development Bank (AfDB) 2019 CSOs Forum, PACJA is calling upon the Bank, governments and CSOs to invest in the following areas in an effort to address the impact of climate change on women. These include, sexual and reproductive health, gender based violence, access to land, mobility and women and girls traffic just to mention a few. These are all factors that can be linked directly to climate change.