Women must be part of the climate change debate
Climate change has seen Zimbabwe experiencing prolonged droughts, extended dry seasons, extreme hot summers and cold winters.
These sporadic changes in weather have had an effect on the strategies adopted by women in communal farming and how they use renewable energy sources. According to the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer Zimbabwe 2015, launched at the Gender Protocol Work Summit earlier this week, 59% of rural women in Zimbabwe work in communal lands and so they are most affected by changes in climate since they rely on rainfall for their livelihoods and domestic use.
The National Gender Policy calls for increased responsiveness to: the environment; natural resource management strategies; and adaptation and mitigation initiatives to climate change.
Several strategies have been adopted to achieve these goals and these include reviewing environmental policies and strategies to identify gaps and address gender gaps. Collecting data which highlights how climate changes have deepened inequality among women and men and possible solutions are another strategy.
The last strategy seeks to ensure gender responsive national level strategies for climate induced disaster management, risk reduction and coping mechanisms.
The Barometer notes that for climate change solutions to be truly effective, women must be included at all stages of policy and strategy development. This means that women must be included at decision making tables when stakeholders develop strategies and action plans. Through the SADC Gender Protocol ((SGP) numerous programmes have been implemented nationwide and these are aimed at finding integrated solutions to the effects of climate change and gender mainstreaming.
The city of Kadoma is one such programme. It has implemented a strategy which they hope will not only curb the effects of climate change but also incorporate them into maternal health issues. The project involves planting of an indigenous tree for every live birth at Rimuka maternity home. On top of mitigating climate change, this project also aims at increasing the number of live births at the clinic by a professional midwife, promoting male involvement in antenatal care and improving maternal services. Against ongoing efforts to reduce the maternal mortality ratio, this is commendable.
The Barometer notes that women, especially those in rural communal lands, need to be trained and made aware of various strategies put in place not only by local governments, NGOs as well as the involvement of women and girls to improve their welfare and livelihoods. Women and men should have equal access to climate change financing vehicles which have been made available by SADC.
The Fatherhood Peace project, an initiative from the Zimunya-Marange District, aims at helping residents around the Marange area to cope with the immense drought seasons. Regis Manjoro, the founder said the area experiences extreme temperatures and so the project trains the residents of the area on breeding livestock that is resilient to drought like indigenous goats and chickens.
“89% of the women in the community have directly participated in the project. We have begun training women on how to breed indigenous goats and chickens. We also train people on consolidated gardening and people grow sustainable crops like sweet potatoes, cassava and magogoya, which can be grown throughout the year,” said Manjoro.
Although Zimbabwe does not have a complete and official national climate change policy, the country has adopted a National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) which provides the framework for addressing climate change and also for public education and awareness. The country has also started consultations to develop the National Climate Change strategy which under the SGP post 2015 agenda must have more women involvement in the development of climate policies and strategies as women are the most affected by the sporadic weather patterns in Zimbabwe.
The main concerns in the SGP post 2015 agenda are: women attaining 50% representation in decision making; 50 percent allocation of assets and natural resources which sustain their livelihoods; involvement of women in strategy formulations and disaster management; and establishment of gender responsive legislation on climate change and disasters.
By 2030, the government should have made notable strides to ensure that poor communities have access to sustainable technology to promote cleaner burning fuels. Notable reductions in deforestation and forest degradation, gender sensitive training and education and awareness on climate change are other targets. The public media should play a significant role in sharing information on gender dimensions of climate change and how women can contribute and benefit from sustainable development.
The findings of the Barometer 2015 are still preliminary and more research must be done to identify the specific effects climate change has had on women in Zimbabwe and how the government and NGOs can work together to try and mitigate these problems and create long lasting solutions for women and children, who are most adversely affected.
- This article is part of the Gender Links News Service special coverage of the SADC Gender Protocol Summits underway across the region, offering fresh views on everyday news.