Women’s role in fighting climate change must

Women’s role in fighting climate change must

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In Pakistan, women who constitute the majority of the poor are among the most vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of climate change, particularly in rural areas. Yet, they are also vital to solutions to the impacts.

The women’s day, marked on March 8 every year, aims to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. Yet let’s also be aware progress has slowed in many places across the world. And Pakistan is no exception. However, urgent actions are needed to accelerate for building up their climate-resilience besides achieving gender parity, empowerment and their overall socio-economic development in the country.

This year the Day is being marked under the theme ‘Pledge for Parity’.

In fact, the day calls us all for encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women for unprecedented value of their role, which is vital to achieve socio-economic development goals in both developing and developed countries.

When we talk about gender dimensions in the context of impacts of climate change, then we does also mean that climate change would affect women and men divergently due to their divergent roles with regard to use of natural resources, particularly forest and water use.

Like other parts of the world, Women in Pakistan generally assume primary responsibility for collecting water for drinking, cooking, washing, hygiene and raising small livestock. On the other hand, men use water for irrigation or livestock farming and for industries. These divergent roles mean that women and men often have divergent needs and priorities as far as water use is concerned. This knowledge is quite significant in the context of climate change.

For instance, in drought-prone areas affected by desertification the time consumed by water collection will increase as women will have to travel greater distances to find water. But this is the time that could be spent in school, earning an income or participating in public/economic life. Walking long distances to fetch water can expose women to different health issues and harassment or sexual assault.

What is awful to observe is that women tend to be under-represented in the decision-making on climate change at all levels in the country. This severely limits their ability to contribute and implement mitigation and adaptation initiatives for fighting negative effects of the rapidly changing weather patterns.

Women are predominantly responsible for, food production, household water supply and fuelwood collection for heating and cooking. We cannot, however, afford to keep them (women) off the processes of planning and policy and decision making meant for tackling devastating impacts of climate change on different sectors of economy, particularly agriculture, water and health.

There is a pressing need that country’s planners, policy and decision makers to must realise and ensure that women are equally part of these very processes. So that, women’s say is adequately reflected in the planning and decision-making processes aimed for building countries climate resilience through mitigation and adaptation plans in all socio-economic sectors.

Besides, women and gender experts should play their effective part in collaboration with relevant government departments to ensure that they themselves are well informed of the gendered dimensions of climate sensitive sectors like agriculture, health, education and water.

In a nutshell, all segments of the society need to unite for ending existing inequalities between men and women and how climate change can exacerbate these inequalities.

Being important natural resource users, women have gained knowledge and developed coping strategies over the years that give them naturally a practical understanding of innovation and skills to adapt to the extreme weather events as well as to contribute to the solution.

But their knowledge to cope with climate risks or impacts of climate variability on their own remains largely untapped resource. However, utilizing that practical knowledge women own for boosting country’s climate resilience and making them [women] key stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processes for dealing with vagaries of climate change is indispensible.

Women are often grappled with difficulties when it comes to the general accessibility of financial resources, capacity-building activities and technologies required for building climate-resilience or coping with climate change impacts. This often proves to be the roadblock in the way of women’s empowerment in general and their role in relation to climate change adaptation and mitigation in particular.

Different international studies have highlight that women are very vulnerable, and are most likely to be disproportionately affected by the adverse impacts of climate change. Because, they constitute to be majority of the poor people anywhere in the world.

Women’s traditional roles as the primary users and managers of natural resources, primary caregivers, and labourers engaged in unpaid labour mean they are involved in, and dependent on livelihoods and resources that are put most at risk by climate change.

We, however, need to approach gender and climate from many perspective to ensure that women are present at all levels and dimensions of climate change policy-making, strategizing and action.

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About author

Saleem Shaikh

saleemzeal@gmail.com

The writer is a guest speaker on climate change and disaster reporting at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) – Islamabad. He is also a media trainer, freelance climate change and development science writer.