KIRUKU: When the sun turns to fire and the hail begins to fall…
The anti-climate change plan recently unveiled by United States President Barack Obama, which aims at cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions from US power stations by nearly a third in 15 years, is a welcome move that should be replicated in the Third World as well if the devastating effects of climate change are to be tackled.
In this task, the role of women should not be underestimated. After all, women tend to suffer more than men from climate change effects.
In East Africa as elsewhere in the developing world, women have less access to information, technology and other resources that can aid them in overcoming unexpected circumstances.
They bear the brunt of Mother Nature’s unexpected fury as a result of environmental destruction.
And the devastating effects of landslides, storms, heat waves, heavy rains, and cycles of floods and drought tend to affect women and children a lot more than other groups.
In East Africa, girls and women in rural areas are often charged with the responsibility of collecting firewood and fetching water for domestic use.
As a result, they have less time to devote to education or to make major decisions affecting their communities. When warning signs are issued, women are less likely to comprehend them.
In Africa, women are responsible for 60-80 per cent of food production.
Unpredictable growing seasons, and increased floods and drought, place women and their families at risk.
As a result of devastating climatic changes in the world, crop failure and water shortages are becoming increasingly common. This is in addition to environment-related diseases such as malaria.
All these situations have a more lasting impact on poor and vulnerable groups, especially in rural areas.
Women are showing incredible resilience in a bid to cope with the impacts of climate change, through growing more resilient crops, planting trees, harvesting rain water as well as growing fodder for livestock.
Supporting women to be more innovative, creative and resilient in a climate-constrained world is the way to go.
Adopting climate smart agriculture cannot be achieved without bringing women on board. Adopting better methods of energy consumption and minimizing emission of greenhouse gases cannot be done without women’s participation.
To fight deteriorating climate change, governments must see women as drivers of economic growth – as educators, professionals, farmers, entrepreneurs and leaders.
According to a recent report by World Bank, women represent more than 40 per cent of the world’s labour force and 43 per cent of its agricultural labour force.
As a result, greater productivity will be seen if their talents and skills are used more fully.
In East Africa, the devastating effects of climate change have led to an unending cycle of torrential rains leading to floods. As a result, families are constantly displaced and property worth millions of shillings lost.
Every year, families seek refuge in schools and church grounds as a result of floods.
Diseases resulting from poor climatic conditions such as malaria are killing hundreds of people across the region.
Cholera and diarrhoea, which occur as a result of leaking sewage systems caused by heavy rains and floods, have become endemic in the region. The lost income and opportunities during times of storms, floods and drought are huge.
Moreover, these circumstances have led to other grave secondary effects, principally greater insecurity fuelled by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
As communities safeguard their interests and compete with others in situations of scarcity, armed conflict is never too distant. This, in turn, leads to internal displacement, a worsening refugee crisis, and numerous social problems.
Regional leaders must find ways of involving and integrating women in climate management.
At grassroots level, it is important to nurture women’s groups and train them on ways of developing strategies to cope with issues related to energy and forestry, agriculture, water resource and climate mitigation.
The EAC must now take a second look at its climate change strategies, with the aim of coordinating and ensuring synergy between the activities of varied national and regional institutions that have a role in climate change and related issues.
In this process, women should be involved in key decision making involving both short-term and long-term ways of combating climate change at both national and regional levels.
It is their participation, alongside that of other sections of society, which will eventually make a difference.
By Anne Kiruku
East African News Agency
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