Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gender justice imperiled by climate change and disaster

Thalif Deen in IPS/TerraViva: The negative fallout from climate change is having a devastatingly lopsided impact on women compared to men, from higher death rates during natural disasters to heavier household and care burdens.

…Amy North, a researcher working on gender, education and global poverty reduction initiatives at the Institute of Education in the University of London, told IPS climate change is also exacerbating existing gender inequalities, with a devastating effect on the quality of life of poor women and girls. In many parts of the world, women and girls are responsible for collecting water and firewood.

…June Zeitlin, a former executive director of WEDO, has cited a study by the London School of Economics analysing disasters in 141 countries that provides decisive evidence that gender differences in deaths from natural disasters are directly linked to women's economic and social rights. That is, gender inequalities are magnified in disaster situations. So when women lack basic rights, more women than men will die from natural disasters.

…In an interview with IPS, North said that in East Africa - a region that is acutely feeling the effects of climate change, with widespread drought resulting in critical shortages of food and water - research suggests that increased poverty levels is having serious consequences for the education of girls.

In Kenya, participants in the Gender, Education and Global Poverty Reduction Initiatives project have noted that increased poverty associated with drought has affected school attendance, with girls being more likely to be withdrawn from school than boys. In neighbouring Uganda, the food crises associated with climate change have been linked to higher rates of early marriage for girls, as they are exchanged for dowry or bride price. These "famine marriages" - as they are called - not only lead to girls dropping out of school, but also make them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections and related reproductive complications.

….Stefan Wallin, Finland's minister of culture and sport, told delegates last week that one of his country's "strong areas of emphasis" concerns decision-making processes on matters affecting climate change.…Finland, he said, has argued that climate targets are reachable only "if the knowledge and views of both women and men are included, and if both women and men are committed to the goals."…

Fulbe women in the East Province of Cameroon, shot by Elaine Pearson, Wikimedia Commons

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