On 22nd Avril 2018, as the whole world celebrates Earth Day and contributes to eradicating climate change under the theme, “End Plastic Pollution”, our message is that women who experience the consequences of climate change are often leaders in developing effective coping strategies and building resilience. They have important insights to contribute to designing and implementing effective climate responses and should be fully included in decision-making on climate change at all levels. Plastic pollution not only affects the environment but it also affects women’s health by transferring toxins into our food. Therefore, we advocate for less production and use of plastic bags and more use of paper bags, which are health and environment friendly.
In sub-Saharan Africa, where populations depend largely on natural resources for their means of livelihood, the situation seems even worse. For women in particular, the threat of climate change to their socio-economic and environmental development is evident, especially among those in rural areas who are reliant on agriculture for their livelihoods and natural resources such as traditional biomass for cooking and heating. Furthermore, women often lack the capacity and resources to adequately respond to natural hazards and thereby mitigate their negative effects on their activities. For example, restrictions on women’s land ownership mean that many women do not have access to productive land to farm, while a lack of financial capital and access to technologies means they cannot easily diversify their livelihoods. The implication is that climate change worsens the pre-existing socio-economic pressures women are faced with. Existing social inequalities resulting from climate change are further exacerbated by women’s limited adaptive capacities as well as ascribed social and economic roles that eventually lead to unequal access to resources, decision-making processes and reduced access to information.
Attempts to deal with climate change have faced a number of challenges. These include rural women’s overdependence on natural resources due to insufficient access to alternative livelihood opportunities; a lack of reliable methodologies and approaches to measure climate change impact by gender at all levels; and the lack of access to financial and technology-based solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
With the current climate change challenges confronting women, AWDF supports them to respond to these challenges by adapting and mitigating the impact of climate change through its grant making and technical support activities. AWDF also supports women’s rights organisations to intensify their advocacy work for policies that support the mitigation of climate change effects for most affected communities of women. Some of the organisations are specifically engaged in activities aimed at reducing plastic pollution. Examples include Women’s Leadership and Training Program (WLTP) in South Africa and SOS in Ethiopia, who have introduced very unique models of reducing plastic waste and at the same time create employment for women.
As part of AWDF’s mandate of achieving social justice for women as well as supporting them towards economic security, and the intent to deepen its support to women’s rights organisations working on environmental and climate change issues, AWDF recently embarked on a journey to access the Green Climate Fund (GCF). GCF is a new global fund created to support efforts made by developing countries to respond to climate change effects. Specifically, GCF provides grants to projects aimed at helping developing countries limit or reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change. It seeks to promote a paradigm shift to low-emission and climate-resilient development, taking into account the needs of nations that are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
For AWDF, this initiative is timely because the integration of gender considerations into key multilateral climate finance mechanisms like GCF are steps in the right direction, since gender considerations have yet to be effectively mainstreamed in some climate change programmes and activities, and national planning. Funding mechanisms like GCF are needed across scales to maximize the impact of climate financing and also to tackle deeply rooted structural inequities at a time when climate change affects women in ways that may not always be evident and this includes their health.