By Mary Nyasimi
Climate change affects us all, but it does not affect us all equally.UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon
Women in Africa who derive their livelihoods majorly from natural resources are eagerly awaiting for the Paris COP21 decision. Their leaders who are in Paris till December 11, 2015 are negotiating for a climate agreement that is favorable to the continent, more specially to women. Will the present and future women benefit from these ongoing negotiations?
From northern Africa, where the accelerating Sahara desert is diminishing livelihoods options, to Central where forests resources are declining, to eastern and Southern Africa, where crops and livestock are dying out, women are hopeful that universal and binding COP21 agreement will open up new avenues for them to tap into as they deal with the rapidly changing climate.
In a side event organized by the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency, panelists and delegates deliberated on the topic ‘Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities post 2015 agreements’.
The event moderator Sam Ogallah, Programme Manager at the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a civil society organization, reported that climate change affects everyone in Africa’s societies including women, men, people with disabilities and the idea of treating gender as a footnote on the text should be stopped. Instead, gender should be central in the COP21 agreement and later operationalized into a set of appropriate policies by African countries. This was strengthened by Winfred Lichuma, Chairperson, National Gender and Equality Commission, Kenya, who noted that drafting of the COP21 agreement must be written through a gender lens and gender desegregation is a missing link in the current draft agreement.
Linking COP21 decision to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was emphasized by Maria Phiri, Gender and Climate Change Expert, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Ms. Phiri stressed that climate change in Africa is about human development and therefore COP21 agreement must provide a gender responsive development platform that targets all stakeholders, particularly women and the youth for sustainable economic growth. To demonstrate how gender affects different groups of people at national levels, Ms. Judith Kamoto, Head of Forestry Department, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), described Malawi’s experience on mainstreaming gender in climate actions in the forestry sector. Ms. Kamoto reported various constraints women face in Malawi, including lack of access to land and other livelihood resources, lack of decision-making and participation in community governance on forests.
In conclusion, Emma Bowa, Programme and Advocacy Manager, CARE International, stressed on critical elements that Africa would like the Paris agreement to include and these are:
- Research – explore, analyse and identify who is vulnerable to climate change and how they experience its impacts, adaptation and mitigation strategies that they integrate into their livelihood strategies
- Recognise vulnerable people as non- homogeneous that have a wealth of knowledge and are active agents of change and adaptation
- Strengthen capacity/technology and empowerment for men, women and the youth to adapt in different and complementary sustainable ways
- Resources to support gendered adaptation to the impacts of climate change at all levels
Mary Nyasimi is a gender specialist and is part of the African Group of Negotiators Expert Support Group (AGNES).