Empowering women key to climate change

09 August 2011 - 10:40 By Sapa
Air pollution. File picture
Air pollution. File picture
Image: Sydney Seshibedi

Climate change can't be solved without empowering women, and global problems can't be solved without addressing climate change, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says.

"Women produce up to 80 percent of the food in the developing world as here in South Africa, and especially in Polokwane," the minister said.

She said in the case of all the wars in Africa women were on the frontline of picking up the pieces, and were the carriers of development, ensuring the survival of communities.

"It is known that in Africa, women do 90 percent of the work of gathering water and food. Children that are girls often share these responsibilities.

"In flood prone regions, it is women who have to deal with the impact. In drought prone areas, it is women who have to fend for their families ensuring that the children are fed, and that the sick and the indigent are taken care off," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Women were at greater risk in times of extreme weather.

"Drought and unpredictable rains brought on by climate change will make this work far more precarious. Women will have to labour harder and longer to ensure their families have food, fuel, and water.'

In the heat and dry season women in many developing countries have to walk further each year to find safe water for drinking and cooking, spending up to eight hours a day on the road.

"Women in rural areas are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood. The effects of climate change would make it harder to secure these resources.

"What is now required is a global effort to ensure that not only support for women as they deal with disasters, but meaningful interventions to address climate change."

Nkoana-Mashabane said the key issue for Africa was adaptation where women were at the forefront of climate change.

"For Africa to adapt in a manner that creates a climate conducive to the advancement of the emancipation of its women, the international agreements reached on climate change must have as a key element support for adaptation in all its forms - be it technology, capacity building or finance," she said.