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Building climate resilient societies through empowerment of women

Participants at the UN Women Multi-Country Office Workshop (Credit: UN Women Africa)

The South Africa Multi-Country Office (MCO) of UN Women recently hosted a workshop on ‘Building climate resilient societies: Strategies towards a gender responsive climate change agenda’, 18-20 May, 2016. The purpose of the work is to strengthen women’s voices to advocate for gender sensitive climate agreements, national adaptation plans and regional frameworks as well as furthering the outcomes of the International Climate Change process by collectively advancing the gender and climate agenda with partners in civil society and government.

Cath Traynor, from Natural Justice’s Climate Change Programme participated in the workshop which included members from civil society, the media and small holder women farmers from South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana. The first day focused on setting the scene and Ms Anne Githuku-Shongwe, UN Women Representative shared that the UN team was meeting to discuss the current El Niño phenomena and climate change, and indeed days later the UN General-Secretary, Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of 2 Special Envoys on El Niño and Climate. Ms. Githuku-Shongwe shared the UN Women focus areas in the region which include renewable energy, livelihood issues including HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence and women’s political representation, and the need for gender-responsive budgeting. Ms, Ayanda Mvimbi, Programme Specialist UN Women South Africa MCO, then introduced an overview of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the role of women as change agents, she summarised pivotal gains for women as well as key issues such as adequate representation of women and gender in different strategic frameworks relating to climate change, gender mainstreaming, and key opportunities for engagement.

Participants finalizing the declaration

During the workshop rural women then shared the impact of climate change and their agency, and commission groups discussed key questions and emerging themes. Rural women smallholders shared challenges regards access to land and resources and energy, that the burden of the loss of livelihoods through climate change is falling on women, their concern that several Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries have declared national drought emergencies, that rural women are excluded from decision-making processes, and that the issue of climate change on rural women smallholders requires urgent attention. A ‘declaration by rural women, smallholder farmers organisations and supporting civil society and media in the southern Africa region’ was produced, which highlighted women’s concerns, urged Heads of States and governments at the next SADC Summit in August 2016 to listen to the voice of women, implement existing commitments and policies of international and regional conventions that are pro rural smallholders and gender equity, to ensure that under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are ambitious and address gender inequality, and for the full and effective participation of rural women smallholders in policy making, implementation and monitoring processes. Action on land ownership by women, food sovereignty, support and legal protection for indigenous knowledge systems and knowledge holders rights, the right to water, and the provision of transparent information on climate, services and rights, amongst others, was also called for.

UN Women Representative, Ms Anne Githuku-Shongwe receives the declaration and states she will ensure it reaches the relevant stakeholders

Less than a week after the workshop the SADC Secretariat established a ‘Regional El-Niño Response Team’, SADC noted that “At least 27 million people, translating to about 9 per cent of the SADC’s 293 million population, are already affected by the current disaster and this figure is likely to increase” and that the 2015/2016 El Niño phenomenon is affecting livelihoods and the quality lives of especially women. The Response Team will prepare a regional drought appeal with the aim to mobilise resources to meet the needs of people requiring humanitarian support in the Region.

30 May 2016


Climate Change

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