Poor and marginalised groups [including women and girls] have limited ability to cope with climate change impacts according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Yet, the climate resilience of a society and its ability to change economic processes to achieve greenhouse gas reductions often depend on specific social strata’s adaptive and mitigative capacities.
“Recognising the contribution of women in climate change mitigation, adaptation and response” is Uganda’s national theme for International Women’s Day 2022 and emphasises full acknowledgement of climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts made by women, and their exceptional efforts in implementing response strategies.
Whereas refugee women and girls are both climate change victims and active promoters of adaptation, mitigation and response mechanisms, they wrestle social and economic challenges which arguably make them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Specifically, women and girls a) represent the majority of the world’s poor, b) are disproportionally dependent on natural resources, c) have limited access to and ownership of land and other essential natural resources, d) have lower income, e) fewer opportunities, and f) are victims of systemic violence – all of which lowers their climate change adaptive and mitigative capacity.
Notwithstanding the challenges above, refugee women possess commendable traditional skills in water harvesting, storage, food preservation, rationing and natural resource management alongside inherited wisdom and knowledge on early warnings, mitigation of impacts of climate disaster and response. From reforestation and afforestation to waste management to the pursuit of clean and renewable energy, among others, women and girls are relentlessly pursuing proactive measures towards adaptation, mitigation, and response.
Despite their dedication to saving the earth and growing international recognition of refugee women’s contribution, a lot remains to be done since; a) women’s theoretical and practical knowledge of the environment and resource conservation is limited, b) many hardly have a seat at the tables where political, social, and economic decisions are made, c) barely receive remuneration for the environmental and landscape restoration services, and d) women’s contribution to the economic cycle are insufficiently exploited.
The 2022 theme offers a reminder that climate change discourse provides opportunities to advance the struggle for women’s rights, particularly the empowerment of refugee women and girls. In particular, women are already undertaking transformative initiatives and boldly taking leadership and leading roles in saving planet earth. Women and girls represent 51 per cent of the world’s population and must contribute towards climate resilience globally, in part by adopting many new agricultural innovations.
Climate change is destroying lives, homes, businesses and stifling the struggle for gender equality [and, in particular, women’s rights]. As such, the world needs promising climate action by and for women. As we commemorate women’s day, I call upon the Government of Uganda, civil society, and pro-women’s activists to embrace climate change adaptive, mitigative, and responsive initiatives and increase women’s visibility in climate actions.
The negatively changing climate further complicates women’s vulnerability. As a country, we must transition from annual rhetorical proclamations to concrete measures on climate change and women’s empowerment. Strong political commitments are required to embrace and propel the arts and science of climate change and women’s empowerment – without which we shall barely incubate innovative structural reforms in realising gender equality, combating climate change, and attaining sustainable development.
The world is already witnessing unprecedented existential threats, including pandemics, negative impacts of climate change, and violent wars. Undeniably, climate change is making our world more dangerous, with over 250,000 climate-related deaths annually. We, therefore, cannot overlook the contribution of women and girls in climate actions. For as long as less attention is paid to the potential that lies in the combination of climate mitigation, adaptation, response, and women’s empowerment, the 2022 International Women’s Day will have only been half commemorated!
Happy International Women’s Day Commemorations!