Multi-Party Women's Caucus: Workshop on Gender Implications on Climate Change

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

18 October 2011
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (the Caucus) held a workshop on the gender implications of climate change. Five presenters outlined their submissions, noting that there was increasing momentum for recognition of the voices of women in matters of climate change, food security and agriculture. However, there was in some cases a failure to move fast enough, largely because of cultural practices and male-biased decision-making.

Ms Buyelwa Sonjica, Former Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, stated that climate change was still the biggest challenge facing humanity in the 21st century. It was necessary to have a broader knowledge of climate change, and more opportunity to participate in managing it, if this issue was to be addressed. However, she noted that inequalities between men and women still made women more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. She recommended that this Multi-Party Caucus should consider establishing a sub-committee on climate change and gender. Training and education programmes should be developed to enable women to take leadership positions, and legislation on climate change should be gender sensitive.

Dr Yvette Abrahams of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) noted that the CGE had conducted workshops in all provinces, where it partnered with civil society. People noted their appreciation for the information and education, but it was clear that this needed to be wider, so the Department of Education was taking initiatives to introduce issues into the school curriculum. She noted particular concerns about participation at local government level, saying that even when this did occur, the local government officials were often ill-informed about climate change. People wanted to know what government support structures existed to enable them to adapt and mitigate.

Dr Sithabiso Gandure, Member of The Wahenga Institute, said gender equality in disaster risk reduction did not mean addressing the issues of women but addressing the concerns of both men and women. Gender inequality was the root cause of the particular vulnerability of women to disasters and climate change. Women were participating in adapting to climate change although they were often regarded as helpless victims. She outlined what Disaster Risk Reduction involved, noting that the root causes of vulnerability must be addressed. Gender equality must be seen in all its dimensions of rights, economic and environmental and social aspects. A shift in cultural norms would be required.

Ms Stacy Alboher, a Gender and Environment Specialist from the United Nations Development Programme, referred to the flow of funds from industrialised countries to developing countries, to enable them to adhere to their commitments under the convention. She explained what sources of funding were included, and the mechanisms that could be applied. She noted that investment of about R510 billion per year over the next 20 years would be needed to address climate change, whilst mitigation would cost R67 billion each year up to 2020, and spending on agriculture should be R2.5 billion each year between 2010 and 2050. Equal access of women and men to financial mechanisms was vital to empower women and upgrade the lives of all. She recommended that a national climate change coordination mechanism should be established to coordinate financing at the national level.

Dr Agnes Babugura of Monash University focused on agriculture and food security, both of which were threatened by climate change. Women usually bore
the brunt of food insecurity at household level, and they were central to providing food security.

 Generally, women are often the ones responsible for feeding their families and a lack of food is therefore their problem to solve. Women are a central factor in food security. However, they faced problems of access, education and training, access to credit and technology, as well as access to markets. A gender analysis was necessary in order to isolate the issues. Women produced between 60% and 80% of food yet continued to be regarded as home producers or assistants, and were not recognised in their own right. 

Ms Liz McDaid of the Green Connection said the costs of inaction were much greater than the costs of action, and outlined the advantages of using renewable energy sources. She noted that several steps could be taken immediately, and set out the particular initiatives that South African departments should take, and what achievements could be made over the next five years.

Meeting report

Workshop on Gender implications of climate change
Buyelwa Sonjica submission
Ms Buyelwa Sonjica, Former South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, noted that climate change was the biggest challenge facing humanity in the 21st century, and in order to deal with it, everybody had to know about it and know how to manage it. Africa was particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, despite the fact that Africa as a whole had contributed to the problem on a smaller scale than the rest of the world.

South Africa had to build capacity to deal with catastrophes, had to adopt programmes and legislation to mitigate climate change, must educate the nation and build capacity to adapt to climate change in order to deal with disasters. South Africa had made some strides to protect its citizens against climate change. An environmental legislation programme had been designed to deal with the reduction of carbon emissions, water resource management, and protection of species. Legislation was in place regarding air quality, and this would measure, and address, the carbon released into the atmosphere. Other legislation dealing with disaster management, agriculture, public transport and the energy mix had been passed.

The COP 17 Conference to be held in Durban would bring countries together to work as a collective to find a lasting solution to this common challenge of climate change. Smaller countries would find a voice within the negotiations as they would be grouped with bigger and stronger countries. The downside was that most countries were reluctant to compromise their national interests. Developing countries had serious social economic and political problems, which needed to be prioritised over climate change.

Ms Sonjica reminded Members that the effects of climate change affecting the world today resulted from emissions that happened during a time of great industrialization, over 150 years ago. Developed countries had to set targets in mitigating against climate change, while developing countries must commit to actions to mitigate. She reiterated that each country would try as far as possible to protect its own interests. Developed countries tended to see combating climate change as a major priority while developing countries saw poverty alleviation as their major priority.

Ms Sonjica pointed out that gender was often an issue that was forgotten during the climate change debate. Although there was mention of women in the Convention, not enough work had been done by the world to map out the role of women. It was only on 2 March 2011 that a resolution was sponsored by the UN Commission on the Status of Women, in relation to gender equality and climate change. This resolution was designed to mainstream gender equality and promote the empowerment of women in climate change policies and strategies.

According to UN Report on Human Development, 70% of the illiterate population was women, and many were living in the most underdeveloped areas of their countries, in informal settlements and rural areas. Women suffered the most during catastrophes. There was almost no participation of women globally and nationally, yet if they did participate they would first have to look to their own survival. Bringing gender into the debate would impact on food production, water resources, health and all those areas that needed to be led by women. Women had to participate in all the structures that dealt with climate change, as a special group, to bring a unique debate on how they could be accommodated.

Ms Sonjica recommended that this Multi-Party Caucus should consider establishing a sub-committee on climate change and gender. Training and education programmes should be developed to enable women to take leadership positions, and legislation on climate change should be gender sensitive. Women must be empowered with information so as to access economic opportunities from the climate change global programmes. Perhaps there should be a global Women’s Movement on Climate Change.

Dr Yvette Abrahams submission
Dr Yvette Abrahams, Commissioner: Commission on Gender Equality, noted that the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and civil society had conducted workshops in all provinces to inform people about the CGE’s work on climate change, the gender impact of climate change, and to gather input for the COP17 processes.

CGE had noted that people required and appreciated information and education about climate change, but felt that this should be brought to the broader community, not only through single workshops. The Department of Education in Limpopo proposed working with the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs to put climate change and gender implications on the school syllabus. However, she did have some concerns that provincial and local government officials were themselves ill-informed about climate change. There was a lack of information that was critically needed in order to plan at a local and provincial level.

The South African Weather Services in Mpumalanga presented difficulties in reducing sub-regional predictions to a local level because there was a lack of soft data. Another issue raised in all provinces except Gauteng was the effect of climate change on agriculture and food security. However, no information was available to answer the concerns. It was found that a greater investment in research at a local and sector-specific level was needed. When people had a greater understanding of the issues, they would be more willing to act. The Gauteng workshop gave credence to the CGE’s recommendations around a unified climate change implementation structure. In six provinces (Northern Cape, Gauteng, KZN, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and North West) people wanted to know what government support structures existed to enable them to adapt and mitigate. Unfortunately the answer was not available. Information channels and communication flowing between levels of government needed to be improved.

In the Western Cape, Eskom attended the workshop and a number of serious concerns and questions were put to them. SASOL had not attended in the Free State, despite repeated efforts to bring it there. CGW recommended that the ongoing Presidential Review of legislation and policy governing State-owned enterprises should be broadened to include accountability for carbon emissions. It was felt the Executive should do more to communicate content on international agreements.

It was noted that provincial gender structures who had attended the workshops pledged their support in ensuring that climate change and gender became linked. However once again, it was disturbing to see that local government was largely lacking in knowledge of the policy processes. Two provinces were already writing provincial climate change policies, and one already had a policy. Dr Abrahams thought it unlikely that there would be one national position on climate change and gender for COP 17. The Commission experienced complete lack of support from Department for International Relations and Cooperation, and very mixed responses from the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Wahenga Institute submission
A number of graphs were shown to explain local and global trends and hazards in South Africa, and the costs of these.

Dr Sithabiso Gandure, Member of The Wahenga Institute, noted that the term “Disaster Risk Reduction” (DRR) was used to describe policies and practices to minimise disaster losses. These involved interventions in mitigation, preparedness and advocacy. These areas of intervention would reduce the frequency, intensity and impact of hazards, strengthen the capacity of communities to respond and recover from hazards, and favourably influence the social, political, economic and environmental issues that contributed to hazards.

It was noted that successful DRR must occur before a disaster strikes. There was a need to shift the focus away from reaction, to disaster prevention and preparedness activities. In general, DRR tended to be more reactive. DRR and climate change were cross-cutting development issues that shared the same goals of reducing vulnerability, increasing resilience and achieving sustainable development. They focused on addressing root causes of vulnerability that included human, economic, social, environmental and physical factors, in a gender-sensitive way.

The rationale for gender equality had at least three dimensions. Firstly, it was a rights issue and the principle was enshrined in international and regional protocols and national policies. Secondly, it was an economic and environmental issue, because gender inequality undermined development potential. Lastly, it was a social issue, because women performed a vital and unique role in household and community structures, which was both under-recognised and under-valued.

There were challenges to effectively mainstreaming gender in DRR and climate change. It would require a shift of cultural norms. There was a lack of entitlement legislation or, where it did exist, reluctance to enforce it, or to monitor implementation. There was still gender imbalance within the national executives and legislatures.

Research indicated that gender inequalities were exacerbated in the aftermath of disasters. An increase in workload of household tasks may force girls to drop out of school. Women and girls were more likely to become victims of domestic and sexual violence after a disaster, particularly when families had been displaced and were living in overcrowded emergency housing, where they lacked privacy.

An analysis of 141 countries showed that gender differences in deaths from natural disasters were directly linked to economic and social rights of women. When the rights of women were not protected, more women than men died from disasters. It had also been found that in societies where women and men enjoyed equal rights, disasters resulted in the same number of deaths of men and women.

For these reasons, a gender approach should be integrated across the entire programming process. All gender data should be disaggregated to allow for gender sensitive strategies. A gender analysis on preparation and prevention should be undertaken, so that both men and women were involved in various aspects such as emergency plans and capacity training. Counseling and support to men and women should be provided in line with specific needs, and interventions should address the needs of both men and women.

Dr Gandure concluded that gender equality in disaster risk reduction did not mean addressing the issues of women, but addressing the concerns of both men and women. Gender inequality was seen as the root cause of the vulnerability of women to disasters and climate change. Women were in fact active and at the forefront in adapting to climate change, although they were often regarded as helpless victims.

Stacy Alboher submission
Ms Stacy Alboher, Gender and Environment Specialist: United Nations Development Programme, focused on climate change finance, pointing out that this referred to financial flows from industrialised to developing countries, to enable them to adhere to their commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Convention). This included both public and private sources of funding, which should be seen as new and additional. Finance mechanisms included bilateral instruments, international financing institutions and capital markets, loans, grants, taxes, fees, and global and regional partnerships.

The Convention set out that parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change. These developed countries should provide new and additional financial resources to meet the agreed full costs incurred by developing countries in complying with their obligations. Developed countries should assist developing countries in meeting costs of adaptation, as the latter were particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

It was estimated that, in order to address climate change, an additional investment of close to $10.5 trillion ($510 billion per year over the next 20 years) would be needed. This would be used for mitigation globally, in the energy sector, for the period 2010-2030. The amount needed for adaptation would be $67 billion each year, by 2020 for the African Group. $2.5 billion would have to be spent on agriculture per year between 2010and 2050. The Copenhagen Accord and Cancun Agreements had committed $30 billion by 2012 as a start up fund. By 2020 $100 billion would be needed per year.

Ms Alboher stated that there was currently no specific mandate for mainstreaming gender in climate finance. There was still predominance of male-biased decision-making in traditional financial flows, decision-making, and governance bodies for finance mechanisms. There were low levels of expertise on gender and climate change finance and gender budgeting. There was also low recognition of the importance of women as stakeholders and change agents.

A properly-structured climate change finance had the potential to achieve climate change goals, while also promoting poverty reduction and gender equality. Equal access to financial mechanisms was both necessary and important for the empowerment of women and sustainable climate change in the long run. Climate change financing should include a focus not only on industry, but also on transforming and upgrading the livelihoods of women and men, in order to promote the necessary behavioural, institutional and policy changes that would secure climate change objectives.

Ms Alboher recommended that a national climate change coordination mechanism be established to coordinate financing at the national level. Gender analysis tools were required. These must be incorporated into all phases of programme design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.  Gender-based criteria must be developed for fund allocation, project selection, and other aspects of decision-making. There should be an effective and balanced participation of women and gender experts in planning and decision-making.

In order to ensure promotion of access for women and marginalised groups, resources for capacity building should be included, particularly for women and community based organisations. It was necessary to provide ringfenced support for women to start and scale-up “green” entrepreneurial activities. Access to credit for women should be promoted, by incorporating gender-sensitive policies and guidelines into the management structure of financing mechanisms and into the design, implementation, evaluation and monitoring of projects.

Dr Agnes Babugura submission
Dr Agnes Babugura, Academician, Monash University, said that c
limate change was continuing to pose a threat to agriculture and food security. Already the food crises had plunged many people more deeply into poverty, threatening national security and economic growth. Agriculture and food security were characterised by gendered dimensions, because women usually bore the brunt of food insecurity at household level.

Food security could not be separated from the broader socio-political issues impacting on men and women, and making them vulnerable to food insecurity. She cited that these would include access to water, land and other natural resources, health, and economic status. The multi-dimensional nature of food security would have to be understood when formulating a gendered approach.

Generally, women were often responsible for feeding their families, and they must solve the problem of a lack of food. She noted that women faced several obstacles in agriculture. Access was the first problem, since, globally, women owned less than 1% of land. On the education and training side, women received only 5% of these services, worldwide. They received less than 10% of small farm credit and only 1% of total credit to the agricultural sector. They lacked the appropriate technology and tools, and also lacked access to markets.

Dr Babugura said that there was a challenge in understanding the relationships between gender, climate change, agriculture and food security, and policy and programming. The operations of the agricultural development were gender blind. Gender analysis had to be done, to get to grips with the dynamics of
gender differences across a variety of issues critical to agricultural development and food security. This analysis would look at matters like social relations, access and control over resources, services, institutions of decision-making and networks of power and authority, activities, and needs of men and women.

She highlighted that women in developing countries produced between 60% and 80% of the food, yet continued to be regarded as home producers or assistants on a farm, and not as farmers and economic agents in their own right. The denial or lack of recognition of the vital role that women play in agricultural production and food security could be attributed to cultural attitudes and harmful traditional practices that relegated women to a subordinate position.
Where gender inequalities were enshrined in cultural practices and/or national or customary law, there was a need to redress such practices.

Dr Babugura concluded that gender analysis should be
applied to all actions on climate change. Gender experts must be consulted in climate change processes at all levels, so that the specific needs and priorities of both men and women were identified and addressed.

Ms Liz McDaid submission
Ms Liz McDaid, Coordinator: Green Connection, mentioned that the costs of inaction were much greater than costs of action. If global temperatures were allowed to rise, many species would soon become extinct, there would be a rise of intensity of storms, veld fires, heat waves, droughts and floods. The world would experience significant decreases in water availability.

She outlined the advantages of using renewable energy sources. Research indicated that by 2030 energy wastage could be cut by 20%. It was not only possible to generate electricity from renewable resources, but it would be cheaper, the lack of pollution from coal-fired power plants would result in less air-pollution, create better health and create more jobs.

Immediate action could be taken to promote these. She noted that there was an immediate need for interdepartmental cooperation towards skills and investments. The Departments of International Relations and Cooperation, and of Trade and Industry, should start working together to attract investors. The Departments of Public Enterprises and Energy should start working out plans on how to direct Eskom to achieve the new aims. There should be a focus on development for women

Graphs and tables were presented to clarify issues of energy poverty and consumption, carbon reduction, and costs of renewable energy.

She outlined some of the achievements that could be reached over the next five years. The R
enewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) recommended that 10% to 20% of South Africa’s current electricity spending should be spent on renewables. This would kick-start the alternative energy industry, and build the economy. It was necessary to finance the education of women and girls, especially in rural areas

The workshop
was adjourned.


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