Fact: Climate change increases social inequalities

Here are the facts. It is widely known that the effects of climate change are not evenly spread out between countries and regions.

Here are the facts. It is widely known that the effects of climate change are not evenly spread out between countries and regions.

For example, my lovely Africa is responsible for only 3.8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, yet it is one of the regions suffering most from the devastating impact of climate change.

The impact of climate change on the poorest nations on Earth will make them still poorer while at the same time widening the societal divides between men and women. For instance out of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty worldwide, 70% are women.

Due to their restricted access to information and resources as well as their limited involvement in decision-making procedures, women are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

Due to the division of labor and the already existing social discrimination, women and men are not equally exposed to the effects of climate change.

In sub-Saharan Africa, women are responsible for 70-80 percent of household food production and other home-related chores.

With local natural resources become scarce due to extended drought or flooding there is much evidence to suggest that in parts of the world these activities are now taking much more time.

Under the current scenario, women have to work more in order to ensure the food supply of their household and therefore have less access to education.

In this vicious cycle, social inequalities increase to the detriment of women
Research shows that the existing economic and social inequalities between women and men lead to more female victim during natural catastrophes.

Women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die during a disaster. During the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, 65 percent of the victims were women.

The figures in Chile or Haiti speak volumes too. Under the current scenario, the impact of climate change will in the long run contribute to an increase in social inequalities.

In other words, due to their role in society, women in developing countries are the most vulnerable to environmental degradation.

Due to their role in societies and the tasks they fulfill in their community and family, women can contribute to the political debate with valuable experience. Their knowledge is crucial to adapting more effectively to climate change.

It is also a necessity to take into account the specific life situations and needs of women when designing climate change and environmental policies.

There is another good reason to include women into the debate. Not only are they the providers of households and vital actors in agriculture, they are also the ones who will have to work with the renewable forms of energy such as biomass, biogas and solar, necessary in order to tackle climate change.

More importantly, as mothers and educators they have a crucial role to play in the promotion of behavioral change in economic and societal activities.

Despite their valuable knowledge and fundamental role in society, women are not sufficiently represented in decision-making procedures on climate change.

Hence, their experience and needs are almost completely absent from the political debate. This is a situation which must change.

In order to put the gender dimension on the agenda of environmental policies, women need to be consulted, informed and involved in the climate change debate, at the local, national and international level.

Emmanuel Nyagapfizi is a Management Information Systems manager