December 1, 2015

GENDER AND CLIMATE CHANGE; Minding The Gap In Decision Making.

By Omondi Okwany

Did you know that the world today is still a patriarchal society? Despite the efforts in science and interconnectedness, women in some parts of the world still suffer the most as compared to men. The Marxism theory projects that women are still in the periphery; “This school of thought holds that women are subjected and are properties of the patriarchal society”(Okwany, 2013). For instance, most decision making platforms, mechanisms and institutions are still dominated by the male gender. Considering the top political sits, women presidents and prime ministers are just a handful in numbers.  According to the feminist school of thought, the security of an individual is as equal as the security of the state; this theory grew from the end of cold war to address the issues of political, social and economic equality for women; this was the period of emancipation of the mind towards gender and improvement of women lives, (Baylis et al., 2013Pg. 259). Today there is much evidence that women stand to be affected the most due to risks brought by climate change like floods, sea water rising, diseases, droughts and climate refugees catastrophe.
DECISION MAKING ORGANS are the most fundamental way of achieving climate justice. Women are still subjected when it comes to various decision making institutions. It is shocking to say the United Nations (UN) has 193 state members(UNOV, 2015) and the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has 195 member states yet only 28 member states give women the right to own land/property. Since the UNFCCC entered into force in 1994 (UNFCCC, 2014), there was never any mention to gender not even in the outside events; nevertheless COP7 did call for gender balance, (Olson, 2014). It was until Conference of Party number 18 (COP18) which came up with gender day and the role women play in addressing climate change,  (Hemmati, 2005).
Women have been locked out when it comes to the science of climate change. “IPCC is providing the science base for climate related policy making. It would be very helpful indeed if they started to consider gender issues more systematically and thus provide a scientific basis for gender mainstreaming climate related policy”.(Hemmati, 2005).
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Women are not only vulnerable when it comes to climate change but also a tremendous agent when it comes adaptation and mitigation; considering the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) they are the third largest world market after China and India (Srinivasan, 2004). Women also tend to drive most of the house hold spending and decision making (Okwany, 2013); this is a huge power indeed that can influence policy formulation and conduct in realizing climate justice, yet they are still under represented in institutional processes like UNFCCC.  The Environmental Gender Index (EGI) did analyse 73 countries and found out that by 2014, women were highly represented at the NGO level and not governmental level at the UNFCCC
In comparison, men tend to take more risks than women; this gives them a stepping stone to decision making environments, (Jianakoplos and Bernasek, 1998). African Union (AU) has developed mechanisms like Committee of African Heads of States and Government on Climate Change (CAHOASCC), African Ministerial Committee on Environment (AMCEN) and African Groups of Negotiators (AGN) for building an African position towards conference of parties (COP). These mechanisms have low representation of African women. Considering the CAHOASCC, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (the president of Liberia) is the only African female. The 15th ordinary session of AMCEN held on the 2nd to 6th March 2015 was dominated by male environmental ministers.
ADAPTATION AND MITIGATION currently has 50 decision under UNFCCC. Adaptation takes the lead in gender inclusive language, mitigation has the fewest decisions and no guidance for directing gender sensitive actions; The Lima work Programme on gender is one of the milestone as far as gender work is concern (AN and NAMPg. 13). Currently the UNFCCC decisions addressing gender are 12 in adaptation, 4 in mitigation basically on REDD+, 8 in finance one of them being Green climate fund on gender policy, 4 in technology and 6 in capacity building (Burns et al., 2014). About 40% of the latest 128 decisions from the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) mentioned women and gender while 60% did not(Burns et al., 2014).    
LOSS AND DAMAGE projects that women suffer the most when it comes to climate change disaster and risk related issues. A study carried out in 141 countries points at evidence of gender difference in deaths from disaster are directly linked to women’s economic and social rights. “For every one man who died of disaster, four women died”, (Sudmeier-Rieux and Ash, 2009). Women’s rights are crucial. It is not only about climate change but climate justice, which is a moral concern.
Climate change leads to risks like floods, droughts and migration. The world poor face the risk of floods, drought and climate refugees; these population are mostly women, (Denton, 2002). In the global south countries like the African continent and India, women spend 40% of their daily energy in fetching water. Most of these developing countries depend highly on agriculture; risks brought by climate change affect women the most as they account for 80% in the agriculture sector (Denton, 2002).
Women are particularly susceptible to water-borne diseases. “About 50 million women become pregnant in malaria-endemic countries”, (Dellicour et al., 2010). An estimation of 100, 000 and 200,000 women and infants respectively die as a result of malaria infection during pregnancy, (Hartman et al., 2010). Poverty and dependency of rain fed agriculture put women at risk for they are mostly small scale famers.
ENERGY sector is also important in mitigating climate change yet the energy industry remains one of the most gender imbalanced sector in the world. The renewable energy investment reached $260 billion globally in 2014; this went up from $40 billion in 2011. In 2013, investment in renewable energy surpassed investment in fossil fuel and nuclear power. The renewable energy sector attracts more jobs than fossil fuel sector today (Kammen et al., 2004); and women still face the challenge in employment. Energy policies often leave gender consideration, while gender policies do not tackle energy. There is limited knowledge on how to address gender inequality in energy policies and planning. There is as well lack of sex-disaggregated data on energy to inform decision making. COP21 in Paris will cover a big step on the road to women in decision making on energy; the 7th of December 2015 will host a side event on gender and energy at COP21.
As the world gather in Paris COP21 to create international policies on climate change it is important to note that women are still subject when it comes to high level decision making yet they are mostly the implementers of policy. The science of politics puts it that there is a mutual relation between policy formulation and conduct, therefore implementers should and must be around the decision making table. A close look at the Paris outcome will be interesting for it will make history of our time.
Editor: Namboka Belinda


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