Combating climate change by promoting inclusion of women

Daphine Machiri

CLIMATE change is undoubtedly one global threat of our times needing urgent redress. Climate action requires collective efforts and policies designed to enhance accountability and coordination for mitigation of climate disasters.

Natural hazards such as landslides, floods, land degradation, heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels and extreme storms have detrimental effects in relation to inter alia, agriculture and food security, biodiversity and ecosystems, water resources human health (poor reproductive health, mental health and infectious disease), settlements, migration patterns, energy, transport and industry.

Climate change is a planetary phenomenon impacting all people, but its effects are shaped by gender inequality which disproportionately affects women more. Therefore, it is important to make sure women are involved in the formulation of legislations on disaster risk management (DRM), as enunciated in the country’s Constitution and being party to the Sendai Framework, the CEDAW and many other international frameworks related to gender and DRM/climate change.

Whilst efforts have been made to implement these obligations, more still needs to be done, especially in setting clear gender targets in all priorities for action and to strengthen gender integration in DRM.

Women largely bear the brunt of enduring certain environmental and occupational risks of climate change. They are more likely to live in poverty than men. They have less access to basic human rights like the ability to freely move and acquire land and face systematic violence that escalates during periods of instability.

This makes women a critical human resource to mitigate climate change and drought, as enshrined in the Constitution and Regional and International Frameworks which contemplate and provide gender balances.

As climate change and extreme weather events affect men and women differently, women often suffer the most due to traditional gender roles. Stereotypes regarding women’s and men’s roles in DRM still prevail.

Women’s roles in disaster preparedness are clearly identified as more aligned to the household and family such as preparing food and care work.

According to United Nations, UN Chronicle titled “Women…In The Shadow of Climate Change” it states that, during extreme weather such as droughts and floods, women tend to work more to secure household livelihoods.

This will leave less time for women to access training and education, develop skills or earn income. In Africa, female illiteracy rates were over 55 per cent in 2000, compared to 41 per cent for men. When coupled with inaccessibility to resources and decision-making processes, limited mobility places women where they are disproportionately affected by climate change.

Hence developing climate resistant quality infrastructure taking into account different needs by gender and mainstreaming inclusivity is of utmost importance.

There is need for climate finance to take into account of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  To remedy this, there is need also on the government and international community to increase gender-responsive climate, environmental and disaster risk finance.  Improved efforts to promote women’s full participation and leadership in climate, environment, ocean, biodiversity and disaster-risk-reduction action and to strengthen their capacities through accessible training and gender-responsive policies and programmes.

Southern Africa has been affected by climate change in the past years with cyclones frequenting the region. Cyclone Idai of March 2019 has effects still felt today. It is this Cyclone which devastated Southern Africa including Zimbabwe pushing the country to revisit its disaster management frameworks.

However, the country has maintained a good pathway in dealing with disaster issues, hence President Emmerson Mnangagwa ’s commitment and political will to declare Cyclone Idai a national disaster and craft a disaster response strategy for sustainable development.

In addition, government also launched the Recovery Project and Post Cyclone Idai Emergency Recovery and Resilience Projects.

More so, the government is currently in the process of putting together a Disaster Risk Management and Civil Protection Bill whose principles were approved by Cabinet in June this year.

Nonetheless, efforts are being made in the country to tackle climate change and Zimbabwe being a signatory of regional framework African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), the principle on Chapter 9, on Political, Economic and Social Governance, Article 2 fosters participation and partnership with civil society organizations which saw ActionAid Zimbabwe hosting a two-day National Dialogue programme on climate change and humanitarian issues.

This programme brought together various stakeholders from government, parliament, academia, civil society organizations and UN agencies to share ideas and coming up with recommendations to government and other relevant stakeholders with a view to enhancing the disaster management legislation and policy framework.

Head of Programmes and Resource Mobilization at ActionAid Zimbabwe,  Andrew Chikowore said the objective of the national dialogue was to review Zimbabwe’s disaster landscape for the past 10 years, review existing domestic funding mechanism and allocations for the disaster management in the country and involvement and participation of special interest sections of the society such as women, youth and people with disability in disaster management systems and decision-making structures.

As the country grapples with the impact of climate change and its related humanitarian consequences, apart from climatic shocks two other interlocking shocks are driving humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe and these are economic challenges and the Covid-19 pandemic with related containment measures.

The bill is expected to address several legislative and policy shortcomings in the country’s disaster management system

Deputy Director Department of Civil Protection in the Ministry of Local Government Farai Hokonya acknowledged that the last five years have seen the country going through quite a number of hazardous events which include Cyclone Idai, Cyclone Ana, Covid-19, droughts and many other hazards.

“These disasters caused loss of life of many of our beloved citizens and have also left behind a trail of destruction of property, infrastructure and the environment leading to huge economic losses in the process.

“The Government of Zimbabwe under the new dispensation has taken cognizant of the numerous challenges that the above-mentioned disasters have posed to the various communities in the country. In a bid to build back better, the new dispensation, under the auspices of National Development Strategy One, embarked on a massive recapitalization program across the 10 Provinces, programs that included the Emergency Roads Rehabilitation Program (ERRP2), Meteorological Services Early Warning Systems, Dam Construction and procurement of fire tenders for local authorities amongst others have taken centre stage,” said  Hokonya.

He added that communication and consultative sessions are important in sharing information related to hazards in Preparedness, Responsiveness and Mitigation Plans.

“The Disaster Communication Strategy that has been crafted tries to create more platforms for engagements at all levels. The wide and crosscutting dialogues will assist the government in its bid to leave no one behind,” said Hokonya

He also extolled ActionAid, as a partner, in facilitating the National Dialogue for cohorts.

“I would like to really appreciate the incorporation of our youths, women and children and people with disabilities and Traditional Leaders in this Dialogue. They are the custodians of our national heritage, culture and the communities we save. Their involvement in disaster risk management enhances corroboration and cross pollination of ideas and strategies,” he noted.

Risk Disaster Specialist Dr Emmanuel Mavhura from Department of Disaster Risk Management Bindura University of Science Education applauded the government’s efforts in reaction to disasters, He echoed Mr Hokonya’s sentiments on the work being done by government, adding that there is need to promote a culture of disaster preparedness instead of waiting to respond.

“Women are an example of preparedness they do parental care, pregnant women they do not wait till on the day of delivery to buy what is required, but they prepare in advance hence this is what needs to be done if the country is to avoid hampering achievement of National Development Strategy 1, towards a prosperous and empowered upper middle-income society by 2030, Sustainable Development Goals, SDG number 1in ending poverty, SDG2: Zero hunger and SDG3: Good health and well-being,” said Dr Mavhura.

He added that there is need to incorporate private public partnerships which ensure that there is capacitation of communities to be resilient to disaster, enhancement of existing mobilization mechanism and ensure civic participation in the process of policies and legislative formulation.

Furthermore, recommendations which came out during the dialogue to expedite finalization of the DRM bill into Law is to make sure it will sink with the principles of global framework the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 considering being that Zimbabwe is a signatory.

It is time to proactively formulate and implement disaster recovery mechanisms, by including women and other vulnerable groups  in decision-making at local and sub-regional formal decision-making structures, such as in the Committees for Civil Protection (including rescue committees) and at different administrative levels of local and national government.

Considering also that youths constitute a larger population in Zimbabwe, the demographic dividend must be reflected in Climate Actions, Disaster Risk Management and decision-making process, youths must be a key pillar from design, implementation to monitoring and also people with disability should also be considered in the processes.

Strengthen existing funding mechanisms the country to come up with substantive budget percentage not to wait till disaster happens. Local Government authorities should also put certain percentage at most 5 percent from their budgets which they get from the government for preparedness, not only for response.

More over there is need to really make use of devolution funds in preparedness as enshrined in the Constitution Chapter 14 Part 1 on devolution of government powers and responsibilities Section 2 (a) it states that to give power to local governance to the people and enhance their participation in exercise of powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them and also according to African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance Chapter 9, Article 33 part 6, it emphasizes on equitable allocation of the nation’s wealth and natural resources hence decentralizing power to tackle response reaction and mitigation to national disasters. Also setting aside a certain percentage of Constituency Development Fund for disaster risk informed planning and infrastructure is vital.

Need to value structures at all levels, from village to ward level, their roles should be very clear. They should be capacitated to play their role in risk disaster management and all these structures should be gender mainstreamed cutting across all sectors, youths, not leaving out people with disability and children being the future of tomorrow hence leaving no one behind. Roles of traditional leaders, village heads which be clear as they are critical in disaster management civic participation contribution is critical as well.

Appreciate and incorporate indigenous knowledge systems are an important contribution to climate change policy, and Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate action, by observing changing climates, adapting to impacts and contributing to global mitigation efforts.

Hence there is need for more research and Support production and making sure the DRM policy will be translated into local languages and braille, private Sector- Risk Insurance, and also contribute to dialogues.

On knowledge management, there is need develop a database on disaster risk reduction. Information is still being managed at institutional level through sharing reports, minutes, newsletters, and email facilities. There is need for the department to have modern infrastructure that facilitates communication and networking between disaster risk reduction institutions and research places are suitable for human settlement or not.

Civil Society- facilitate or support unpacking the bill and educating the society, petition the parliament in case of delays academia, media publishing and facilitate awareness raising in different platforms.

To expedite the DRM bill Ministry of Local Government needs to fast track the bill for submission to the Attorney General and they should ensure follow ups with the Attorney General and funding support for the consultation processes.

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