But what about climate change? While not all disasters are related to climate change, (e.g. earthquakes and volcanoes), between 1995 and 2015, 90% of major disasters were caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heat waves, droughts, and other weather-related events. And evidence shows that these extreme events are linked and made more severe due to human-induced climate change, magnifying poverty and inequality, bringing the most severe impacts to countries and communities that have contributed the least to it.
Disasters can happen at any scale. And although it is the large-scale, sudden-onset disaster that receives the greatest attention in media and from development and humanitarian action, the small-scale, slow-onset disaster is often months or years in the making — the confluence of multiple events, hazards and human activities. The slow-onset events should be easier to address through interventions and prevent through bold changes in policy and practice. Doing so requires an understanding of the inequitable distribution of power and resources and a willingness to begin to redistribute those resources.
In addition to collection and analysis of baseline and quantitative data in affected areas, analyzing the multiple factors causing slow-onset disasters like drought is critical to be able to address them. It requires direct consultation with women and girls on the ground. The connection between work happening at the grassroots and global levels is critical. People who are most affected by environmental degradation know much better the impacts and potential solutions.
WEDO’s recent work in the Dry Corridor of Central America illustrated the complexities of slow-onset disasters like drought, in an area where the El Nino phenomenon together with years of low or unpredictable rainfall has eroded water and food security, devastating basic food supplies and driving many people to migrate for work (often temporarily, sometimes internally and sometimes internationally — a risky undertaking for many). Many interviewees reported they had too few resources to even attempt to migrate. Recognizing the bleak future of community farming, a young couple chose to send their child to the city for an education unavailable in their village, while they remain in the community themselves and lack resources to visit. At the same time, environmental degradation, land concessions and poor governance has exacerbated the climate impacts the region is experiencing.
Women tackling climate change
Together with restricted access to land and resources, to education, to health facilities, to decision-making spaces and the gendered division of labor, these amplify the negative impacts on women. Women have to wake at3amto wait on line at the existing wells; if wells are not available, they walk hours each way to find a clean source of water. Many wake long before dawn to make tortillas before getting the family ready, then work in the fields all day before returning to prepare dinner. Women heads of households more often rent than own land, and the rented plots of land are several hours’ walk from home or a long distance from a reliable water source. These coping mechanisms by women are not sustainable. Women have comprehensive ideas, but those require strategic interventions and coherent public policy as called for in both Sendai and the SDGs, along with funds to implement and monitor.
In some cases, efforts to bring renewable energy have negative consequences that can exacerbate drought conditions. One solar farm near Choluteca, Honduras, was built near a community without proper consultation. Trees that maintain the soil and water table were cut, the low-cost energy is being exported rather than locally available, and local people report health issues. Indigenous women are risking their lives to protect their rights by defending their territories, health, and way of life in the face of large hydropower projects that disrupt biodiversity and bring displacement. While there is sometimes nominal compensation offered, it is not enough to build a new life or accompanied by public services, and the land, traditions and environmental loss cannot be given a monetary value.
While socially constructed gender roles can enhance impacts of negative environmental change on women, those roles also put women in a position of having a unique perspective on creative and appropriate solutions. Addressing complex issues that cause environmental problems must incorporate women’s human rights to avoid increasing gender inequality and violence against women and to secure sustainable development for future generations.
In addition to working as environmental and human rights defenders, women lead community projects such as seed banks for locally appropriate seeds, form cooperatives to build capacity and amplify their efforts for agriculture, education and policy change, devise water harvesting projects, and often collaborate with local or national NGOs. But resources are few, so many of the ideas are not fully implemented.
We call out to governments to step up action on gender-responsive implementation of Sendai and the SDGs and to work with women’s and feminist groups to increase women’s leadership and make women-led solutions visible. Diversity in leadership drives better policy and effective action. Drawing on women’s experience, incorporating women’s human rights and supporting implementation of their solutions will contribute to the prevention of disasters and addressing root causes of disaster risk — and drive progress on gender equality.
Source: Clean Technica | 11 November 2018