Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Women and Climate Change in Nigeria

Climate change policies must consider gender issues and women's involvement for the advancement of world development. Knowledge of climate change’s irrevocable damage is becoming more common and widely shared. In spite of this many of us are still stuck perceiving climate change as an environmental issue, distancing ourselves from the fact that we are completely dependent on the environment. Just like any other species, our survival is jeopardized by environmental degradation. It’s time to see climate change as what it essentially is, to us – a human issue. More than that, a human rights issue.

As the damage and depletion of the planet accelerates dangerously, the distinctly gendered repercussions of climate change are coming to the fore. Beyond the impact on all human beings, climate change is distinctly linked to women’s rights and gender justice, and is an urgent global issue that needs to be framed with attention to gender, due to its exacerbation of pre-existing inequalities.

As an Oxfam publication points out, “Climate change is not happening in a vacuum, but rather in the context of other risks, including economic liberalization, globalization, conflict, unpredictable government policies, and risks to health.” Although climate change reflects great injustices for both women and men, posing an increased threat to those suffering from poverty in developing nations – those who have ironically contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions – 70 per cent of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty around the world are female, according to Oxfam.
In Nigeria recently, I was involved in Building Nigerian Response to Climate Change (BRNCC)  project on "Assessmnet of Gender knowlegdge and Awareness, vulnerability and adaption strategies to impacts of climate change in Northern Nigeria" by Women Environmental Programme (WEP). I traveled to Kebbi state in North Western Nigeria on a field work based on the projecta and I got first-hand information on climate change vulnerability and impact on Women folks.  A male-dominated society like Nigeria, women also do most of the agricultural work, and are therefore affected by weather-related natural disasters impacting on food, energy and water.

From work in both drought prone and flood prone regions of Nigeria one of the consequences of climate variability one observes is the out migration of most of the able bodied male members.  The issue of climate refugees has been discussed at various levels but empirical data on its nature, social and gender impacts is perhaps inadequate.  

While we have been talking about the feminization of agriculture for some years, increased climate variability appears to be contributing to its pace and intensity.  This has implications on food productivity, land use policies, extension approaches, farm investments, our approach to farm mechanization etc.  As an example, small power tillers powered by bio diesel have been tried out in Kano and women find them very useful.  The reality is that now it is largely women who do agriculture and the approach of `Women extension workers’ as an adjunct to a male dominated service needs to be completely reviewed. 

Unfortunately women find a very small space in climate negotiations. Even when they are in such forum they get a 5 minute space to add some `colour and diversity’.  The serious business of negotiations and financing CC Adaptation & Mitigation is still the premise of hard nosed business men.
 Cycle of deprivation??
As a social development issue, climate change is pertinent to women’s equality.Our collective interaction with the environment affects every aspect of our existence as humans, so it’s crucial to explore how gender equality will be factored into the discussion as we move forward. The current climate crisis reflects issues of women’s disadvantage, such as access to resources and domestic responsibilities, and underscores the need for the inclusion of gender-based analysis in environmental problem solving and policy development.
We’re endangering our very survival by failing to curb limitless economic development, industrial expansion, insatiable use of resources, and the effects of global warming.

This estrangement from nature that allows humans to feel impervious is especially true of those of us who are far removed, in terms of geography and wealth, from the immediate consequences of global warming.

Climate change is no longer debatable; it is an undeniable fact. The time for governments and the international community to act is now