Climate change is expected to affect many sectors of the natural and man-made sectors of the environment in South Africa, and many of them are of particular relevance to the work and livelihoods of women. Women living in poverty are the most threatened by the dangers that stem from climate change. South African women are not immune to these climate change threats. In rural communities women are largely dependent on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods. Climate change will mean that the supply of natural resources will be threatened. Agriculture may become less viable.
As it is, in many regions of South Africa, particularly in the provinces of North-West, Limpopo, farming activities take place on the edge of survival. Even minor changes to rainfall patterns (especially coupled with increased severity of droughts and floods) threaten food security. Women living in informal settlements, specifically in provinces of Western Cape and Gauteng are particularly vulnerable to frequent extreme events like flooding. The annual flooding of the informal settlements in the Cape Flats is a case in point.
Therefore, GenderCC initiated a pilot project on Gender and Climate Change: Raising Awareness, Building Capacity, and Influencing Policy in January 2010. Focus areas were:
- awareness-raising on the expected consequences and risks of climate change;
- documentation of women's experiences of climate change impacts on agriculture, water, housing, fisheries and related livelihood issues, as well as
- feeding into the process of developing adaptation policies and strategies for local, provincial and national government.
Below you can find more detailed information on the three activities which were conducted within the project. For more information please contact Dorah Lebelo, coordinator of GenderCC-Southern Africa, and Focal Point Africa.
Together with other South African women’s and gender organisations, GenderCCSA has also been working on influencing a National Climate Change Response Policy which is still being developed. After information sharing sessions, strategy meetings and conferences a joint submission on the policy was presented. These efforts are showing to bear fruits as a recently released Green Paper on Climate Change now also mentions “gender” and “women”, thus incorporating some of the recommendations made by GenderCCSA and its partners.
In early February 2011 GenderCCSA published its Gender Review of the National Climate Change Response Green Paper 2010. Although the Green Paper presents a promising start to the long term process of dealing with climate change but fails to incorporate a gender focus. Gender-blind planning tends to assume that all people are equal and that the planning process itself is free of conflict.
Some of the key criticisms are:
- The Adaptation Scenarios discussed in the Green Paper need to re-frame the problem as being about human behavioural change.
- The Green Paper should not only recognise “the requirement of social equity and economic sustainability… “, but also specify that programs and interventions that arise from policy should be gender sensitive.
- The participation of women has to be expressly stated in the policy principles
Through a partnership with Malibongwe - a South African women’s development organisation- GenderCCSA held 14 workshops in Gauteng’s peri-urban and rural areas as well as in the Western Cape, with 13 to 150 women and youth participating. The majority of participants were unemployed and involved in volunteer community projects, or in the community development structures, and have formed struggling cooperatives mainly in agriculture, recycling, making clothing, etc.
At one of the workshops, fisherwomen in Ocean View, Western Cape shared their climate change related experiences at the sea, i.e. how some fish are migrating due to changing water temperatures. This often means that their fishing season has become shorter and they face the challenge of government regulated fishing quotas. The fisherwomen approached the government to ask for an extension of the season so that they could get good quality fish.
Due to fishing quotas, the women are not able to get casual employment between fishing seasons when they often have no other income. The fisherwomen lack a Pension Fund, Maternity benefits and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). There is a need to engage the government on how to integrate self-employed women into the system.
The workshops revealed that most of the participating women were unaware of climate change but had noticed the rapid change in temperatures, rainfall patterns, crop harvest, availability of natural resources including fisheries, etc. Their situation is further challenged by a lack of service delivery, frustration with local government politicians and officials, government policies and systems, as well as a lack of access to land and other amenities for income-generation activities. Many communities had high levels of poverty particularly in areas with a high rate of informal settlements.
Two workshop reports are available for download.
In 2011, GenderCCSA already started to carry out a second round of capacity building workshops. In Gauteng province, the focus will be on introducing income-generating activities related to Renewable Energies together with partner organisations (making hot boxes from fabric off-cuts and recycled polysterene containers; sale of solar cookers, mobile solar water heaters, solar home-lighting systems; Vesto stoves, etc). At the same time, GenderCC Southern Africa assisted women’s cooperatives in recycling and organic food production to scale up their operations by introducing processing of waste to make crafts using recyclables, grow and process herbs & medicinal plants, make dried and pickled vegetables, etc to be able to diversify their income.
In the lead up to COP17 in Durban, GenderCC Southern Africa organised a grassroots Women's Conference on Climate Change.
On 24 and 25 November 2011, over 50 women from South Africa and other world regions came together in Durban for the Grassroots Women’s Conference on Climate Change. The conference was jointly presented by GenderCC and the Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA) and was supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
At the conference, Gotelind Alber of GenderCC gave an initial overview of the UNFCCC process and climate financing. Following this, participants brainstormed their climate change-related experiences and challenges and came up with a number of key issues. Participants then broke into smaller working groups to discuss these issues – and corresponding solutions – in greater detail. A conference dinner was held at the end of day one, at which Dr. Yvette Abrahams – GenderCC Southern Africa board member and Commissioner with the South African Commission for Gender Equality – provided the keynote speech.
In the final session, participants endorsed a statement reflecting the discussions and outcomes from the conference. GenderCC presented the statement at its COP17 side event. The statement raises issues and demands in numerous areas, including:
- access to funding;
- good governance, transparency and access to information;
- education and capacity building;
- access to productive land and other resources; and
- participation and inclusion in policy and processes.