DUBAI: As Gender Day was observed on Dec. 4 at the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, female participants advocated for increased awareness regarding climate change’s acute impact on women, especially in the developing world.
Despite the extensive ongoing discussions surrounding the topic, numerous female participants expressed dissatisfaction, asserting that akin to various other facets of climate change, the gender gap has largely remained mere discourse. They highlighted that changes are unlikely to occur, even as the repercussions of climate change, particularly affecting women, continue to heighten.
Vinita Apte, founder of TERRE Policy Centre, a Pune-based NGO working with women living in rural areas, outlined the challenges climate change presents for women, particularly in India.
Apte spoke with Arab News on the sidelines of the forum, saying: “In terms of climate change, women are facing a lot of problems, especially with water scarcity, which is a major issue in their life because they have to walk for long (distances) just to get even a pot of clean water. Besides water, they have a lot of problems typical of climate change in terms of heavy rains or hot summers.”
She added that in the absence of training or outside aid, women, many of whom are illiterate, remain unaware of how to adapt to the current climate crisis.
“They don’t know what needs to be done, like changing farming patterns or how to conserve rainwater and also how to prepare for heat waves,” Apte said.
Naliba Mamman, from Nigeria, added that women, especially in rural areas, face several problems due to a lack of resources.
“For cooking, they need to arrange for fuel, which is mainly by cutting down trees in their villages. They need energy to run homes. They are also impacted in terms of farming, getting their produce to the local markets or getting their kids to school,” Mamman said.
The pain of women in developing countries is also being felt in other parts of the world where there is less gender disparity in terms of climate change.
“While in the UK, we may not feel any difference gender-wise, but it is recognized just around the world. And there are a lot of places, especially developing countries, where there is a massive difference between how climate change affects men and women. And so I think there are issues with the different kind of traditional roles that some women have in the community, like collection of kind of resources, water, food, that kind of thing, which can be more difficult in droughts and floods, that kind of situation. Also, the child care and family caring responsibilities fall mainly on the women, which again is, you know, in times of drought, climate crisis, food shortages, water shortages, illness, climate catastrophes, you know, that that’s an added pressure on kind of women as well,” said Rachel Mulholland, a British woman currently working in Saudi Arabia.
In certain nations, government entities, more so than multilateral bodies, have taken note of the issues surrounding women and have initiated action.
Habon Aden Awaleh of Djibouti highlighted that its government has already created a plan to help women adapt to the issues raised by climate change.
However, Awaleh revealed that for women from urban and rural backgrounds, there are implements in place to help lessen the impact of climate change. For the nomadic population, however, which is widespread throughout Djibouti, like many other African nations, the challenge is much greater as these populations are in transit, and therefore, delivering assistance becomes more difficult.
Celina Ewbuomwan of Nigeria highlighted that, like in various facets of the climate change debate, including the gender gap, the era of mere discussions has ended. She asserts it is now imperative to transition from talk to tangible action.
“This year, the whole thing is beyond ambition. We’re talking about action. So we hope that at the end of this, every country will take something back home and be able to implement that next year when everybody’s coming back again. There’s something we have probably a milestone that we say this is what we have done and this is where we are today,” said Ewbuomwan.
“Yes, the issue is there are so many beautiful plans, the issue is implementation, which is the challenge. We must have a timeline to achieve our goals. This year, the theme is ‘Unite. Act. Deliver.’ So, I would like to see some delivery on this issue,” said Mamman.