Women said more vulnerable to climate change

In The News Now

Monday, July 14, 2014

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THAT climate change poses great risk to Jamaica is no longer debatable, but a recent publication designed to make the link between climate change and gender shows that women are more vulnerable to the impact of natural disasters such as hurricanes.


The publication, the seventh in a series of works done by the Institute of Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) at the University of the West Indies, Mona, in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, also finds that farmers are at increased risk as well.


The series contains the edited collection of undergraduate student papers and is intended to inspire the students to contribute to sustainable development by adding to the body of research on climate change and analysing how climate change impacts people's livelihood and survival.


"It also promotes awareness and action to mainstream gender in climate change and disaster risk management policies and programmes," said Dr Leith Dunn who heads the IGDS at Mona.


Coreen Stephens, one of the contributors to the publication, noted that policies need to be put in place to address the specific vulnerabilities and needs of both males and females. She pointed out that females with no male partners generally have to rely on men in the community for help during periods of natural disasters. Women are often the ones collecting water and securing personal property for relocation if this becomes necessary, while men busy themselves with cutting branches and trees, fixing the roof and making sure the animals are safe.


"Among the challenges women face during the hurricane season is deciding whether or not to relocate from their home to a shelter, and whether they have available resources to prepare for the disaster," she said.


Natural disasters often make young girls and women vulnerable to sexual exploitation as they try to meet their basic needs during the recovery period. Pregnant women, nursing mothers and single parents are also more vulnerable than the wider population and as such, Tsahai Thomas suggests that, " There is need to ensure that the components and distribution of aid are planned in ways that are gender-sensitive and that respond to those who are most vulnerable and most at-risk".


Both male and female farmers are placed at increased risk during natural disasters. When there is a hurricane, for example, males are often expected to stay behind and protect the family's livestock instead of moving to a shelter with their other family members.


"Farmers face the possibility of losing livestock and disposing of their remains. After a disaster, both sexes are likely to have worked in recovery efforts which are likely to reflect a gender division of labour," noted Joshauna Small.


Men are also more likely to take greater risks during hurricanes as is the case with those who live along coastal areas, and they often disregard warnings to stay away from the coastline in their quest to continue their livelihood so that they can provide for their families.


Apart from hurricanes, water shortages and droughts are also consequences of climate change which impact the poor and vulnerable within the society. Women and children in rural areas often find themselves having to go in search of water for domestic use.


"Women in general make up a large number of the vulnerable in communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources to survive," said Tesi Scott.


"As males and females are affected differently by climate change because of their unequal social, economic and political situation, policies to reduce vulnerabilities and risks associated with droughts must consider gender to meet the various challenges," he said.



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