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“Climate policy needs gender sensitivity”
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“Climate policy needs gender sensitivity”

Fariya Abubakari photoFariya Abubakari, 25, a Correspondent from Bawku, Ghana describes the life of woman farmer vulnerable to climate change as she argues the need for gender sensitivity in climate change policy.

Kubura is an energetic young woman farmer from Binduri in the Upper East Region of Ghana who spends hours each day hauling water for her family, livestock and crops. She cooks for her families as well. She is a mother of six children and the bread winner of her family.

A widow, Kubura spends all her days and nights on the farm, which is the livelihood for her family. There was heavy rain in that community and Kubura thought it was a sign of a plentiful harvest and that their farms would be filled with happiness. But this hope soon faded because a sudden drought came and the sun beat down, withering up the crops. It lasted for two weeks, scorching the earth and leaving many trees naked. The water dried up in the streams. Kubura dug holes in her stream and a little water bubbled out but only for a few days. She had to carry water again to her farm. Watching the yam tendrils withering and the young roots rotting in the mounds was very painful for her. She asked herself “how am I going to fend for myself and six children?”

Women in Ghana are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as drought, floods and reduced food security. Compared to men, women tend to have lower incomes. Men can use their savings and economic independence to invest in alternative income sources or otherwise adapt in times of flood or drought, while in times of food scarcity women will often give priority to their husbands—his nutritional needs will be met before hers.

In Ghana, women walk farther during drought and spend more of their time collecting water and fuel. Girls may have to drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks, continuing the cycle of poverty and inequity. Changing climate also affects the health of crops and livestock, and women, who are often responsible for producing the food eaten at home, must work harder for less food.

Studies have shown that women disproportionately suffer the impacts of disasters, severe weather events, and climate change because of cultural norms and the inequitable distribution of roles, resources, and power, especially in developing countries.

Awareness of the differential impacts of climate change on men and women is increasing. In Africa, where women are responsible for most food production, unpredictable growing seasons and increased incidence of droughts and floods place women, their families and their livelihoods at risk.

However, women have knowledge and coping strategies that give them a practical understanding of innovation and skills to adapt to changing environmental realities and enable them to contribute to the solution. These strategies to deal with climate variability are still a largely untapped resource. Yet women are often faced with difficulties accessing financial resources and technologies. They are underrepresented in decision-making on climate change at all levels. This severely limits their ability to contribute to and implement solutions or apply their expertise in relation to climate change adaptation.

Research also shows that women are willing to change strategies in response to information and to make decisions that minimize risk. All these qualities suggest that when women are empowered, they can be extremely effective agents of adaptation to climate change. Even though women are disproportionately affected, they play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation actions.

It is increasingly evident that involving women and men in all decision-making processes on climate action is a significant factor in meeting the climate challenge and achieving long-term objectives. Women comprise a strong body of knowledge and expertise that can be used in climate change mitigation, disaster reduction and adaptation strategies.

A study on gender-differentiated impacts of climate change in Ghana is strongly recommended to obtain gender risk or vulnerability assessment in communities that are prone to climate change. It would form a basis for relevant interventions or scale-up across the country. Having a gender sensitive climate change policy is highly commendable in Ghana and other African countries.

photo credit: Women in Tamale via photopin (license)

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About me: I am from Bawku in the Upper East Region of Ghana, where I am the Country Coordinator of End Ecocide Ghana, a soil scientist and a climate tracker activist who writes about Ghana’s role in international climate negotiations. I am a graduate student of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and love researching, reading, writing and cooking.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response.
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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