ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan has said that women, who constitute the majority of the poor, are among the most vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of climate change, particularly in developing countries like Pakistan. Yet, he said, their role was vital to find solutions to such impacts.
In a statement that coincided with the International Women’s Day on Sunday, the minister called for recognising women for matchless value of their role so vital to achieve socio-economic development goals.
He said climate change would affect women and men differently because of their different roles with regard to use of water.
Mr Khan said women generally assumed primary responsibility for collecting water for drinking, cooking, washing, hygiene and raising small livestock. On the other hand, men use water for irrigation or livestock farming and for industries.
“These divergent roles mean that women and men often have divergent needs and priorities, as far as water use is concerned. This knowledge is quite significant in the context of climate change.
“For instance, in drought-prone areas affected by desertification the time consumed by water collection will increase as women will have to travel greater distances to find water.
“But this is the time that could be spent in school, earning an income or participating in public/economic life. Walking long distances to fetch water can expose women to different health issues.”
The minister observed that women tended to be under-represented in the decision-making on climate change at all levels in the country.
“This severely limits their ability to contribute and implement mitigation and adaptation initiatives for fighting negative effects of the rapidly changing weather patterns,” he said.
“Women are predominantly responsible for food production, household water supply and fuel wood collection for heating and cooking. We cannot, however, afford to keep them (women) off the processes of planning and policy and decision making meant for tackling devastating impacts of climate change on different sectors of economy, particularly agriculture, water and health.”
Mr Khan asked the country’s planners, policy- and decision-makers to ensure that women were equally part of these processes so that their say was adequately reflected in the planning and decision-making processes aimed at building country’s climate resilience through mitigation and adaptation plans in all socio-economic sectors.
He called upon women and gender experts to ensure that they were well informed about the gendered dimensions of climate-sensitive sectors, particularly the existing inequalities between men and women and how climate change could exacerbate these inequalities.
The minister observed that being important natural resource users women had gained knowledge that gave them a practical understanding of innovation and skills to adapt to the extreme weather events as well as to contribute to the solution. But their knowledge to deal with climate risks or variability on their own remains largely untapped resource.
He called for utilising the practical knowledge that women owned for boosting country’s climate resilience and making them key stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processes for dealing with vagaries of climate change.
He said women were often grappled with difficulties when it came to the general accessibility of financial resources, capacity-building activities and technologies required for building climate-resilience or coping with climate-change impacts.
“This often proves to be the roadblock in the way of women’s empowerment in general and their role in relation to climate change adaptation and mitigation in particular.
“Women are very vulnerable, and are most likely to be disproportionately affected by the adverse impacts of climate change because they constitute the majority of poor people.”
The minister emphasised that one of the most pressing issues of the present time, ‘the climate change’, had a range of consequences from the exacerbation of poverty to the collapse of infrastructure, to the loss of environmental, political, economic and social security.
Published in Dawn March 9th , 2015