Women speak on the disproportionate impact of a changing climate

Stockholm+50 consultations reiterate the need for a gendered lens when tackling climate change and biodiversity loss

Posted May 11, 2022

It has long been known that climate change and biodiversity loss disproportionally impact on already vulnerable groups in society. Those who suffer from socio-economic inequalities are for example also more likely to be affected by disasters such as droughts or floods. Women across Zimbabwe make up more than half of the agricultural labour force, yet they do not have equal access to capital, finance, equipment, or land (Zimbabwe Human Development Index 2017).

In addition, the GII for Zimbabwe, showing amongst other things women’s empowerment in terms of education and representation in Parliament and other decision-making bodies, indicates that women are yet to be fairly represented (Zimbabwe Human Development Index 2017).

That is why, the first Zimbabwe National Consultation ahead of Stockholm +50, an international environmental meeting that will take place in the beginning of June in Sweden, sought to hear from women and girls. Together with other subgroups such as for example youth and people with disabilities, women were invited to give their view on climate, environment, and biodiversity in Zimbabwe.

Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, from Tag a Life International in Zimbabwe highlighted how women and girls are disproportionally affected by energy poverty.

The direct impact climate change and environmental degradation has on women and girls was highlighted by Nyaradzo 'Nyari' Mashayamombe, from Tag a Life International in Zimbabwe. "In many ways, women are still the burden bearers of society” she said, referring to the double burden of paid and unpaid work expected of women. She continued to exemplify the issue by highlighting that in Zimbabwe, the gendered division of labour result in women and girls being forced to travel long distances fetching water and collecting firewood. A practice that is not only bad for the environment but also very time-consuming for women, taking approximately 5-10 h per day. The energy poverty in the country therefore affects women’s ability to for example accelerate their career, since they have fewer hours than men to spend on income generating livelihood activities and education.

Amy Ziyera from Saint Dominic’s high school in Mutare (middle) was one of the many young girls taking part in the discussions.

Many young women and girls, whose futures are at stake, also helped shine a light on important aspects to consider going forward. Some more indirect effects that climate change has on women’s and girls’ health were highlighted by Amy Ziyera, from Saint Dominic’s high school in Mutare. The increasing and fluctuating temperatures generally affect women and girls in a different way than boys and men from a medical perspective, since period-related challenges such as for example PMS are aggravated. “When I hear the word period, even in chemistry, I get chilles. Because I know the time is hell for me. The smell producing menstruation is smelly and strong when it’s hot. And trust me, it is hot here.” said Amy Ziyera.  

In many ways, women are still the burden bearers of society
Nyaradzo Mashayamombe - Tag a Life International

Amongst other issues highlighted was the importance of including women in policymaking. Conservation and environmental spaces are usually male dominated, and there is a need to fill the gap and ensure that girls and women are present at the table going forward. Including women might for example entail setting meetings at times that are sensitive to suit women’s schedules, keeping in mind the gendered division of labour. It was emphasised many times throughout the day that all stakeholders need to take social responsibility and make use of a gendered lens when creating and updating laws, strategies and jurisdiction going forward.

 

The Stockholm +50 National Consultations in Zimbabwe are some of the consultations and discussions with individuals, communities, organisations and governments around the world that are leading up to the Stockholm +50 meeting in Sweden. Stockholm +50 is a crucial international environmental meeting that will take place on the 2nd and 3rd June 2022, that seeks to commemorate the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment and celebrate 50 years of global environmental action. By recognizing the importance of working together in tackling the Earth’s triple crisis – climate, nature, and pollution – the event aims to accelerate the implementation of environmental-, climate- and biodiversity- related policy, internationally and nationally. In Zimbabwe, the National Consultations were designed to stimulate an inclusive whole-of-society and whole-of-government dialogue on the main themes of Stockhom+50 as they relate to the national context. Women and Girls were consulted as part of a group with Youth and People with Disabilities. Other groups consulted were NGOs, CSOs, Grassroots Organisations and Local communities, as well as Business, Private Sector and Academia. The findings from the consultations will be compiled into a national report for Zimbabwe that will directly feed into discussions and reports being produced at the high-level international Stockholm +50 meeting in June.