Climate change and gender have an important link. The United Nations recognises that women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women. Women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes and labour markets compound inequalities and often prevent women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation. At the same time, women play a critical role in response to climate change due to their local knowledge of and leadership leading sustainable practices at the household and community level. Hence, there is a need to incorporate gender equality in the climate action agenda.
In Africa, women are one of the worst-hit by climate change. Climate change shocks are superimposed on political, economic, social and health shocks in some sub-regions such as the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and the Horn of Africa, straining the resilience of communities in general, and women and girls in particular. As such, it is imperative to incorporate a gender perspective in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) will take place from 14 to 25 March 2022. This year, the 66th Session of the CSW will be focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risks. It will also review the theme, ‘women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work’ and consider how recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be implemented in a manner that ensures gender equality and building a resilient future.
The Africa Union Commission (AUC), Women, Gender and Youth Directorate in partnership with United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment (UN Women) and the Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) convened the Africa Pre-CSW66 consultations that included sessions with experts and interest groups, whose recommendations were presented and considered at a ministerial session. Africa Ministerial consultations were held on February 28, 2022.
At the recently concludedAfrica consultations under the 66th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66), African countries adopted the Common Africa Position with a call to action to national, regional and global stakeholders to: 1) Fulfil existing commitments and obligations under the Rio conventions and the Sendai Framework; 2) Strengthen the capacity of national statistical offices and government institutions to collect, analyse, disseminate, and use disaggregated data to conduct gender analysis on climate change, environmental and disaster and risk reduction; 3) Provide capacity and technical support at regional and national levels to ensure that action plans on climate change and disaster risk reduction are gender-responsive and transformative; 4) Strengthen inter-governmental coordination mechanisms to foster joint strategies by gender machineries and environment ministries and 5) Invest in the protection of early childhood and take the appropriate practical measures, such as the building of community childcare, to free women and girls, most of whom are in the agricultural sector and highly exposed to the impacts of climate change.
At the African consultations, leaders from Africa highlighted the importance of including a gender dimension in addressing the climate change crisis. Sahle-Work Zewde, the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, underscored the importance of the theme on gender inclusion in addressing the climate change crisis, a phenomenon that continues to affect the lives of millions of African women who not only bear climate change and natural disaster effects but should also be consulted to add their voice in seeking solutions to the challenges.Dr. Mèdessè Véronique Tognifodé Mewanou, Minister of Social Affairs and Microfinance, Benin and Chairperson of the Specialised Technical Committee On Gender Equality And Women’s Empowermentunderscored the need for, national laws, policies, and strategic frameworks for climate, environment, and disaster risk reduction to systematically recognize and integrate the needs of women and girls and upscale gender-responsive implementation and financing, and address institutional barriers that prevent cross-sectoral integration between gender equality, disaster risk reduction, climate action.
Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission remarked that “ gender equality and women’s empowerment would yield greater returns to economic growth, and, more broadly, to sustainable development. Thus, it follows that incorporating gender awareness and gender criteria into climate financing mechanisms and strategies would likewise constitute ‘smart climate finance.”