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Building A Women Agency For Climate Justice: An Ecofeminist Perspective

Water Shortages

Women and other socially and economically disadvantaged groups absorb the brutal impact of climate change. This is largely due to deeply entrenched social roles and economic exclusion. In addition, whilst women bear the brunt of climate change, they tend to be the least equipped to deal with its impacts due to exclusion in decision making and policy formulation.

BY Roselily Ushewokunze

The intensity of these challenges vary from country to country, however, Zimbabwean women face aggravated challenges due to the continued downward spiralling of the economy, the negative effects of unpaid care work that have a bearing on the social and economic participation of women in key national processes and lack of comprehensive gender-responsive budgeting that addresses basic needs.

Food security, access to clean water, and shelter from extreme weather changes remain pertinent challenges of climate change.

Climate justice seeks to attenuate the burden of climate change. It is a human-centred approach that ensures the equitable distribution, conservation and stewardship of natural resources insofar as it is cognizant of the need for sustainable development.

Zimbabwe committed itself to gender justice and climate justice through ratification of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2015) and the African Union Agenda 2063 which among other goals seek to achieve enjoyment of equal opportunity between men and women as well as respond to the growing threats of climate change whilst ensuring that the burden and gains are equitably shared.

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The  United Nations reports that women make up 50% of the global population, furthermore, over 60% of the population living on less than one US dollar per day are women. As a result, Climate change leaves women disproportionately vulnerable to climate justice as compared to men.

Their vulnerability stems from exclusion, marginalisation and harmful social norms that are instilled throughout the socio-politico and economic stratum. It is imperative that the participation of women in climate justice be evident in the planning and implementation of climate strategies as this enables improvement and sustainability of outcomes. However, mere inclusion is insufficient in climate and gender justice.

There is need to harness a culture of change to shift institutional and cultural perceptions towards gender and climate justice.  This shift must start from grass root level and be channelled into national and global levels. This bottom-up approach ensures a holistic and amalgamated effort towards gendered climate justice.

Furthermore, climate justice efforts that are not gender justice-oriented can aggravate and perpetuate existing inequalities.

There is need for a shift in merely having numbers such as quota systems or allocating honorary roles for women participation, inclusion must go beyond the bare minimum and allow women to actively craft and engage in climate action strategies.

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There are opportunities to shift towards a green economy as a measure to reduce global carbon footprint. The International Labour Organisation (n.d) posits that such jobs can provide decent work for women, end poverty and reduce gender inequality.

Women exhibit unique explicit and tacit knowledge of the natural environment therefore they are a strong agency in climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. (ILO,nd.3) more so from an Ecofeminist lens, women and nature share an intimate bond which gives them capabilities to sustainably exploit the natural environment.

Financing climate justice must be gender-responsive due to its ability to promote climate justice efforts whilst promoting gender equality. According to the UNDP (2014) only 0.01% of global funding supports climate justice and women’s rights.

Gender-responsive financing for climate justice ensures that the needs of both men and women are equitably addressed and efficiency can be derived from ensuring that clear policies, monitoring and reporting mechanisms are in place so as to track the efficiency of the financing strategies.

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