Cape Town - Communities will continue to bear the brunt of shifting and aberrant weather patterns as well as other climate change-related impacts until climate change adaptation talks translate to more inclusive action.
This was the overwhelming sentiment of delegates at a recent Climate Change Adaptation and Gender Mainstreaming Dialogue.
The dialogue was hosted by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the SA National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi), and the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) to look at South Africa’s response to climate change, with a gendered lens acknowledging that women and girls were affected by climate change in very particular ways which were exacerbated by existing inequalities.
Mandy Barnett, Sanbi spokesperson on Climate Change and chief director of adaptation policy and research, said: “Excellent adaptation strategies and implementation plans exist and are being rolled out. However, plans and strategies need to be more inclusive of the people most affected by climate change if they are to be impactful.”
The dialogue explored how South African women and girls battle the reality of climate change, from its effects on food production to water availability and housing reliance.
“While there have been many projects piloted and implemented in various districts across the country, there is a lack of integration and so women and girls – and especially rural women and their families – are hampered in accessing tools to help them manage and survive climate change,” she said.
Kulima Integrated Development Solutions director Katherine Vincent added that levelling out inequalities and involving women, girls and other marginalised people in decision-making was the best way to achieve gender and climate justice.
“Investment to shift social rules, norms and behaviours is essential to address structural inequalities and support an enabling environment for marginalised groups to effectively adapt to climate change,” she said.
DFFE climate change director Mikateko Sithole cited the Western Cape drought of seven years ago and the KwaZulu-Natal floods of April 2022, and said these events pointed to the very real survival struggle of thousands of people.
“When rainfall patterns change, people migrate. This leads to conflict in communities with established residents resisting migrants. It brings about a skewed economic landscape, loss of employment, and it places stresses and burdens on the resources of target communities,” Sithole said.