Deputy Minister Maggie Sotyu. File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA

JOHANNESBURG - Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Deputy Minister Maggie Sotyu on Wednesday called on the environmental sector to be inclusive and to promote the meaningful participation of women. 

Sotyu was addressing more than 300 women attending the Women in Environment Conference in Boksburg. 

“This means we need to start in earnest to mainstream gender in education, and at the same time, integrate environmental issues into school curricula, where young girls are encouraged and motivated to become scientists, in meteorology, biology and botanic studies,” Sotyu said. 

The annual two-day conference brought women from across the country to deliberate on the role women can play in the environmental sector in South Africa, with a focus on climate change. The conference is convened under the theme: Women Leading 4 Climate Action. 

“As women are generally the providers of food, water, and fuel for families, changes in the climate and environment impact mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters directly. This means, there is a direct relationship between gender equality, women’s empowerment and climate change,” Sotyu said. 

She said this meant there would be a direct relationship between gender equality, women’s empowerment and climate change.

Climate change and natural disasters affected everyone, she said, adding that women were the most vulnerable in such catastrophic events. 

“It is a fact that most of all the vulnerable communities, women and girl-children are the most affected groups from the devastating impacts of climate change, especially those living mostly in rural areas bear the hardest and heaviest burden of these hazards.”

Sotyu said South Africa’s response to the challenges of climate change has taken a stronger and decisive commitment to promote the inclusion of women's voices in every aspect of sustainable development.  

"This commitment is reflected in the country’s national strategy towards gender mainstreaming in the environment sector," Sotyu said. 

African News Agency (ANA)