By Florence Onyango Kadenge
The Covid-19 pandemic has this year curtailed many of the activities that accompany the celebration of the International Women’s Day. This is, therefore, an opportune time not only to take stock of women’s socio-cultural and economic achievements but also the challenges that they encounter in their bid to actively participate in the developmental agenda.
The theme, ‘Choose to Challenge’ transcends the patriarchal tendencies that relegate women to retrogressive gender-constructed norms and addresses other urgent concerns such as climate change that continue to test women’s resilience.
It is becoming more apparent that the 21st century will be dogged by the problems of climate change, ecosystems degradation and pandemics such as Covid-19. These problems tend to be non-linear, lack definite solutions and, therefore, require a higher degree of social intervention.
There is a need for a wider spectrum of the society to use science to find short-term approaches as long-term solutions are sought. This transdisciplinary strategy must amplify the voice of women as climate change directly affects them. It should incorporate their knowledge and lessons learnt through these experiences.
Women experience acute and differential impacts given the accelerated pace of climate change. In Africa, the effects are manifested through extreme weather such as drought, floods, and excessive heat that have profound effects on economies and the socio-cultural facets, with women bearing the brunt of the consequences. These impacts are exacerbated by existing social inequities and inequalities.
Fortunately, women are a repository of knowledge gathered through experience and their unique role in agriculture, food security and other forms of livelihood. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that 70 per cent of Africans derive their livelihood from agriculture and women constitute over 60 per cent of this labour force. These experiences and knowledge can be harnessed for effective adaptation for the continent’s benefit.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports (AR) continues to underscore the need to strengthen climate adaptation for humanity to remain resilient to climate change disasters. In its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the IPCC points out those adaptation strategies that can and should strengthen livelihoods, enhance wellbeing and human security, and reduce poverty.
It also emphasizes the ‘no regrets’ or ‘low regrets’ measures such as increasing access to information and resources as being more effective irrespective of changes in climate.
While adaptation may offer the most immediate way to manage the effects of climate change, there are constraints and limits that require concerted efforts for the objectives to be achieved. According to the IPCC, adaptation constraints are factors that make it harder to plan and implement actions. A good example is lack of resources such as funding and technology.
Adaptation limits hinder actors from realising their objectives or the systems are unable to secure intolerable risks. Adaptation limits can be hard or soft. Hard adaptation limits are beyond manipulation. Soft limits are flexible in that they can be achieved through applied transformational strategies. Such tactics may involve a change in attitude, innovation, or availability of requisite resources that women have no access to. Investments in research and development or funding are also a way to address soft limits.
The IPCC synthesised reports have necessitated the development of literature that illustrates paths to enabling conditions for adaptation and how constraints can be minimised. More of such development is critical to widespread and successful adaptation outcomes.
Among the enablers are collaboration and contributions of countries and regional institutions to address adaptation challenges. Institutions such as Partnership for skills in applied Science, Engineering and Technology (PASET) provide these opportunities without gender bias.
Some PASET priority areas are research, innovation, technical and vocational training relevant to Africa’s development challenges. Through its flagship programme, the Regional Scholarship and innovation Fund (RSIF), PASET, with the support of the World Bank and other African countries, boosts research through scholarship to students researching on various challenges in Africa, including climate change.
Any efforts that enhance the ability of women to secure their existing objectives by overcoming constraints and soft limits should be lauded. Through the availability of resources from other levels of governance, adaptation planning and implementation can largely be achieved.
Kadenge is a research student at the Institute of Climate Change Adaptation of the University of Nairobi
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