30 August 2022

Dr Isaac Agholor has comprehensive research interests covering broad areas in applied hydrology, climate change, extension, poverty/ food security and sustainable rural resource management.

He notes that in most cases women are more likely predisposed to poverty than men because of limited access to basic human rights, cascading to the inability to move freely and acquire land, exposure to open violence occasioned by inadequate resources and marginalization, denial from participating in community decision making, and unequal allocation of community resources.

“For this unfortunate phenomenon, women struggle the most when changes in climate intensifies. Women are impacted by distorted environmental temperatures, abnormal heat waves, droughts, increases in sea levels, extreme cold and storms,” he says.

“As part of measures to mitigate the impact of climate change on women, the Paris Climate Agreement acknowledged that consideration should be given to respective obligations on human rights as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and fairness in resource allocation to women.

Further to this, gender inequality not only defines what men and women can do in the context of climate change but also hampers women’s capacity to develop resilience toward climate related events.”

UMPCaricature of African women carrying firewood.

Climate change is making it harder for women and girls to accomplish household chores with disproportionate workloads. The time and effort put in by women in household related activities, like cleaning, food preparation, childcare, taking caring for the sick and elderly, fetching of firewood and water are becoming an enormous burden in this period of climate change, continues Dr Agholor.

“In each passing day, droughts and extreme temperature burn off forests, and dry up streams and rivers in local communities – making women to travel long distances in search of firewood, water for cooking, cleaning, and managing home gardens. Women and girls in local communities also face the risk of rape while travelling long distances in search of water and firewood,” he says.

“This unwarranted phenomenon of household ‘labour’ not only exposes women and girls to danger but erodes their initiatives and potentials for a better life and becoming economically independent.”

Dr Agholor notes that other debarring factors working against women and girls in climate related events are the socio-cultural customs, societal values, and gender discrimination, which accounted for diminishing women participation in climate decision making.

In almost all communities, households are headed by males and in choosing who represents the household, the male is accorded preference as household head, because customs of the community prohibit females from taking headship roles where the men are available.

“This phenomenon reduces the chances of women participating in climate related decisions. Climate change is gradually wiping off the existing local resources in most communities, and gender-based violence is on the increase owing to inadequate resources in communities. The consequences of this manifest in fueling the rise of unscrupulous people to engaging in societal vices such as trafficking in women as sex slaves and labour exploitation. “

UMPClimate change adversely affects the availability of water resources.

Generally, women and girls are the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in these obnoxious human right violations. For instance, in Northern Nigeria, the terrorist group Boko Haram has over the years targeted not only girls in schools but able-bodied women who have been displaced by drought.

Climate change is a transgressor imbibed with an array of threats destroying the livelihoods of people, especially the less privileged women. There is correlation between climate change and poverty. For instance, a degraded environment occasioned by climate change deteriorates the available resources and livelihoods. Loss of livelihood transcends to lack and poverty, which ultimately causes hardship and a surge in violence.

Climate change undoubtedly exerts financial pressure on homes, families, women, and livelihoods. Vulnerable women and girls living in poverty face several forms of discrimination, and increased risks of violence. Evidence is bound, showing that less privileged girls are 2.5 times more likely to marry at childhood than those living in affluent areas.

“It is painstaking to learn that in mitigating the negative impact of climate change amongst rural households, distressed families have resulted in preparing their girl child for marriage at childhood as a coping mechanism and for financial gains.”

Dr Agholor further explains that climate change is a universal health risk that is underpinned by persistent gender gaps and inequality. Studies has proven that pregnant women are more likely to suffer hypertension, exhaustion, miscarriages, and stillbirths with higher temperatures.

“Mathew Chersich, a researcher at Wits University, found that “climate change heightens the pre-existing vulnerabilities of women in South Africa, fishing communities, rural subsistence farmers and those living in informal settlements.”

In conclusion Dr Agholor says the existing situation is frightening, but it is not all gloomy. Women have developed tenacity and are showing remarkable resilience to climate change. Most women are now leading climate action movements and championing sources of renewable energy.

“Also, the realization and recognition of the problems faced by women because of climate change are important. Policies that will redress the disparity in economic opportunities and resource allocation to men and women must be in place to allow women to develop sufficient resilience for climate change. In addition, the sustainable management of natural resources will strengthen community stability and thus reduce women’s vulnerability to climate change. The health sector should wake up to a greater leadership role in supporting polices aimed at advancing the country’s (South Africa) commitment to climate change accord.”

This is a review article by Dr Isaac Agholor (Pr. Sc. Nat.), PhD Agric, M.Agric; B.Sc. Agric (Hons); B.Agric (Hons) & Dip. Agric Education. Dr Isaac Agholor has comprehensive research interest covering broad areas in applied hydrology, climate change, extension, poverty/ food security and sustainable rural resource management.