Monday, April 19, 2010

Mainstreaming Climate Change, Water Security and Gender

Mainstreaming Climate Change, Water Security and Gender
Daily Graphic; Monday, April 19, 2010; Page 26 (Features)
Delali B. Dovie

The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2008 Technical Paper VI on climate change and water, proposes a focus on water security as a basis for sound early adaptation strategy. The report highlights the importance of using water security in delivering immediate adaptation benefits to vulnerable and undeserved populations, towards advancing the Millennium Development Goals, while strengthening adaptative systems and capacity for managing climate risk factors. It is now known that warmer temperatures, and altered patterns of precipitation and runoff, will increasingly compromise the effective management of water resources and water supplies that could technically cripple water security, food systems and natural resources.

This is because water resources remain the major central tendency and hence crosscutting resource of the effects and impacts of climate change, vulnerability and adaptation. Similarly, it is expected that the vulnerability of water resources and challenges of water insecurity will impact society through gender relations, culturally, socio-politically economically and in decision making. Imbalances in gendered responses to impacts in health, hygiene and sanitation sectors as well as gendered conflicts and violence, will be experienced with complementary adaptative strategies.

These attributes have been found to largely charaterise the climate change and variability impacts status of the three northern regions of Ghana.

Water Security
Water security has been defined as, “the reliable availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods and production, coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risks.” Water security is not simply about the availability of water and accompanying declining supplies, but also about issues of access, use, ad safety. Fundamental human and national sovereignty rights characterize the access to water and imping equity and affordability where gendered dimensions are of critical importance.

Thus, the concept of water security imbibes social and political decision making on use in the context of competing demands. Therefore the issues of availability in the form of surface or ground water are physically and technically imposed as they become the immediate entry point, or exposure to climate change stressors.

The problems of gender often arise on access and use, determined mainly by political, social and economic factors. The impacts of climate change and variability will in no doubt play a major roles in changing physical and political economy facets of water resources and water.

Therefore, water policy needs to be more proactive and adaptable to social concerns of who has access and to what extent, and also who makes the decision. This means that with the changing face of the climate and hence water resources and water (demand and supply). Water policy must be targeted to avoid marginalization of certain vulnerable groups (e.g. women).

Impacts and Gender
It has been established that although the impacts of climate change and variability through water stress and insecurity will impact both gender, women will bear the most brunt. This is because research ash shown that historically, women have evolve their own livelihood strategies and coping mechanisms around water, thus establishing a cultural tie that if disrupted, will lead to devastating outcomes.

Additionally, the differential work of women, limited control and lack of tenure over production and diminished access to common coping mechanisms, as well as restricted mobility, amplify the impact of disasters for them.

Yet those deficiencies under normal conditions would have been expected to complement the role of their male counterparts. Therefore the environmental change science community on human dimensions foresees a scenario whereby once women are supported to develop their resilience in relation to climate change induced water insecurity, men and the rest of society will be better adapted.

However, policy and development interventions to make this happen will depend on information from the scientific community for which Gender Analysis or Gender Profiling have been used in recent times. Through such tools, compilation on some impacts on women have been revealed as:

1. Ensuing food insecurity and especially unavailability influences food consumption patterns that are often gender differentiated, favouring men and allowing more access than women.
2. In farming communities, the loss of assets and entitlements of women are a common phenomenon as they often failed to bounce back due to limited livelihood options.
3. In water-stressed and drought-prone areas, women tend to allocate more effort to domestic water collection as they will usually do and in the process, fail to balance the times and energy available for productive work, leading to the loss of income and thus often resulting in poverty.
4. Flood is one important aspect of climate change that has been established to increase the workload of women due to recovering and rescuing of assets, intense cleaning, resources mobilisation and maintenance in addition to the house chores. When this happens, it often leads to reduced opportunities available for productive work and at times women labourers may lose sources of paid work due to flooded fields.
5. Whilst mass migration as a result of climate change impacts (e.g. droughts) have been downplayed, a male out-migration puts added burden on women to mage assets including land whilst female out-migration exposes women to other forms of risk.
6. Increased incidence of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) related diseases have been reported among women during extended flood periods, especially the elderly as they eat less and drink less to limit visitations to public latrines due to deteriorated sanitation caused by water influx.
7. Extended draught years have also been found to far impact on school enrolment or retention rates of girls than boys as several hours are spent daily in search od water and food.

The enhancement of the adaptative capacity of vulnerable people, promotion of early adaptation action and laying the foundation for long-term investment infrastructure that respond to water insecurity within social contexts are important foe water security. These are expected to increase the resilience to climate change thus forming the basis for adaptation, planning and mainstreaming of other sectors’ policies in the water sector. It has been argued that among the shortcomings of development programmes on climate change adaptation are issues of gender and poverty, often captured as an afterthought or as seperate. However, their inclusion at project conception will permit integration in the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation.

It is important that programmes in adaptation take in consideration the differing needs of men and women and associated socio-cultural realities at all phases for effectiveness and sustainability. In addition, because women’s rights face violation in disaster processes, the assessments of differential and heterogeneous vulnerabilities across diverse demographic categories will be crucial.

In conclusion, the contextualisation of climate change within everyday interfacing geographies of vulnerability, ascertains the role of pre-existing, coupled human-environment systems of physical and social space that serve as basis for mainstreaming in policy formulation for adaptation.

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