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Climate Change Has Greater Impact On Women: Vuniwaqa

Climate Change Has Greater Impact On Women: Vuniwaqa
From left: Attorney-General and Minister responsible for climate change Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Climate Change Champion and Minister for Agriculture, Rural & Maritime Development & National Disaster Management & Meteorological Services Inia Seruiratu, Minister for Women, Children & Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa and Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau in Bonn, Germany. Photo: Office of the Attorney-General
November 09
13:43 2017

Climate change has a greater impact on women for several reasons—and not just Fiji or the Pacific, says Women Minister Mereseini Vuniwaqa.

Ms Vuniwaqa took part in a panel discussion on Gender and Climate Change on the margins of COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

Here, she highlighted how women in Fiji and the Pacific are impacted by climate change, stressing that in Fiji and most small-island countries in the Pacific many people rely significantly on natural resources for survival, which includes our ocean, forests, land, rivers, mangroves and reefs which are crucial for food security and our livelihoods.

“In Fiji, about one-third of people involved in informal economic activities such as small-scale and subsistence agriculture, forestry and fishing are women,” Mrs Vuniwaqa said.

“Women also make up a large part of the hospitality sector, whether it means working in the industry or supplying goods within the sector,” she said.

“So as climate change affects these sectors, it disproportionately affects women, most of whom are engaged at the very vulnerable edge of agriculture and hospitality.”

She said the world leaders must ensure that the needs of vulnerable people are not overlooked as we try to respond to climate change.

In the Pacific, she highlighted four major challenges.

 The first challenge is land tenureship. Gender inequality in the property field is widespread, in the Pacific.

“We know from experience that changing land law does not by itself eradicate gender inequality, particularly where such inequalities are caused by deeply entrenched structures or cultural biases. This especially is the case in the Pacific islands, where most land is held under customary forms of land tenure which are strongly patriarchal.”

The second challenge concerns human mobility.

“Climate-induced migration, whether internal or cross-border, is a complex and sensitive issue. It can also have dire consequences for women and for the protection of women. Climate-induced displacement is already taking place. When people are displaced, the burden of keeping family together and providing for the care of the children falls on women.”

She further highlighted that families are often separated as men have no choice but to seek work elsewhere and leave their families unprotected. This exposes women to physical danger, sexual assault and exploitation.

“So managing the movement of people and the tensions that can arise over competition for land, racial and religious differences, or the financial pressure on governments to host climate migrants is a challenge that cannot be understated. It is the women and children who will suffer most because that is the trend in virtually all displacements of people, whether for war or economic crisis or natural disasters.”

The third challenge has to do with investing in information.

“The Pacific needs to better understand how gender and social factors make people more vulnerable to climate change and less able to adapt to it.  We simply don’t have reliable information on what gender means within the context of climate change. We need to build the capacity of our own people in-country to know how to identify and respond to the ways climate change will affect men and women, and we need to coordinate and share information and experiences as we make progress.”

 The last challenge she discussed was about community governance.

“It will be critical to develop sustainable and resilient communities in the Pacific region. The remoteness of many islands, the limited accessibility within many islands, and some unique cultural structures argue strongly for community-based-protection. This is a complex issue that will require us to navigate some deep-rooted inequalities and develop innovative and meaningful community-based solutions to reduce risk.

“The fact is that climate and disaster risks cannot be fully addressed without understanding how gender and social structures and traditions contribute to the vulnerability of people and communities.

“Addressing climate change is fundamentally a human-development issue and needs to be considered from a development perspective.”

Edited by Karalaini Waqanidrola


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