Speakers describe their bitter experiences, offer suggestions for UN climate talks
CLIMATE CHANGE is tied in with wayward development and even gender injustice, representatives of communities on every continent affected by adverse climate phenomena said in Bangkok yesterday.
The remarks came at a People’s Hearing on Reparations, Justice, Human Rights and System Change being held on the sidelines of international negotiations taking place at the United Nations Conference Centre.
The speakers described their bitter suffering due to environmental and social problems stemming from climate change and discussed suggestions to be made at the climate conference.
Speakers stressed that the issues of climate change was interrelated with the oppression of women and competition over land and natural resources resulting from irresponsible development.
Powerless people living on the margins in underdeveloped countries were the most vulnerable population group, they said.
It was agreed that sustainable climate-change mitigation could be achieved by halting investment in fossil fuels and ensuring that women and local communities can better adapt to conditions caused by the changing climate.
Mela Chiponda, a gender and environmental activist representing the group WoMin Zimbabwe, said climate change could not be discussed separately from gender inequality and social injustice. She said that, based on her experience campaigning for women’s empowerment and natural-resource conservation in Africa, the problems were interconnected.
“In Africa, women are the ones most affected by the impacts of climate change because we are our families’ food providers,” Chiponda said. “And our food doesn’t come from supermarket but from the fields where our parents and ancestors grew food for many generations.”
She said Zimbabwe in particular was among corners of the earth already heavily affected by climate change, which has taken a heavy toll on poor farmers.
The Global Climate Risk Index developed by Germanwatch ranked Zimbabwe second among countries most affected by climate disasters in 2016. It faced record-breaking heat waves and acute agricultural losses at the beginning of that year, followed in the last two months of the year by massive precipitation triggered by tropical storms, causing extensive flooding.
Chiponda noted that Africa is rich in natural resources, especially fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil. As a result the continent has been a prime target for wealthy nations since colonial times, leaving its citizens suffering amid land grabs, a polluted environment and social injustice.
“The people of Africa are not only facing trouble from climate change,” she said. “They also have to pay a heavy price in terms of their environment, health and livelihood from coal mining, oil and gas extraction as the transnational conglomerates make even larger profits from so-called ‘cheap’ fossil fuels, which in turn make the global climate even hotter.”
African women are thus finding it harder to feed their families and coming under greater pressure in their male-dominated societies.
Vidya Dinker of the Indian Social Action Forum said her country was experiencing much the same. Climate change had directly hurt women in traditional fishing villages along the southern coast, she said.
“Indian women also have an important role as food providers for their families. In the past, when the sea was bountiful and the environment pristine, food was very easy to find in these small fishing villages – the women could just fish on the beach and they’d get enough for the whole family.
“However, the extreme weather and ocean pollution have largely diminished fish stocks, making it difficult for women to find food for their families and forcing the fishermen to go further out into the sea to make a catch.”