Our human potential is limitless. Even so, having potential is not the same thing as actually doing something with it.
Unfavourable effects of climate change ranging from extreme weather conditions such as drought, floods, hurricanes, landslides as well as continued degradation of the environment continue to affect the entire human race. These effects result in water and food shortages, biodiversity and ecosystem loss and change in migration patterns. This in many ways lead to Human-Wildlife conflicts and/or Livestock – Wildlife conflict and poor human health. Yet, in most instances, there is always the story that is less told.
Women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men are. In developing countries, women are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources (biomass). Currently, most of these resources (firewood, food, water and medicine) are threatened by climate change. My grandmother will still use her three stone kitchen even though she has a better alternative. Her smoke filled kitchen always leaves me in tears (forced) whenever it’s in use. This may be a lifestyle she has developed since the day she could walk and a sign she is not the only one. In rural Africa, firewood is the main source of fuel. Without this, many do not have affordable alternatives as this source of fuel is collected from nearby forested areas. As we continue to deplete our forests, it becomes difficult for women, who source for the firewood, to be able to use it or even have to access it.
Well, some will argue there are many alternatives to firewood and charcoal. Using this source is also detrimental to the health of the women and even to their children. For a long time, women have carried bulks of firewood on their backs for long distances to feed and warm their families. Yes, we have alternatives such as biogas, solar and energy-saving jikos. This sources of energy are in most cases costly. Expecting every rural household to use these sources may seem next to impossible. A lot of effort needs in implementation to able to in achieving clean and affordable energy as wholly highlighted in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7. Their health and even their families’ health which is constrained by continuous exposure to toxic carbon fumes due to the use of an open flame from the firewood will also be reduced. Achieving this will ensure the women in Africa’s rural and less privileged areas can be able to live longer lives to sustain and provide for their families.
When we conserve our natural habitats, we are able to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
When a nation experiences drought, few will understand the impact this has on women. In rural Africa and even urban areas, women and children fetch water from very far distances. In some cases, this is not clean drinking water. Drought increases the distance of access to water. Water is important in our daily lives. Lack of water reduces sanitation leading to diseases and death which could have been prevented. With SDG 6 focusing on Clean Water and Sanitation, access to this commodity is key. When our rivers were ever flowing, it was easier for women to go to the nearby river for water.
Today, with permanent rivers now becoming temporary, women have been forced to go far distances to get water, spending a lot of time hauling water instead of spending time with their families. In some instances, this poses a danger to the women in areas that experience clashes. Yes, we have community boreholes making it easier for women access to water. But with continued forest destruction, our water table is slowly reducing.
Heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts, which are effects of climate change, lead to increased morbidity and mortality and occurrence of infectious diseases such as cholera, malaria, dengue fever, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and diarrhoea. These have increased due to an extension of risk zones geographically. For instance, rising temperatures have hastened the lifecycle of the malaria parasite and resulted in larger malaria-prone zones. All this are likely to intensify women’s primary caregiving role to their family and community members who are ill, hence less gratifying time with those who matter to them.
I believe in freedom. Having the freedom to be able to do what you want to do. The freedom to choose us. The freedom to be who you are meant to be without limits or constraints. These limits progress not only at an individual level but also at the society level.