By Joanne Omang
WASHINGTON, June 8 – Women as the chief food producers and gatherers of the developing world are being strongly affected by climate change, but they have very little input into discussions of ways to deal with it, Women Deliver 2010 participants learned today.
Panelists considering women, population and climate change at this three-day conference agreed that greater access to family planning can help communities cope with the local impacts of planetary climate change, but that this approach is rarely – if ever – considered in international negotiations on climate change.
Shifting patterns of rainfall, flowering and fruiting times, insect and crop disease events and forest fires have disrupted traditional farm life, fodder yields and food harvests, challenging the survival of rural women, especially in tribal and indigenous groups, said Chhaya Kumwar of the Himalayan Action Research Centre. They may be exposed to violence during long walks to collect fuel and water; loss of animals means malnutrition and ill health, which raise maternal and infant death rates.
“Traditional knowledge is being threatened by climate change and we have no solutions yet for that,” said Lorena Aguilar, senior gender advisor at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Family planning can help reduce population pressure on the environment, said Leo Bryant, advocacy manager for Marie Stopes International: in Madagascar, where “too many fishermen were chasing too few fish,” a contraceptive education and supply program raised its use from 9 percent in 2007 to 38 percent in 2009, lowering the birth rate.
Women are generally receptive to education on better resource use, said Joy Nayiga of Uganda’s Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, but “we are shy about linking population control and family planning.”
Aguilar urged the audience to monitor climate change agreement talks and seek ways to point out that their implementation will depend on women’s actions and will greatly influence women’s lives. “From writing to action, there is a big gap,” she said.