We are all affected by climate but climate change affects rural women in unique ways. Africa emits less than 4% of the global greenhouse gas emissions yet is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts under all climate scenarios above 1.5 degrees.
Here are ways climate change affects rural women in Africa:
1. Extreme weather poses a serious health threat to rural women because it sharply decreases their access to basic health services and sanitary products.
2. During severe weather events, women are forced to leave their homes to live in overcrowded shelters where they are exposed to gender based violence and sexual violence.
3. During high temperatures, rural women have to travel further to fetch water and firewood that increases exposure to gender based violence.
4. Men relocate from rural areas to urban areas to find work. Women are left behind with stress and the burden of undertaking household duties, child-rearing and additional agricultural duties alone.
5. Rural women heavily rely on subsistence farming. Climate change manifests in increased temperatures and drought that leads to crop failure and premature death of livestock. This decreases rural women’s income.
6. Climate change sets rural women back. When disaster hits, those with financial resources, like insurance, investments and savings, bounce back faster. Women have less access to finances so it is harder for them to rebound.
7. Climate change decreases agricultural production that results in less food. Traditionally, women are the last family members to eat so, in tough times, they end up the most hungry in communities.
8. Due to physiological differences, the optimal temperature for men is 27.6 degrees while women have a lower optimal temperature of 26.7 degree. Climate affects rural women by decreasing their productivity and earnings.
9. Climate change, manifesting in high temperatures, increases rural women’s chance of getting sick. Rural women tending the field drink less water because they have less ablution facilities than men. This causes health problems such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and kidney infections.
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