What are the links between Gender, Environment and Violence? The Provincial Mothers Union invited Rev Rachel Mash to address their consultation on Gender Based Violence to explore this topic.
- LAND AND FOOD
Women farm and produce most of the world’s food supplies, but own only 20% of the land. This means that women farmers are more dependant on rain fed agriculture. They also lack access to credit for irrigation, fertilizers, seed and capital. Because of social norms – feed the boys – girls are more likely to die of malnutrition in drought situations. Loss of biodiversity affects women more as – 80% of the total world wild vegetables used in food are collected by women
Households in rural Africa spend 25% of their time fetching water. This is predominantly seen as a girl’s task. Drought leads to longer distances to walk to fetch water, earlier starts and increases the risk of sexual abuse. Girls are more likely to drop out of school or be too tired to concentrate. Communal sanitation is a big risk for girls as they have to go out in the dark and risk sexual harassment or rape.
- FORESTS AND BIODIVERSITY
A Kenyan botanist said this ““The rural poor depend directly on the natural resource base. This is where their pharmacy is, this is where their supermarket is, this is in fact their fuel station, their power company, their water company. What would happen to you if these things were removed from your local neighbourhood?.” Kenyan Botanist Dr Stella Simiyu
Women benefit from the food and medication from forests to look after their families. A study in Sierra Leone showed that women could identify 31 uses for a particular tree, men could only identify eight. Men typically see commercial benefit from forests and have disproportionate access to commercialize the land.
There have been high levels of murders of ‘women and indigenous protectors of the forest ‘ in the Amazon in particular
72 percent of domestic chores involving water are done by women. If the water is polluted it puts them at risk. Underpaid women are at risk from cheap chemicals (cleaning) , pesticides and other toxic chemicals. There is a particularly high risk for pregnant and breastfeeding women
Waste – if there is no municipal pickup, women burn the waste releasing toxic fumes from plastic.
Four million people die annually from indoor pollution – mostly from cooking indoors over coal.
Predominantly the men catch the fish and the women sell it. A study on Lake Victoria showed that when fish stocks dropped, the women were at risk of sexual abuse to gain access to the catch. Sometimes gender roles are against women as for instance in Zambia where women are not allowed to paddle a boat
- CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change leads to a reduction in crops, either from drought or harvests being damaged by storms. Due to rise in temperature there is an increase in malaria which particularly endangers for pregnant and breast feeding mothers. With rising of sea levels, there is an increase in salinity – a risk in pre-elampsia. At the same time Bio-diversity loss means less plants for medication
70 percent of those who died in the Indonesian tsunami were women. Women were more likely to be at home when it struck, caring for children and the elderly. Men were at work – with transport, social media, in solid buildings and could respond faster. Culturally women wear clothes you cant run in, girls are not taught to swim or climb trees. Many women were caught in the tsunami because they were trying to help the vulnerable ones in their care.