GBV conspires with climate change against women, girls



MASERU – Violence against women and girls, along with climate change are said to be two of the most pressing global emergencies and sustainable development challenges of this era. Women are said to have a crucial role to play as agents of change in climate and environment action at all levels.

Their crucial role in agriculture and food production means that they feel the full force of climate change-induced drought and natural disasters, but have little say in how natural resources are managed. This is believed to limit their ability to adapt to or offset the effects of climate change, while making them more vulnerable to food insecurity.

While data is still scarce, emerging evidence suggests that climate change may be increasing the incidence of violence against women and girls, both in the context of acute climate-related disasters as well as during the slow onset climate events.

Climate change activist and women’s rights defender Mamosa Matheu said the impacts of climate change on women and girls in Lesotho are critical and far-reaching. She said they often bear the brunt of climate-related disasters such as droughts and floods, which lead to food insecurity, displacement and loss of livelihoods.

She noted that women and girls are more susceptible to waterborne diseases and face increased risks of gender-based violence in the aftermath of climate related disasters. Matheu added that there is urgent need to address the specific vulnerabilities and challenges faced by women. To effectively tackle violence against women and girls in the country, she firmly believes in implementing a theory of change.

She said: “This involves challenging social norms and beliefs that perpetuate gender inequality and violence by promoting education awareness advocating for policy changes and fostering economic empowerment where violence against women and girls can no longer be tolerated.”

Matheu also indicated that various strategies can be employed to combat violence against this group of people, and strengthening the legislative framework.

With a deep understanding that climate change does not discriminate, she also recognises the urgent need to address specific vulnerabilities and challenges faced by women and girls.

While there has been increased international attention in understanding and addressing gender-climate issues in policies and programmes, another human rights activist Rorisang Malimabe said the intersections between climate change and violence against women and girls have received much less focus than they should.

The 2020 report on tackling violence against women and girls suggests that there is a growing concern about the impact of climate change on child marriage and sexual exploitation. The reports indicates that when families are struggling to cope with food scarcity, girls may have to drop out of school to help secure food or water and child marriage may be used as a survival strategy.

“In some cases, where men have to leave home to seek income generating activities elsewhere, women and girls may be vulnerable to sexual exploitation, particularly as food becomes scarce,” the report states. It highlights that failure to eliminate violence against women and girls poses a serious risk to mitigation, adaptation and resilience-building efforts to combat climate crisis.

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