Climate Change in Eswatini
Environmental issues are of great concern to women in Africa, and specifically in Eswatini, for several reasons. Women in this region are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation and climate change, as they are often the primary caregivers for their families and are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. This dependency on natural resources, combined with gender inequalities and discrimination, exacerbates the impacts of environmental issues on women in Eswatini.
In Eswatini, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, employing around 70% of the population, with women accounting for the majority of smallholder farmers. These women are responsible for producing much of the food consumed by their families and communities, and thus have a significant stake in environmental issues that affect crop yields and soil fertility.
One of the most pressing environmental issues facing women in Eswatini is drought and water scarcity. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Eswatini is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, with around 63% of the population lacking access to safe drinking water. This has a disproportionate impact on women, who are often responsible for fetching water for their families and communities, and may have to walk long distances to access it. The time and energy spent on water collection can prevent women from engaging in income-generating activities or education, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality.
Furthermore, drought and water scarcity can have severe impacts on agriculture, affecting crop yields and livestock production, which are essential sources of food and income for many women in Eswatini. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women in Eswatini are responsible for over 80% of food production, making them highly vulnerable to environmental factors that affect crop productivity.
Climate change is another significant environmental issue that affects women in Eswatini. The country is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events, rising temperatures, and sea-level rise. These impacts can lead to reduced agricultural productivity, food insecurity, and displacement, all of which disproportionately affect women and children. For example, women may have to take on additional household responsibilities or care for sick family members due to climate-related illnesses, further limiting their ability to engage in income-generating activities or education.
According to the UNDP, women in Eswatini are also disproportionately affected by indoor air pollution, which is caused by the burning of solid fuels such as wood and charcoal for cooking and heating. This can lead to respiratory diseases and other health problems, particularly for women and children who spend more time indoors. In Eswatini, around 87% of households rely on solid fuels for cooking, with women and girls often responsible for gathering the fuel and cooking meals.
To address these environmental issues and their impacts on women, there is a need for targeted interventions that address gender inequalities and promote women’s empowerment. This includes improving access to safe drinking water, promoting sustainable agriculture practices, and providing women with access to clean energy sources such as solar power. It also involves engaging women in decision-making processes related to environmental issues and ensuring that their voices are heard.
In addition, there is a need to address the root causes of gender inequalities and discrimination that exacerbate the impacts of environmental issues on women in Eswatini. This includes addressing cultural norms and attitudes that limit women’s participation in education and decision-making, and promoting policies that ensure equal access to resources and opportunities for women and men.
In conclusion, environmental issues are of great importance to women in Eswatini, as they are disproportionately affected by the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change. Addressing these issues requires a gender-sensitive approach that recognizes the unique challenges faced by women in accessing natural resources, engaging in income-generating activities, and participating in decision-making processes.
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