Women need greater say in dealing with drought

Internally displaced women wait to receive relief food from a distribution point in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on August 8, 2011. REUTERS/Ismail Taxta

From AlertNet:

“A lack of women in policymaking is worsening the impact of the Horn of Africa drought, U.N. and aid agency officials say.

The region, which is seeing intensifying dry spells believed linked to climate change, is struggling with what aid agencies say is its worst drought in 60 years. Pastures and wells have dried, livestock are dying and thousands of families from southern Somalia are surging over the Kenyan border looking for help.

Women – as in most natural disasters – are worst hit, aid agencies say. Changing that, they say, will require efforts to involve women in preparing for, responding to and recovering from drought.

“The climate sector often presents women as passive victims of climate change, rather than effective agents of change, ignoring women’s extensive knowledge and expertise with regard to climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies,” Oxfam International recently reported.

Henia Dakkak, a Somalia researcher for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) believes drought-stricken regions could boost crop production 20 percent if women had more authority of land use because “women are often guardians of traditional knowledge of seed varieties and crops that can be grown in less than ideal climatic conditions.”

More effort needs to be put into consulting women and using their specific environmental knowledge to improve agricultural and nutrition programmes, Dakkak said.

Women’s views are key to making policies work, gender specialists say. But while women are needed in decision making, many are reluctant to enter the public sphere without community support…”

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