Many Ugandans were previously complaining about how hot it was, rains had delayed to come, water was scarce, swamps had dried up and food piles were dwindling at an alarming rate pushing prices upwards. Now it’s raining, but as the rains increase in potency, residents in mountain slopes have cause to worry once again as possible mudslides and landslides can happen any time. Streams and bridges will soon overflow hampering school and business activities especially in flat areas such as the Teso region and some areas in Mt Ruwenzori district. Such distress events often leave behind adverse negative impacts that halt many women, young children, boys and girls livelihoods.
Research clearly shows that any changes in climate, be it dismal, will increase hours spent on domestic activities for women such as taking care of the sick, collecting water, firewood, looking for food and tilling the land while exacerbating the times spent on formal jobs for men. Although international protocols and treaties provide for and recognise gender biases in climate change impacts, is this enough? Discussions have gone on long enough but implementation and enforcement of the agreed upon measures at country level is ‘piecemeal’ and often lacking financial support from government. For instance, the recently drafted Uganda National Climate Change Policy and National Adaptation Programmes of Action do little in ensuring an engendered approach in response to climate change impacts.
Even with a whole Policy and Directorate of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees in place within the Office of the Prime Minister, often climate change based disaster occurrences catch both central and local governments unprepared to deal with the remnants of what floods or droughts leave in their awake. Responses are often “one-size-fits all’ with no interventions offered along gender lines. Yet, as research shows, women headed households are more vulnerable to climate change as the quality of gainful labour force is low-mainly children and stifling social norms in terms of inheritance, land ownership, access to good job opportunities limit their adaptive capacity to smoothen consumption paths during natural disasters. Safety nets by government and World Food Programme (WFP) in form of food aid in affected areas (droughts and floods) are gender blind or gender neutral. How? Often women have fewer social networks/social capital such that foot ratio to female headed homes should be higher as their primary concern is food security for the whole household compared to males who can seek food elsewhere. Shelter and resettlement priority should be geared towards poor women and men first, but often, such consideration bypass service providers as it’s that person whose voice is loudest and understands the system who benefits.
Engendering the climate change debate alone is not enough. Policy makers ought to have actionable implementation plans with measurable indicators that respond to gender biases adequately. Implementation plans should be tailored to the local context for successful engendering of climate change especially during adaptation.
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