Climate crisis is fuelling gender-based violence 

What you need to know:

  • Scarcity of firewood within the communities and the high prices of charcoal also contribute to delayed food preparations at home catalysing domestic violence. 

In my recent field work in the Albertine region, I was thrust into the shadows of the rise in gender based-violence (GBV), a vice only spoken in whispers and suffered in silence. 

While the talk about climate change is now getting its deserved limelight, little is said about how it is and will continue to escalate GBV among the grassroots women in the oil host communities of Hoima, Kikuube and Buliisa. 

Women already face various forms of GBV like sexual and domestic violence. 

The issues of climate change now experienced in the region and the country at large like unpredicted weather patterns even make them more vulnerable. 

According to a report by CARE in 2020, all forms of gender-based violence spike during disasters and conflict. 

Relatable is the Covid-19 crisis, according to a report by the UN Women in 2020, 76 percent of respondents indicated that there had been a rise in the rates of GBV in Uganda since the beginning of Covid-19. 

In one of our recent monthly meetings, one of the women said: “When men get home and don’t find food ready, violence erupts.” 

We are all affected by climate change; however, the women and girls face double victimisation, first for just being human and second because of their gender. 

This is largely associated with traditional roles where you find women are the primary caregivers and resource managers of the household. It is crucial to note that most grassroots women entirely depend on natural resources to feed their families. 

The unpredictable weather patterns have left them vulnerable; they have adversely affected agricultural output bringing about food scarcity and hike in food prices.

Scarcity of firewood within the communities and the high prices of charcoal also contribute to delayed food preparations at home catalysing domestic violence. 

Girls and women in the region now have to move longer distances to collect water and firewood which only increases their risk to sexual violence and related crimes. 

While the correlation between climate change and gender-based violence has in the past been underscored and considered weak, emerging research clearly establishes otherwise. 

As the  spectre of climate change looms larger, casting an undeniable shadow over our future, one wonders; how much longer will the authorities overlook this critical nexus, and in doing so, perpetuate the vulnerability of those caught in between?

The above manifestation/revelation put it clear that women are at a more vulnerable position in the face of increased climate change crisis. This calls for urgent and aggressive alternative initiatives that will provide affordable, clean and sustainable sources of energy like solar, charcoal briquettes, among others to reduce the dependency on firewood and charcoal. 

Secondly, I appeal to government and other development partners to prioritise  initiatives that will support women in diversifying their livelihoods to ensure less dependence on natural resources and ecosystems that are climate sensitive and as such will reduce their vulnerability in the hands of men and the climate crisis. 

I believe that implementing vigorous GBV awareness programmes in the midst of this crisis within the region is crucial to ensure women know about the available support services and empower more women to document and report such incidents. 

Above all, understanding this context is crucial for finding solutions that will address both the immediate and the underlying issues. 

Ms Lois Sabila Chepkurui, Gender and Advocacy Officer, Nature Talk Africa (NATA).