Address Delivered by Hon Ms Lulu Xingwana: Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, South Africa, held on 30 November 2011 at the UNFCCC COP17, Rio Convention Pavilion, Durban
30 Nov 2011
Welcome to South Africa, especially to this beautiful sunny shores of Durban. It is a great honour and privilege for me to address you on this occasion that forms part of all the important activities of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP17 today.
Allow me to begin by congratulating the coordinators of this event that have created this platform for us to engage on several of the most critical topics in terms of climate change.
South Africa has always supported the mainstreaming of gender into all fields particularly issues that have a strong impact on the quality of lives of women and girls. Engendering the climate change agenda is therefore of critical and paramount importance to the women of the world. As such, we therefore strongly support the participation of all the major groups of the United Nations in all the work of the UNFCCC and other UN conventions.
In 2004 South Africa developed a National Action Programme (NAP) that aimed at identifying the factors contributing to desertification. The intention was to seek practical measures necessary to address issues related to desertification and land degradation. Furthermore the NAP sought to find ways to mitigate against the effects of drought and to alleviate poverty, especially in rural areas, at a national level. This NAP included the participation of different stakeholders.
Women in rural areas are the most affected by poverty. Issues of land degradation impact more severely on rural women as they depend on agriculture for food production and economic survival. The South African Government is a signatory to the three Rio Conventions: namely the CBD (Convention on Bio-Diversity), the UNFCCC (Un Framework Convention on Climate Change), and the UNCCD (UN Convention to Combat Desertification). These we recognise as being separate, yet inter-related international treaties dealing with different aspects of environmental sustainability.
South Africa holds a strong view that all of these conventions should reflect the women’s perspective and therefore needs to mainstream gender provisions into it.
We therefore strongly support an enhanced global cooperation and collaboration across the three conventions to give full expression to these provisions. We congratulate the heads of the Rio Conventions who have recently decided to collaborate on efforts to harmonise gender mainstreaming across the three Conventions and the Global Environmental Fund.
At the national level, South Africa regards mainstreaming of women’s empowerment and gender equality as a cross cutting issue. As a result, the gender dimension spans all plans, policies, and legislation with the aim of integrating women’s considerations into socio-economic development. With regard to environmental issues it is important to embrace the role of women in maintaining and enhancing biodiversity issues; reducing the level of production risk (security); caring for natural resources and prevention of biodiversity degradation (protection).
The South African Government values and acknowledges the role of women, children, youth and people with disabilities in environmental and biodiversity management programmes. As such the Government through the environmental sector collects data on women, youth, and people with disabilities employed in support of sustainable land management programmes.
The role on women in Environment
Women throughout years had the essence of Sustainable Land Management (SLM). SLM is the use of land resources including soil, water, animals and plants for the production of goods to meet the changing human needs, while simultaneously ensuring the long term productive potential of these resources and ensuring their daily use on health and other fields:
- Provision of dietary requirements through harvested natural resource
- Natural herbs and through collection and use plants for health
- Ecological services through development of mats & baskets etc.
Challenges for Gender in Agriculture and Environment
- Policy: the need to understand the relationship of women and youth on environment to frame alternative ways to address unsustainable practices
- Capacity Building: the need to understand the scale which women and youth are operating (Modernisation of Agriculture and destruction of biodiversity) and empower them.
- Science: the contribution of women have been largely for improvement and adaptation ofmany plant varieties
- Awareness: use of alternative methods and approaches in order to improve the living conditions/ quality of life.Women role of observance and oversight.
The above measures are essential domains for women and youth and people with disabilities development and empowerment.
Noting that the South Africa UNCCD NAP includes Framework for integrating gender issues in the implementation of sustainable land management programmes, South Africa recommends the following:
- Use of gender policy to critique existing sustainable land management policies.
- Involvement of Gender sensitive stakeholders in strategic planning activities of the UNCCD.
- Use of gender specialist in planning and evaluation exercises of the Rio convention.
- Budget and explanatory notes to reflect specific allocations to gender mainstreaming i.e technical assistance and to special projects directed at women.
Key issues for discussion:
Gender Policy Framework and Action Plan for the UNCCD: “Gender mainstreaming isn’t just paying lip-service to equality between men and women by adding women’s participation to existing strategies and programmes,” says IUCN’s Senior Gender Advisor Ms Lorena Aguilar. “Rather, it transforms unequal social and institutional structures to realise the full creative and productive potential of women and men, reducing vulnerability and enhancing efficiency of development projects and programs.”
It is widely recognised that gender is a key component of human rights and social justice. Moreover, gender equality is a real driver of development, significantly enhancing the effectiveness of programmes, projects and initiatives.
For South Africa gender and youth issues must be resolved for progress to be attained in combating DLDD, specifically women and youth must assume an effective role in the programme. In general most rural and urban South Africa household are headed by women and otherwise include an elderly and young.
Collectively, women and young people make up the most important human resource to drive the development needed to reduce poverty. Women have the motivation, knowledge and enterprise needed for success. If they are not effectively mobilised in the programmes, it will not achieve our objective of institutionalising sustainable land management throughout the nation and region.
2.1 South Africa Sustainable land management programmes processes due to historic and structural barriers includes:-
- Gender balance in the coordinating bodies and project steering committee constitutions.
- Gender standards in participatory assessment and analysis at the community level.
- Element of gender in the monitoring and evaluation of the developmental programmes.
2.2 “The UNCCD Gender Policy Framework recognises there is no single entry point for gender mainstreaming – it has to take place at different levels – and that no single entity is solely responsible – it is a multi-stakeholder responsibility,.” According to UNCCD Global Policy Head, Sergio Zelaya.
2.3 Harmonisation Road Map to Mainstream Gender in the Three Rio Conventions. “Gender is an important and recurring issue across all spheres of our existence – so too in biodiversity, desertification and climate change. Consequently, gender represents a tangible entry point to achieve synergies in work done under the three Rio Conventions, “these were the words of UNFCCC’s Gender Focal Point, Ms June Budhooram.
In that regard the Government recognises partnership of the three Rio Conventions vital element towards sustainable land management. The Gender framework should consider current appropriate partnerships that recognise different entities and models in various spheres of implementation such as local, country, region and International.
The government recognises that the CBD is also committed to gender mainstreaming in all programmes of work under the Convention. Decision IX/24 welcomed the developed of a Gender Plan of Action in order to achieve the three objectives of the Convention and the implementation of the strategic plan for the period 2011 to 2020.
This plan of action makes provision for cooperation and synergies with other conventions and other inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations to mainstream gender considerations in all aspects of work under the Convention. This plan of action formulates clear indicators to monitor progress. Parties are therefore encouraged to mainstream gender considerations in developing, implementing and revising their national and regional biodiversity strategies and actions plans.
Action from South Africa Government on Gender and Biodiversity
Biodiversity hot spots areas are usually dominated by female-headed households. This is a result of migration of males to the larger cities for improved job security and other opportunities. This therefore, provides an opportunity for rural development where women can take the lead in the sustainable management of biodiversity.
South Africa recognises that the UNCCD and CBD have endorsed the revision of the NAP and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP) respectively. The revision will entail a broader stakeholder-base Including youth woman and people with disabilities.
Working together we can ensure gender equality and social justice through utilisation of land, restoration of ecosystems goods and services, prevention and mitigation of the effects of land degradation, and ultimately enhance livelihoods of communities.
Mainstreaming Gender in the Three Rio Conventions
It is believed that men and women will be faced with different vulnerabilities to climate change impacts due to existing inequalities such as, their role and position in society, access to resources and power relations that may affect the ability to respond to the effects of climate change.
In spite of the major gains in addressing inequalities between men and women in South Africa, there still remain enormous disparities and inequalities. The most important challenges are faced by women in rural areas who are still living in poverty with limited resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Women, considered one of the more vulnerable groups in South Africa seem to bear the most burdens resulting from climate variability impacts.
Women have to walk long distances to draw water and collect firewood to sustain their families. It is to this effect therefore, that issues of women have to be incorporated into climate change response strategies in order to cater for their ability to adapt to a changing climate while enhancing their livelihoods.
Communities (especially women groups) at the grassroots level have over the years deployed indigenous techniques and measures to respond to various environmental impacts.
These groups therefore need to be up-scaled and empowered at Local Government level (with strong support from National Government) to build everyday community resiliency to the negative impacts of climate change, forest degradation and biodiversity loss. There is great potential for achieving this, as South African women are strong-willed and have overcome a great deal of dire circumstances in the past.
The South African Government strongly supports the mainstreaming of gender issues (especially focusing) on women and children into considerations of the Three Rio Conventions (i.e. CBD, UNCCD and (UNFCCC). This is in terms of empowering women in playing an active role in achieving resolutions of the Conventions aimed at biodiversity protection, sustainable land and resource utilisation and enhancing people’s resiliency to climate change and variability.
To this end South Africa therefore seeks to effect the mainstreaming of gender issues into its National Strategies and Action Plans in line with the provisions of the Three Rio Conventions.
In conclusion, as part of the National implementation process, the gender perspective is being incorporated into South Africa’s overall Development Agenda.
Issued by: Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities
30 Nov 2011
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