South Africa: African Women Demand Voice At Climate Change Summits

“We need concrete solutions for climate change now”

On Thursday, over 100 members of the Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) gathered at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg to demand action on climate change.

The women came from countries across the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Their demand: that their voices be included when climate change is addressed at conferences such as the United Nations COP27 climate conference in Egypt.

The event ran from 9am until 5pm. Women spoke about how climate change is affecting them. Attendees wrote down their demands on how governments could assist them and help with mitigating the effects of climate change.

Mary Sakala, a farmer from Zambia, said women must be represented on platforms like COP27.

Camile Fakudze, from Swaziland, said climate change had caused poverty in her community and women could no longer farm as they used to. But addressing the issue is made difficult because, “Swaziland is not safe for us … We cannot address our issues freely.”

“Even if you are trying to empower women in Swaziland, you are seen as a political threat. The government has turned a blind eye to our issues as women. There is totally no budget for rural women farmers,” said Fakudze.

Emily Tjale, from Limpopo, said Ntwane Village, where she lives, is in a lowveld region and “it was always green and beautiful”. But since 2014, there have been drought conditions.

“We are truly suffering,” said Tjale. “We could not harvest anything.”

Tjale said she thinks COP27 is just a “talk shop”.

“We need concrete solutions for climate change now. The big polluting companies should be made to pay and be largely taxed,” said Tjale.

Thembi Mahlangu, from Moutse Village in Limpopo, said, “I farm green beans and spinach. But climate change has affected how we farm. When we harvest our produce is not properly grown … We need to be trained in our communities on how to minimise [the effects of] climate change and preserve our environment.”

Southern African Rural Women’s Assembly co-ordinator Mercia Andrews said, “Rural women farmers seriously suffer and are affected, but there is no compensation given to them. It was perfect to have our event now, at the moment of the COP conference, to expose the hypocrisy of our leaders.”

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