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Gender, climate change and energy in South Africa : a review

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Climate change is one of the most pressing global environmental challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. Recently, the World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development (World Bank, 2012) placed gender and equality at the centre of development discourse. In addition, the UNDP (2009) document Gender and Climate Change Human Development Report (UNDP 2007) made the critical linkage between gender equality, poverty and climate vulnerability. Consequently, a greater realization has emerged that gender inequality intersects with risk and vulnerability. Women are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change because of socially determined social roles and they have fewer resources to cope due to their reliance on climate-sensitive resources. In addition, energy collection and utilization is the primary responsibility of women, especially in rural communities, where most energy is derived from traditional biomass fuels such as wood, charcoal and agricultural waste. Consequently, women face critical challenges with regard to the use and provision of energy in household. As a result, in many instances, it is women and female children who suffer the most from the shortage of energy due to their traditional roles for collecting fuel. Furthermore, a lack of access to energy mainly affects women in their role as household managers because they are usually responsible for providing energy for the household. Without access to convenient, affordable clean fuels for cooking and heating, women have to spend large amounts of time and physical energy gathering traditional fuels to heat water and cook meals. The time and physical effort expended by women and females in gathering traditional fuels seriously exposes them to health and safety problems. As a result, the introduction of cleaner modern energy services such as electricity is important for the empowerment of women and children. It enables them to participate more fully in the development process. This paper examines the link between climate change, gender and energy and its impact on gender relations in South Africa. The article concludes that although a lot has been achieved in terms of the legislative framework and policy, the challenge facing the South African Government is how to link the objectives of gender and energy with that of climate change mitigation within a sustainable development framework.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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