The world is still far behind on gender equality issues related to climate change. This single fact replicates exclusion on many aspects that are important in the lives of women and girls in view of development. For a sector like tourism, which is behind climate change research by about 10 years, there could be serious implications in terms of equity and justice for tourism dependent communities. Exclusion is also a red flag beckoning a slow or zero pace towards achieving some targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDG Gender index by Equal Measures 2030, shows that Sub Saharan Africa recorded a very poor score on climate action indicators expressed in terms of affinity to gender equality. These scores were arrived at after an assessment of three main indicators; 1)country’s implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, looking at the extent to which a country’s delegation to the UN climate negotiations is gender balanced; 2) country’s commitment to disaster risk reduction, by promoting mechanisms to raise capacity for planning and management, including focusing on women, youth, and local marginalized communities; and, 3) climate vulnerability score, where poverty and livelihood dependence on natural resources intensifies vulnerabilities of women.
In Eastern Africa, Tanzania and Ethiopia did well on disaster risk management, on the contrary this was the weakest link for countries like Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. A strength across the countries in Sub Saharan Africa, is that women representation in climate change process was enhanced. On the other hand, the vulnerability score is an area where Sub Saharan Africa countries have ample room for improvement. If not, this can be particularly worrying, especially for key economic sectors like tourism, currently under the threat of climate change. Consequential impacts of climate change, threaten stability of countries dependent on tourism income. In the region, key tourism products are often nature-based and outdoors, thus especially vulnerable to a changing climate.
As more women in Sub Saharan Africa are increasingly engaged in tourism for their livelihood support, climate threats to the sector mean socio ecological vulnerabilities for them. However, the sector has been slow in taking control of this threat, at times viewed as a dormant risk. Climate vulnerabilities for tourism-based livelihoods, have their spillover effects spanning across diverse occupations held by women in tourism today. These effects range from exposure to fluctuating demands of international tourist numbers, to eroding of key resources that support product development, which have direct socio-economic consequences. Beyond rate of exposure to risk, building adaptive capacity is a crucial factor in cushioning vulnerable groups from harsh impacts of climate change. Financing has been considered as an important factor in building adaptive capacity, yet, only a paltry 0.01% climate finance projects tackle both issues of climate change and gender. This raises concern on the levels of susceptibility for women to climate impacts. There could also be questions of mal adaptation, if adaptation strategies do not incorporate women.
By excluding women in climate strategies, we remain indifferent to effectively responding to climate change. For the countries in sub-Saharan Africa which have lower levels of gender equality, incorporating gender in climate action can increase effectiveness as well as equity. This is why our climate responses in tourism need the specificity of being responsive to concerns of women, youth and the marginalized. Deliberation can play an important role to incorporate gender perspectives into tourism resilience planning. Climate change is not a dormant risk for women in Tourism in Sub Saharan Africa. It is an actual risk, with socio economic, among other consequences.
Figure 1: Climate vulnerability score in Sub- Saharan Africa, 2017.
Source: Equal Measures 2030, 2019 based on ND-GAIN Index, 2017