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Thandile Chenyavanhu says that floods in KZN are a gender issue.| Thandile Chinyavanhu: KZN floods – Climate change IS a gender issue
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Thandile Chenyavanhu says that floods in KZN are a gender issue.| Thandile Chinyavanhu: KZN floods – Climate change IS a gender issue

A part of a road that was washed away in Pinetown during the floods.(Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)


A part of a road that was washed away in Pinetown during the floods.(Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)

A portion of a road washed away in Pinetown by the floods.(Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart

Following the recent floods of KwaZulu-Natal Thandile Chinyavanhu Writers state that climate change is a problem of gender and that unless the government takes action to mitigate its effects, more women will fall into poverty.

The Covid-19 spread in 2020 was stopped by early lockdown measures. A spike in domestic violence based on gender. South

Africa saw a 37% increase in GBV reports during the initial week of lockdown. This was due to the South African government’s siloed approach towards crisis management. It led to multiple deficits, blind spots, and cannot be corrected retrospectively. 

KwaZulu-Natal’s government must re-establish stability and prioritise an intersectional approach that focuses on women’s rights as part of its solutions.

Education being discredited

Extreme weather has already disrupted education as well as vital health services. It could also derail development outcomes for adolescent females, especially in terms of gender equality, quality education and poverty. Climate change is a gender issue, and unless our government does something to mitigate its effects, more women will fall into poverty.

The 21st century will bring more extreme weather events to Southern Africa.However, data clearly shows that the odds against teenage girls are strong.

Girls face many obstacles when it comes to education. These include teenage pregnancy, period poverty, and even disasters that disrupt schooling.

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The National Income Dynamics Study- Coronavirus Rapid Mobile SurveyNIDS-CRAM) survey found that 750 000 learners dropped out of school during the Covid-19 pandemic. This figure is almost three times that of the pre-pandemic.

Children have been at greater risk of dropping out since the outbreak of the pandemic. This is due to a number of factors, including learning loss, food insecurity, emotional and mental deterioration, and lagging behind. 

KZN children are now facing school closures because of flood damage, nearly two years after they lost their learning due to the pandemic. According to the Department of Education of the province, 248 schools suffered damage from the floods. Children who are displaced or face food insecurity might be more inclined to leave school earlier because of the psychological distress.

Clinics that have been damaged 

Traditional gender roles place adolescent girls on the shoulders of household chores and care-taking. This increases their chances of dropping out in times of crisis. These girls may become desperate to provide for their families and themselves, driven by desperation. Sex workThey may be groomed by older men or even forced to do so. Early marriages; or ukhuthwalaThis is still a common practice in rural South Africa and has contributed to the increase in teenage pregnancy, HIV incidence, and gender-based violence. This is especially challenging when you consider the disruptions to health services that result from extreme weather events.

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According to the Department of Health 84 clinics have suffered damage from the floods. Kwangcolosi Clinic in Hillcrest has been among those affected. The clinic’s water supply has been disrupted and nurses fear that the clinic may have to be temporarily closed. Similar to the Covid pandemic, extreme weather events that are occurring quickly and with greater intensity across the country are disrupting the access to essential healthcare services. 

These disruptions have the greatest impact on young adolescent girls and women. Both girls and women are unable access sexual reproductive health services, such as HIV screening, STI screenings and pregnancy prevention.

Research shows that gender-based violence is more common in times of extreme poverty or disaster. These communities are left in a terrible situation after disasters. This, combined with existing poverty and inequality, makes it more difficult for girls to access health services.

An intersectional approach 

Given that 76% South Africa’s police stations don’t have rape kits in their stations, floods have destroyed the only place these girls could potentially get these vital services. UNAIDS states that adolescents and young women between 15-24 years old are the most vulnerable to HIV infection. 63% of all HIV-related infections in sub-Saharan Africa will occur in 2020. This fact was further reiterated by the eThekwini Municipality in October 2021, when it reported “an alarming rate of new HIV infections among girls aged 13-19 years old”. The Department of Basic Education reported that Each week, 1300 teenage girls become infected with HIV.

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If the government is serious in tackling gender-based violent (GBV), it must adopt an intersectional approach towards climate change and address the climate degrading that is fueling violence and interfering with access to quality education.

Our government must recognize the socio-economic imperative to address the climate crisis. Climate change will disrupt education, vital health services, and derail our development outcomes. It will also make adolescent girls more susceptible to climate shocks, trapping them in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Climate change is driving inequality, and worsening poverty. Climate change It is a gender issue.

Thandile chinyavanhu is a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Africa

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