Women in selected rural municipalities: resilience and agency against vulnerabilities to climate change
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The role of rural women in eradicating poverty and ending hunger has been recognised by both scholars and practitioners. There is an acknowledgement that women serve a critical role in the agricultural labour force, subsistence farming, and rural development in sub-Saharan Africa, yet their central role in food security has been largely ignored, particularly in policy (Govender, 2012). Although much of the labour of rural women is not nationally defined as economically active employment these women still spend long hours in undervalued productive and reproductive work to ensure the well-being of their households. Linked to this role is the challenge of dealing with rapidly changing climatic conditions. Women assume primary responsibility in fetching water and wood for meal
preparation, and in tilling the ground. They are among the most vulnerable groups to climate change as a result of their precarious environmental livelihoods. Using data from a workshop with rural women to discuss climate change and qualitative interviews with rural women in selected rural communities in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal we explore the meaning of climate change. We report on the way climate change is understood, its effects on rural livelihoods and some responses to climate change problems experienced by the women in the communities. The women in the rural communities highlight that there are also social problems that have arisen from water scarcity. As a result of the household division of labour, rural girls confront particular challenges as they need to search further from home for water and are exposed to the risk of gender violence.