Friday, July 19, 2024

Climate crisis makes Somalia more hostile to women

Saturday 9,March, 2024 {HMC} Social worker Fartun Mumin Abdille goes door to door and sits with women in Somalia, she knows first hand how the climate crisis has made the country a more hostile place for women.

Decades of violence and recent climate-related disasters such as droughts and floods have displaced millions of people in Somalia, mostly women, who are more vulnerable to gender-based violence, especially sexual assault.

“After the drought, we have seen many cases of child marriage, physical violence and sexual assault,” Abdille tells EFE in the refugee Ladan camp, near the southwestern Somali town of Dollow.

Ladan was established in 2021, during the country’s worst drought in 40 years, and is now home to more than 20,000 people, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Walking into Ladan’s neat rows of blue uralite houses, some of the camp’s problems are evident, such as a lack of food, water and medical care.

But among the sparse children’s playgrounds and dusty roads, another reality is harder to see: the worsening gender inequality caused by climate change.

“Climate change disproportionately affects women and girls because it exacerbates existing inequalities,” Joyce Jelagat, a gender expert at the Climate Prediction & Applications Center for East Africa, told EFE.

Climate change worsens violence against women

Jelagat explains that the scarcity of resources and the devastation caused by extreme weather, force women to seek water and firewood in more remote and inhospitable places, exposing them to sexual violence.

The danger increases when their livestock dies due to drought and flooding affecting their livelyhoods and forcing them to replace their homes with refugee camps, where the lack of locks, gates and safe toilets leaves them vulnerable and exposed.

In addition, climate change affects men’s mental health as their role as “breadwinners” is often compromised. In a patriarchal society like Somalia, this also has a direct impact on women, as it corelates to intimate and domestic violence.

All of this is compounded by the fact that sexual violence is still a taboo in Somali society, which in many cases prevents women from reporting it.

Increasing inequality

A few kilometers from Ladan, in a hut in the Kabasa IDP camp, about 30 women sit on colored mats and count the money they have collected from an informal savings group to which they belong.

“When there are fewer resources, we decide less,” says Amina Hussein, an eight-year resident of Kabasa, another displacement camp that was established in December 2017, when another devastating drought hit the country.

In addition, “by losing their livelihoods, mothers have to look for work outside the home, and teenage daughters end up dropping out of school.”

Child marriages also rise, between October 2021 and March 2022 the country saw a 3% increase, as families marry off their daughters earlier to obtain the traditional dowry of cattle, according to the Swiss NGO CARE.

Not enough data

“Everyone is talking about the impact of climate change on women, but not enough money has been invested in gender-disaggregated data,” argues Jelagat.


By Lucía Blanco Gracia

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