Don't let climate disasters push girls to perverts

A girl left at her manyatta in Wajir by her family. [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]

It is raining heavily in parts of the country and floods are likely to lead to more displacement, including of women and teenage girls. Beyond the easily reported issues is the economic power snatched from the women.

This may look small, considering the returns per day may even be less than a dollar. But this is what sustains them, and when it is lost decisions made may range from good to the worst.

Talking to a reproductive healthcare champion Erick Mundia recently reminded me of an encounter with women in IDP camps somewhere in Nyando, after they were displaced by floods. Many women may be suffering in silence, especially if they get raped in the camps.

Some have to choose between exchanging sex for sanitary towels, pocket money, or even food, for the single mothers or widows. These are not matters that easily come to mind when people discuss climate and damage in usually male-dominated negotiation rooms.

Last year in Egypt, the best thing about the COP27 climate talks was that it ratified the establishment of a Loss and Damage fund to compensate victims of climate-induced disasters. The efforts to build resilience among populations end when adaptation limits are surpassed.

The women who suffer the effects of climate change in the severest ways are sometimes from communities perennially dealing with extreme poverty, massive crop failure, low literacy levels, energy poverty and even human/wildlife conflict.

When I returned to Nyando, in Kisumu County last December, after and earlier one 11 months earlier, women who had been displaced two years prior still spoke of the normalcy in sex exchange for favors. The lowest one can push a woman that was not initially a sex worker is leave her with no choice but to exchange her dignity for favors as little as body lotion or sanitary towels. This is not a justification for such choices, but many find themselves in such circumstances.

Recent talks in Egypt to deliberate auctioning of the Loss and Damage Fund failed, just days before the COP28 set for Dubai at the end of this month begins. The feud with the Transitional Committee on Loss and Damage Fund operationalisation is a sign that some do not understand the urgency with which climate victims need this fund.
That also means we are looking at a rocky COP28, considering the glaring trust issues between the 24 committee members from UNFCCC and Paris Agreement members. At least 10 of the 24 members are from developed countries.

The aspects of Loss and Damage most spoken about capture property, livestock and other visible losses. Meanwhile, women and girls on the move lose a lot more, from their dignity.

For lack of collateral, since a lot of property belongs to men in Africa, women cannot easily access loans to rebuild their businesses after climate disasters that displace them or destroy their businesses. These women are the caregivers. The little businesses they do will save them the desperation that drives them to sex and unwanted pregnancies.

The Global South is still saddened by the fact that the Global North have reneged on their commitment by developed nations to raise $100 billion climate funds yearly.

The disagreements on the Loss and Damage funds are deepening the trust issues, and may make the COP28 a place for show rather than one where solutions to specific problems and action is expected.

If the world wants to control HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases’ spread, we must reduce pressures that put women at the mercy of perverts, including climate change.

The writer is an advocate of climate justice. [email protected]