Climate change education and gender: constructing the role for the South African Commission on Gender Equality
The reality of climate change and its effects is not gender neutral. It will disproportionately affect women and the girl child who bear the major responsibility for household production and supply of energy and food security. In addressing both the challenge of climate change and its disproportionate effects on women, the international legal instruments governing climate change under the auspices of United Nations (UN) underscore the role of education to encourage changes in approach towards adaptation and mitigation of climate change at the national level. Although a state party and signatory to relevant instruments at that level, in addition to the scanty gender focus of South Africa in its national action on climate change, the role of education in addressing the climate change challenge is often overlooked. This is despite the fact that the 1996 Constitution of South Africa guarantees the right to education and freedom from discrimination, while the 2011 National Climate Change Response White Paper identifies women as a vulnerable group to be protected as they will be adversely and disproportionately affected by climate change. More importantly, the vision to ensure gender equality is expressed through the establishment and functions of the Commission on Gender Equality (Commission). Yet, thus far, the functions of the Commission have not been clearly and explicitly articulated to demonstrate how they may enhance climate change education in South Africa. Against the backdrop of the link of climate change to gender and education in the instruments under the auspices of the UN, this article articulates how the Commission can inform a gender focused climate change education in South Africa.
Keywords: climate change, education, gender, Commission for Gender Equality