Ecofeminist Perspective on “New” Pandemic upon an Existing Pandemic in Africa By Joanita Babirye
The current Coronavirus pandemic has caused a significant crisis globally and it continues to threaten many lives in Africa. The arrival of the new pandemic in Africa is a huge slap to the continent and its impacts are significantly felt by the most vulnerable group of people in our communities especially the women. It comes at a time when the continent is already grappling with other numerous crises of flooding. Environmental degradation, prolonged droughts, land grabbing and evictions, unemployment, poverty, hunger, rising water levels, violence and conflicts. All these and many more continue putting the lives of the Africa’s people at a grave risk to this new pandemic.
Over the years, it has become vivid that women and men experience crises differently mainly due to the socio-structures that have been built over time in the patriarchal societies. Women in Africa carry the burden of most of the crises because they are conditioned to be the primary food gatherers, caregivers, harvesters of water, energy and other needs for the wellbeing of their families. The impacts of COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated their vulnerability as they try to fulfill these roles. For instance, during the recent flooding in some parts of East Africa emanating from rising water levels and bursting of river banks, women’s level of exposure to water contaminants has intensified and yet in the COVID-19 pandemic prevention, safe and clean water is a pre-requisite.
In as much as these roles keep placing women at the frontlines of protecting nature, their access to and exercising of power over resources is limited since men have all the control over the resources. This only leaves women at the mercy of the extractivists patriarchal capitalists.
In addition, the current lockdowns and curfews in the bid to enforce social distancing and restrictions in movement limits women’s access to food, safe water, energy sources. This in return is heightening violence in cases of failure to provide for the family. It has also been noticed that women might suffer more in the post COVID-19 era in the quest to fulfill their roles; amidst these times, their interaction with the environment is limited and no one oversees or protects the environment from the loggers and shady activities being carried out.
Climate change has already had direct and indirect impacts on their health especially diseases linked to malnutrition, rising temperatures, water contamination as a result of flooding and respiratory diseases. These combined with poor living conditions makes it hard to withstand the “new” pandemic.
As African countries continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and the various other crises, it is equally essential to read from and respond from the perspective of women since they are hit most and are already fighting through numerous crises. They should be engaged in the discussions on the recovery plans and pathways to development in the post COVID-19 era. This will inform decisions based on experience that in return will contribute to better ecological, economic and development reforms. Further still, it will contribute to building better alternatives in the production of food for both relief and other anomalies, conservation amidst the pandemic and promoting food security to lessen their vulnerability to other catastrophes and pandemics.
About the Author
Joanita Babirye is the Director at GirlsForClimate and member of African Youth Climate Hub (Twitter : @joanitababirye)