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June 5, 2020
Emergency Featured News Papua New Guinea

Rural Women in PNG and Climate Challenges

Men and women in their respective social roles are differently affected by the effects of climate change.

UN reports indicate that women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men—mainly as they are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.

Due to Papua New Guinea’s traditional setting, women are still engaged in traditional roles as mothers and family caregivers. Men may be able to migrate for economic opportunities, but women are more likely to remain home to care for children and elderly or sick family members.

Like any other place in the world facing the harsh challenges of climate change, so do many rural areas in Papua New Guinea.

The increase of extreme weather conditions—droughts, storms, and floods—are already altering economies, economic development, and patterns of human migration, and are likely to be among the biggest global health threats.

A recent visit by EMTV Online along the Madang North Coast Highway found many coastal communities facing the challenges of sea level rise, flooding and most importantly the lack of accessibility to clean drinking and cooking water.

Botbot Village, of the north coast region of Bogia District in Madang Province, is one that lies in-between the sea and Botbot River.

Many of the villagers have migrated inland due to a king tide that washed away their village in late 2009, destroying houses, gardens and other properties. The community also were devastated by the harsh drought that struck Papua New Guinea last year in 2015, destroying many food gardens.

The locals at Botbot Village point out how the place used to be lively with houses lined up. Now, all that remain are posts that marked where houses were, with very few houses scattered here and there; and pointing further out, was where the village cemetery used to be, now submerged under the sea.

Freda Kanan, a villager who returned to the coastal village after fleeing with her husband and three children, explains that though the village is at risk of sea level rise and flooding, Freda and her family are drawn back. Freda says it is their home, even though the challenge and risks they face are quite high.

Freda explains that the only source of water is dug-out wells, though salty, it is however, the main source of water.
Rainfall is another source, but it would take a tank to capture and store it. As for the villages, all they have are simple containers, tins and dishes to use. Due to the effects of climate change, the rain pattern of the area is very unpredictable- leaving them to wait in suspense for the next rainfall.

Because of the roles and responsibilities women play in the rural communities, they feel most affected by the changing weather as their roles become more challenging.

It is largely believed that women provide clean water for their families to drink and cook, often walking long distances to find clean water, while those that have dug-out wells find the water being too salty for direct consumption.

Additionally, droughts affecting their garden yield and harvests, and with sea level rise threatening their homes, it also adds as a psychological stress.

As a mother, Freda is concerned for the wellbeing of her family and three children saying that the future of her home is uncertain and that migration to another location would be probable in the near future. But for now, home is by the seashore.

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