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UN says Climate Change Hurting African Women

A U.N. official has told a regional conference in Togo that climate change in West Africa is disproportionally affecting women and girls.

Human rights workers and senior government officials converged to discuss climate change this week in Togo. U.N. Development Fund for Women Regional Director Cecile Mukarubuga asked the 89 participants to consider the extraordinary challenges women are facing.

"The negative impact of climate change effects the agriculture and food production, and we all know that in Africa women contribute to 80 percent of the food production," said Mukarubuga. "When they are hit by climate change negative impact, they lose all their livelihood means, and they lose their source of income. And we also know because they are not owners of the land and the access to land is difficult for them, they are not coping easily after a disaster."

Mukarubuga says climate change is affecting drop out rates among young girls who quit school to help their struggling mothers.

"The responsibility of collecting water and firewood is women and girls' responsibility," she said. "With the negative impact of climate change, girls and women are spending more time walking longer and longer distances to collect water and firewood, and this has an impact on the time that should be dedicated to activities, like economic activities and education."

U.N. spokesperson Michel Olabiré da Cruz says the focus of the conference was to gather ideas from 15 West African nations before the global climate conference this December in Copenhagen.

"The objective of the regional conference is to have a position, one position, for the West African countries at the Copenhagen meeting that will be held in December," said Olabiré da Cruz

One concrete issue has been agreed on. African countries say they want industrialized nations to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius and cut emissions from 25 - 40 percent by 2020.