chapter  8
Gender and vulnerability to multiple stressors, including climate change, in rural South Africa
BySheona Shackleton, Leigh Cobban
Pages 24

The world is facing an era of accelerated change and greater uncertainty brought about by multiple powerful and interacting drivers and shocks. Levels of insecurity and vulnerability are rising, driven by factors such as the global economic downturn, rising corruption and weak governance, escalating poverty and food insecurity, failing health systems, and more extreme weather events amongst others (IPCC 2013). At the same time, the longevity of the goods and services provided by the planet’s ecosystems is questioned (Rockström et  al. 2009), with climate change merely one facet of global environmental change. These global risks and changes interact with, and may be compounded by, country-level structural, economic and political processes (e.g. poorly conceived national policies and corruption) that create and sustain inequities (Ribot 2014), and by localised contextual dynamics including institutional breakdown, declining human health through diseases such as HIV/AIDS, forest degradation and biodiversity loss (Fraser et al. 2011). Such situations result in dierentiated vulnerability and adaptive capacity amongst households and individuals at the local level. This heterogeneity is further aggravated by unequal access to livelihood options and assets (Goh 2012), with gender dierences often being particularly stark. Consequently, many commentators argue that there is an urgent need, especially in the growing eld of climate change adaptation research, for more studies that capture the distinct, localised and interactive eects of multiple stressors on livelihoods, vulnerability and adaptive capacity across gender and other intersecting social categories such as age, ethnicity, income and class (Carr et al. 2013; Drimie and Gillespie 2010; Goh 2012).