This #WorldEnvironmentDay, Meet The Amazing Women Who Are Fighting Against Climate Change!
By Anjana Radhakrishnan:
Women get the short end of the stick pretty much all the time — whether that’s lower wages, double standards with expressions of sexuality, or higher levels of domestic responsibilities. With steadily rising temperatures and drastic shifts in weather patterns, we can add one more thing to that list: climate change.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published a report as far back as 2007 concluding that women are more severely affected by climate change. Even the United Nations has strongly emphasized the need for gender-sensitive responses to climate change events precisely because gender impacts all aspects of our lives — down to our very survival.
Women disproportionately suffer the impacts of climate change because of traditional gender roles as well as factors which increase their vulnerability. For example, in many societies, women are responsible for securing water, food, and fuel for their households — all needs directly impacted by climate change. Restrictions on mobility, limited information and educational inequity often exacerbate and are exacerbated by severe weather patterns, putting women at greater risk of exploitation, sexual assault, and death.
But guess what? Despite the odds, women around the world have been innovating and problem-solving to turn around the short end of that stick and keep that higher life expectancy bouncing. And remember, when women do better, it’s not just women who do better — their families, communities, and countries get to enjoy the spillover effects too. According to the International Monetary Fund, When women join the workforce, overall productivity and GDP increases. When women are educated, their children tend to be more highly educated regardless of gender. When women have economic control over household resources, all members of the family experience better health. When women are politically active, public goods like clean water and sanitation tend to expand and become more reliable.
Here are just a couple of the cool ways women around the world have been fighting climate change on their own terms.
Seed-Saving — Navdanya
Have you seen ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’? Because if you haven’t yet, you should.
In the movie, a group of women nomads keep a box of seeds safe. And that box of seeds is pretty damn important because the earth has turned into an apocalyptic wasteland and biodiversity is kind of a thing of the past.
Which you’ll realize, if you read anything at all about climate change and its impacts on our world today, is not really a movie — it’s real life. And we need people keeping boxes of seeds safe because our earth is slowly turning into an apocalyptic wasteland where biodiversity may become a thing of the past.
Navdanya is a women-centred movement doing exactly that. By creating a network of seed keepers and organic producers across 18 states, Navdanya has been able to establish 122 community seed banks and train over 5 lakh farmers in seed sovereignty and food sovereignty.
Women-Led Protests — The Fight Against Mining in West Timor
For ten years, from 1995 to 2005, Aleta Baun led a citizens’ movement against mining companies that extracted marble and other natural resources from the forests and mountains of Indonesia’s Timor Island.
When miners threatened to damage Mutis Mountain, a mountain sacred to her community and which lies at the intersection of major river systems, Aleta led a year-long peaceful protest at the entrance of the proposed mine. Over 150 women in the area sat at the entrance and in protest, wove traditional tapestries. During this year, it was the men of the households who undertook domestic responsibilities while the women protested.
At the end of that year, the miners gave up and Aleta was able to restore 15 hectares of degraded land and to resettle the 6,000 people displaced by mining.
Eco-Friendly Products — Ecoware
India generates a lot of plastic waste and a lot of it ends up dumped into our oceans. Rhea Singhal left her job at Pfizer Inc. to address this very problem by creating eco-friendly products.
The founder and general badass behind Ecoware, India’s first and only manufacturer of 100% biodegradable and compostable tableware, Rhea has thoroughly established herself as the go-to woman for the eco-conscious. From plates, trays, and to-go boxes, she has the market cornered.
Landing bids for the Commonwealth Games 2010 and at food festivals around the country, Ecoware has expanded over the past six years. There’s an urgent need for more companies to enter the eco-friendly sector in India and soon. Until then, it looks like Rhea Singhal will keep on fighting the good fight.
Conservation Farming — Zambia
More than 2,000 small-scale farmers, mostly women, have been organizing themselves into self-help groups in the Kanzungula District of Zambia where environmental degradation has led to poor crop yields and low income.
To address this problem, these farmers have begun using conservation farming techniques like contour farming to minimize runoff and erosion, thereby improving crop growth. These self-help groups have also been training farmers in beekeeping — an industry particularly suited to women with little access to land — improving livestock production, and producing new crops.
Water Harvesting — Aakar Charitable Trust
Water’s pretty damn important to India — the past two years have been marked by severe droughts and it doesn’t look like that will be letting up anytime soon.
You’ve probably heard about Amla Ruia. But in case you haven’t, let me fill you in on the details. Impacted by the 1999 droughts in Rajasthan, Amla founded the Aakar Charitable Trust (ACT) and dedicated herself to solving the water crisis and to prevent that type of disaster from occurring again.
Through its efforts, the ACT has helped establish over 150 check dams. These check dams efficiently capture water and are the major reason why many Rajasthani farmers have been seeing profits despite harsh weather.
The ACT has found its success in the community-driven model. By involving the farmers at the ground level and utilizing their own investments, ACT projects are sustainable in the long-term. Additionally, as gathering water for families often is a female responsibility, the project has helped alleviate the physical toll droughts often hold for women by keeping water in close proximity to households.
Thinking about climate change is scary and depressing. Often, it feels like there’s nothing we can do to stop it, that we just have to bear it. But these women prove that inclination dead wrong. There’s so much that we can do and being scared and depressed is not an excuse for twiddling our thumbs. Get inspired and get out there — there’s a lot of work that still has to be done.