Climate Change Has A Devastating Impact On Women, And We Need To Talk About It

Note: The Prime Ministerial Brief podcast is now live! Head here to listen and subscribe to the latest episode on issues that young India wants the Prime Minister to pay attention to.
WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

The women who were part of the Chipko Movement in 1973 resisted the cutting of forests. They told the loggers “If the forest is cut, the soil will be washed away. Landslides and soil erosion will bring floods, which will destroy our fields and homes, our water resources will dry up, and all other benefits that we get from the forest will be finished.” Despite the threats to their lives, the women stood firmly between the loggers and the trees.

Some of us may wonder why women were so protective. To answer this question, Bina Agarwal, an economist rightly put it that there is a direct relationship between the marginalisation of nature and women. Why is it so? Because, traditionally, it is the women who were more connected to the environment than men. Men had the option to engage in different types of work, but the collection of forests produce—fuel and fodder—has been more or less expected of women.

Representational image.

Environmental Degradation

The recent example of environmental degradation such as the Amazon fire, heatwaves in Europe, many parts of India hit by flood and drought simultaneously, the water crisis in Tamil Nadu, and so on, is majorly due to indiscriminate consumption and also, deforestation and other unsustainable practices. As per the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, carbon emissions are increasing at a fast pace. This could be detrimental to the tropical regions with huge population density. India is projected to be the most populous country in the coming years, as per reports.

Effects on Women

Representational image.

By and large, if tropical regions are in the most dangerous position due to climate adversity, it is the women who would have to bear the most problems, especially those hailing from marginalised sections. The tribal communities and those women who live in proximity to the environment are more dependent on natural products. So, their sufficiency with the environment would lessen with climate change.

There are various studies which prove that the quality of soil, water and land would become very low if we do not take action now. Not only this, but pollution levels will increase, which those from marginalised communities face the brunt of. With these changes, the marginalised will become more prone to poverty, and this would also reduce women’s access to education.

Due to this series of events, they would not be able to attain economic mobility, and they would have to compromise their health as well. For example, in Maharastra’s Beed district, women were undergoing hysterectomies to increase their productivity. This lack of knowledge plus a separation from a healthy environment will affect them emotionally, socially, and psychologically.

Missing From Mainstream Media

I would say that ‘popular’ media nowadays is engaged in the polarisation of communities in India. Though the issue is especially pertinent to India’s vulnerable population, the media has not been highlighting the relationship between the environment and gender.

There needs to be constant debate and discussion on media platforms so that we can increase awareness among people. Considering how the media is one of the strong pillars of democracy (there are innumerable examples of the use of press during the Independence movement and during Emergency), it should exercise its role to bring out these not-so-mainstream issues extensively. The popularisation of the ‘Gender-Climate’ perspective would induce the government and the public both to act accordingly.

What Needs To Be Done?

Firstly, there is a need to initiate awareness drives linking gender and climate issues through mass media (newspapers, television, social media). Politically, the government should start programs to significantly reduce carbon emissions through more investments in renewable energy. Also, the government must not evict tribals from forests which are not only their economic support but also emotional support.

Socially, women’s health and education should be given due importance, especially to those belonging to areas that are directly affected by climate change. At last, we, as citizens, need to reduce our consumption of energy and resources.

Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program

Featured Image For Representation Only
Similar Posts

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below