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Why Climate Change Is Causing Girls To Drop Out Of School

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This post is a part of Kaksha Crisis, a campaign supported by Malala Fund to demand for dialogue around the provisions in the New Education Policy 2020. Click here to find out more.

In the 21st century, climate change is the principal threat to humanity. The impact of climate change cuts across different sectors, regions, races and genders. As policy-makers seek ways to mitigate the impact of climate change and as the search for the road to a more sustainable future progresses, the intersectionality between gender and climate is yet to find supporters in the mainstream.

The emphasis on the education of women could be one of the sociological solutions in moderating the impact of climate change. Representational image

While climate change affects every life on the globe, social differences ensure that this impact is disproportionate. This also holds true for the impact of climate change on women.

Females are more vulnerable to climate change than their male counterparts. This vulnerability can be seen in how climate change impacts women on different fronts, including education. The effect of climate change on female education and that of a lack of female education on climate change is mutually reinforcing. Let’s have a look at the inter-linkages between climate change and female education and at the importance of female education in tackling climate change:

Survival Skills In The Immediate Aftermath Of A Climate-related Disaster

As climate change becomes a gigantic problem, ways to tackle it need to go beyond the basic technological measures. The emphasis on the education of women could be one of the sociological solutions in moderating the impact of climate change.

It is reported that in the wake of natural disasters, women have a higher mortality rate than men. A lack of education leads to a situation where women don’t have the necessary means of rescue when such a crisis takes place.

Greater access to quality education ensures that girls are aware, able and possess the skills to adapt to and to reduce the risks of climate change.

Mitigating Economical Vulnerability

As ecological conditions continue to deteriorate despite numerous conferences and agreements among world-leaders, the globe is sure to witness a spike in climatic disasters. Whenever such a disaster takes place, people lose their lives. If the male counterpart of a dependent woman is lost in a climate-related disaster, she becomes susceptible to economic hardship.

Educating young girls ensures that this economic vulnerability of women is reduced by equipping them to be economically independent so that they can survive in case things go wrong. Educating women in green-skills also ensures that they take up jobs in which they can be stakeholders in the subversion of climate change.

Reducing Sexual Vulnerability

Educated women are able to be in charge of their reproductive rights. In order to bring the fertility rates down and to reduce the corresponding impact of population on climate, the role of female education becomes necessary.

A direct correlation has been found between the two.  Educating women around sexuality and reproductive health and highlighting issues of gender and power becomes necessary in the battle against climate change. Any condition of disaster is followed by acts of sexual exploitation and human trafficking with women as the primary victims of the same.

By educating women and giving them the agency of their bodies, we ensure that they reduce their contribution to accentuating the climate crisis.

Climate Change And The Dropout From Schools

In the wake of any climatic disaster, the first thing that is sacrificed by a family is the education of the girl-child. With the increasing global susceptibility to climate change, newer disasters are displacing more and more people and pushing even greater numbers below the poverty line. Poverty in a family impacts female education the most.

Girls are made to drop out of school and are asked to help in household chores. They are even married off early to ease the burden of the family and as water-wives. They also face hunger and malnourishment as their nutrition is not prioritized. Climate change, therefore, keeps females stuck in the vicious loop of a lack of education, poverty and the vulnerability to disease and violence.

The same system that perpetuates the exploitation of women, propagates the exploitation of the environment.

It is high-time that female education is prioritized and an inclusive solution sought to the issue of climate change. Until women are educated and made aware of the dangers of climate change and ways to subvert this crisis, a solution to the problem will remain as a far-fetched dream. The social systems that have oppressed girls and denied them education while upholding hegemonic patriarchy are the same systems that have exploited the earth and tried to profit from its control.

Until women are made participants in the framing process of deals and policies on climate change, till they are educated and empowered, finding solutions to the issue of climate change won’t be possible. By educating young girls today, we shall create change-makers of tomorrow.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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.

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