Women and Climate Change

Posted September 24, 2015

Climate change is a reality that is affecting every life on this planet today. Women, who constitute almost half of the world population, are not immune from this change.

In the context of my country Nepal, more than half of the population is constituted by women. Climate change, a global phenomenon is equally affecting this mountainous country. Given its geographical position, Nepal is susceptible to almost every kind of natural calamities besides hurricanes and tornados. In a least developed agrarian country like Nepal, where most of the people are in the poverty margin, climate change has its worst effect. More so, being women in such a society comes with additional woes.

To begin with, majority of women are uneducated whose job is then restricted to household chores and rearing the family. In rural Nepali community there is the practice of using firewood, which is one of the prominent emitter of carbon dioxide. Since, women are subjected to work in the kitchen, they are the ones who are most exposed to this emission thereby suffering from various respiratory problems. Likewise, women are expected to collect firewood, fodder, timber from the forest for household purposes, which makes them vulnerable to forest fire, which is an outcome of climate change.

Even though, Nepal is believed to be the second richest country in terms of water resources, there is a constant scarcity of water throughout the year in many parts of the country. This furthers the plight of women, as they are the ones who are to fetch water from water sources. With the onset of climate change and global warming, drought has been a common event. In this regard, women have to walk farther distance, almost two or three times the normal distance to fetch water for their family. Often than not they take this journey alone, this places them in an unsafe position where they are likely to be attacked by both humans and wild animals. In few instances, they lose their lives while in most they are raped and assaulted. Even if they manage to be safe from either of these attacks, there is always the health concerns tied with prolonged carrying of heavy load (here the load being water) in a rough topography as of Nepal which inflicts back problem or joint related problems in them.

In a mountainous country like Nepal, global warming has led to the melting of mountain caps and glaciers causing river banks to swell thereby leading to unannounced flooding, landslides, soil erosion and so like. As pointed out earlier, women who are mostly confined to household chores are limited to stay indoors and when such a spontaneous event occurs, they are the first ones to be victimized. This places them in a vulnerable position than their male counterparts. As witnessed in the recent earthquake, most of the victims were women as their role is limited within the household. And this is the picture in the face of other kind natural calamities as well.

In this light, women activists and women led civil societies as well as other movements have been raising their voices in Nepal. There has started a practice where women take charge and manage a community forest on their own. This is a positive step towards curbing out climate change, as the forests they manage firstly, acts as a carbon sink which is inevitable to control climate change. Second mostly, since they run the forest themselves they have a feeling of ownership and this helps prevent rapid and unplanned deforestation, thereby helping prevent natural calamities like landslides and soil erosion. Thirdly, they have been able to generate income from the forest as well as invest in other income generating activities, which has made them reliant and helped transform their earlier roles, which was confined to household chores. Similarly, the act of afforestation program carried out by them has helped build the water absorbing capacity of soil and helped develop the yielding capacity of soil.

Albeit, several mitigation measures have been taken at local and national level, concerted efforts from international community is inevitable to deal with climate change. Women who are significant half of the global population have equal say in the issue. From the stand point of women all around the world, for almost hundreds of years they have been considered and treated like a second class citizen, deprived of their rights. However, this never freed them of their duties in any regard. Even today, in many parts of the world women have no say in matters concerning their own self. Climate Change is an issue of her existence, her survival, her betterment and even her children. As a citizen of this planet, she has every right to speak for her rights, her natural rights and as a victim of the hazards she has been facing as a result of climate change, she has further leverage to fight against the injustice. Equity is the need of time. Every women’s voice and opinions matters, as climate change is not going to discriminate, it won’t leave her unharmed. Instead, given her role as a housekeeper, a mother, a nurturer, she is more likely to be affected by the adversities that climate change is bound to bring.

All in all, women as global citizen have the right to forward their opinions and be heard in matters concerning them. As is said, victims have the right to forward their voices for the sufferings they have undergone, so will women for all the negative impacts she has suffered due to climate change.


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Comments 1

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Emily Garcia
Oct 19, 2015
Oct 19, 2015

Dear Sbrtlam,

I love the strength of this statement: "women as global citizen have the right to forward their opinions and be heard in matters concerning them."  

So true! Your piece clearly brings home the reality of how much women, as much or even moreso than men, are affected by climate change in Nepal and how women are done a great injustice when their voices are sidelined on this issue. As you say, "climate change is not going to discriminate." Thank you for posting this informative piece.

Thanks also for sharing about women taking charge of managing community forests themselves and about their reforestation projects. This sounds similar to work that's being done in the Democratic Republic of Congo right now by the Maman Shujaa women. You can read about it here: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/neema/posts/61445

I'd love to learn more about you and would encourage you to fill out your profile here a little bit so the rest of community can get to know you too!

Thank you again for writing and wishing you well!