Women and girls are key to climate justice - Hindustan Times
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Women and girls are key to climate justice

ByHindustan Times
Oct 08, 2022 03:16 PM IST

The article has been authored by Shailja Mehta, director, Dasra and Lead, 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative, Akanksha Singh and Ziya Jaffer work at 10to19 Collaborative.

Climate change poses exacerbated risks for India. We rank seventh among 183 countries in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, and how different communities experience the climate crisis differs based on geography, caste, gender, and ethnicity. Women face a disproportionate burden of this threat as they remain socially, politically, and economically marginalised -- the only group more vulnerable are girls.

Climate change poses exacerbated risks for India. Women face a disproportionate burden of this threat as they remain socially, politically, and economically marginalised -- the only group more vulnerable are girls.
Climate change poses exacerbated risks for India. Women face a disproportionate burden of this threat as they remain socially, politically, and economically marginalised -- the only group more vulnerable are girls.

Even in their formative years, girls share care work and other responsibilities with other women in the household (In a UNICEF poll this year, 38% of respondents claimed to know at least one girl who dropped out of school; 33% claimed that girls who dropped out of school have to manage chores). This restricts their access to education and recreation.

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As girls internalise patriarchal attitudes and norms, they place themselves lowest in rescue and relief operations, the same as women, even though their caregiving role expands dramatically during natural disasters or pandemics. Consider the Assam floods – it has caused 26 lakh people to be displaced, primarily affecting women and girls. Accounts show that women in certain areas have had to walk almost two km every day to fetch water. They save this water for household consumption than use it for personal hygiene, like for washing the cloth they use during menstruation. With no dry land left, floods also affect how safely girls perform their daily ablutions.

Although women constitute more than 65% of the agricultural workforce, nearly 43% of them have no land or tenure rights, making them highly vulnerable to any climate crisis. It is likely to affect their productivity levels, while elevated levels of carbon will also deteriorate the nutritional quality of food. This will have a direct impact on the nutritional security of women and girls.

A report by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) indicated that only 25.4% of women aged between 15 to 49 years who worked in the last 12 months were paid in cash. With prevalent gender disparities in pay, the climate crisis is only expected to make matters worse.

Apart from these gendered burdens, girls also face serious stressors related to their safety, sexual and reproductive health, and survival. An additional threat from the climate crisis further impedes them from realising their potential.

Historically, philanthropy in India has committed to women-based issues such as their access to education, hygiene, and other resources. But when it comes to the severity of the climate crisis, we must take into account long-standing inequalities. We need a gender-intentional approach to climate action that uncovers interlinkages and plugs gaps. Addressing these complex social-cultural issues and crafting effective solutions will need a deeper understanding of how the climate crisis, adolescence, and gender are linked. The 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative’s report Seen But Not Heard: Exploring Intersections- Climate Change Adaptation, Gender and Adolescents has found some effective strategies to understand the interlinkages between climate change and gender:

Creating a repository of organisations combating climate change, sharing information materials in local languages, and commissioning long-term impact studies will help funders, grassroots-level communities, and other stakeholders become more informed of the effects of climate change on vulnerable groups, especially women. This step is crucial in demanding climate action.

Social equity audits in climate-related programmes and monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) frameworks will help assess impact accurately and fairly. To equip the most vulnerable population, we need to develop intersectional programs which represent Dalit and Adivasi women to build their capacity in climate action. Collaborative upskilling programmes for the youth will help create climate-resilient livelihood opportunities.

Philanthropy must prioritise investing in advocacy to develop and implement inclusive disaster management laws and policies. This can be done by championing increased security nets and schemes that protect marginalised women. This will encourage organisations to rework their strategies and missions to represent vulnerable groups. Bringing together multiple stakeholders and building forums and dialogues will strengthen efforts toward climate action.

Philanthropies can provide more attention to underserved areas, such as the Northeast, which are extremely vulnerable to impacts of climate change but receive limited funding. Long-term projects and engagement with communities to monitor their indicators continuously are important to ensure they don’t decline post interventions.

In this critical decade, we cannot ignore how the climate crisis disproportionately affects vulnerable communities. Considering their rich local knowledge, girls and women are catalysts for change, an indispensable part of the climate solution.

While the government has various plans and targets listed, girls and women need to have more say in climate action -- we need to be more willing to listen and act on their ideas. Financial investments, especially in research and long-term studies, can better inform strategic philanthropy to support women and girls. Robust partnerships that include the government, philanthropists, civil society organisations (CSOs), and community-based organisations (CBOs) need to collaborate efforts to mitigate the adverse effects of the climate crisis on vulnerable women and girls.

The article has been authored by Shailja Mehta, director, Dasra and Lead, 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative, Akanksha Singh and Ziya Jaffer work at 10to19 Collaborative.

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