Struggling to save their failing crops, walking farther afield to fetch clean water, protecting their families from devastating storms and violent conflicts. “Who should be the leaders in the climate change policy debate? I would say women,” said Harman. “I think we have the best experience and adequate training in every respect to lead on the climate change arguments.”said the speakers on June 23 during a conference on women and climate change.
In developing countries such as India and most Asian, African, LatAm and SID countries, women carry the lead role in the knowledge around quality, location, reliability and storage of local water resources. On average, women spend more time than men collecting, storing and protecting their water source. This takes their time away from the ability to learn and contribute in other ways. In just one day, 200 million work hours are consumed as women collect water for their families. This has graver consequences for the girl child, preventing many young girls from attending school or participating in other more productive activities. Some women have to walk about 3 miles to collect water on average in not only the rural or desert states but also in the towns/urban slums. Collecting water can also be dangerous; especially for girls and women, who live in war-stricken/conflict areas.
“Women are more than half of the world’s population, but many do not receive support for their environmental leadership and that leadership is unique, innovative, and often comes at great risk,” said Maxine Burkett, a Wilson Center fellow, law professor at the University of Hawaii, and vice chair of the board of the Global Greengrants Fund. “Less than 0.01 percent of worldwide private grants fund projects at the intersection of women and climate change,” she said during the above conference. This is even more pronounced in regions like north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar and so on, where the farming is mostly male dominant and decision making mostly lies in the hands of the males in the communities. Even in the hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where women run the farms and households primarily, the decision making is made mainly by the males in a household.
Empowering women through education, economic opportunities, and reproductive health care can also make powerful contributions to climate resilience.
On Womens’ Equality Day 2016 in the US, I can only think of one way to celebrate and mark the occasion, by involving women in decision making every step of the way towards climate change and water policy arguments and decisions.
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