The climate crisis, one of the biggest calamities of our time, is not gender-neutral. Women are disproportionately impacted by climate change due to a host of reasons including greater dependence on natural resources for their livelihoods, absence of participation in public decision-making, and limited access to land. However, solutions designed to address the crisis often exclude women.

Women experience climate change in different ways

Despite this increased burden, Bijal says that women from lower income groups in urban India do not pay attention to the climate crisis because they are focused on survival. “Every day is a struggle. They understand the impact of disasters like earthquakes or flooding but if it’s heatwaves or water-borne diseases, they don’t think too much about it,” she says. Bijal adds that the idea of a crisis seems too far-fetched to them, and this thinking holds true for the urban middle and upper classes as well. “We spend a lot of time explaining to the women that the problem is already here and it is only going to get worse. But we will need to invest more energy and time to get people to comprehend the seriousness of it,” she says.

In rural India though, women seem to have been quick to identify the impact of climate change on their lives. Uthara says that her team was initially sceptical about working with poor rural women and doubted their ability to understand the impacts of climate change. But the women proved them wrong. Since they experience this on a day-to-day basis, they were eager and fast learners, quickly grasped the importance of climate change, and were moved to act.

Women are quick to adapt to the crisis

Having understood the enormity of the problem, Uthara adds that rural women have been developing measures to adapt to this change.

Recycling water is one such practice. Uthara explains that by connecting a channel from their kitchen to the backyard, women have started utilising the wastewater from the kitchen to grow fodder for their cattle. They have also started reverting to older agriculture practices, minimising the usage of pesticides, and rotating crops to retain the nutrient value of the soil.

Read the full article about women advancing climate action by Halima Ansari and Smarinita Shetty at India Development Review.