Planet 50-50: Women Step Up for Climate Action
Climate change is essentially a question of social justice. What’s really unfair is that the poorest and most vulnerable people – particularly women and girls – suffer the most even though they’ve done the least to cause the problem in the first place.
Cultural norms and access to resources among other factors make women more disadvantaged, but they are not just the victims of injustice, poverty and climate change. Far from it! Women across the world are stepping up to make a difference in their families, communities, countries, – the entire world. They are leading actions to adapt to the changing climate and to help improve people’s resilience and preparedness to disasters.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” and that’s why we would like to introduce five inspirational women who have stepped up in their communities to lead climate action for a better future.
Zennou from Niger
Zennou Boukari, a 50-year-old mother of ten, lives in Aman Bader, Niger. She sells peanut and palm oil in the market, and is a respected businesswoman in her community. This might be why the women in her village chose her to be in charge of their solar kit – a set of equipment used for charging mobile devices with solar power.
Each time a phone is charged, which happens all the time, the communal fund set up by Zennou and the other women in the village makes 75 Francs CFA. “We use the money to give the women of the village access to credit. The loans are used for ceremonies usually, or to buy livestock, but they also help families buy food during the lean season,” Zennou says.
But income, savings and credit are not the only way the solar kits help the people of Aman Bader and the other villages CARE works in to support communities to become more resilient. They are also part of the village’s community early warning and response system. Disconnected from the grid, and faced with long distances to towns and neighbouring villages, there is no reliable source of power available. The solar chargers don’t just improve communication; they also enable sharing of weather information. Now, community volunteers equipped with rain gauges read the exact amount of rainfall and share the information widely helping villagers to know when to plant or use a new, improved seed.
Rizalyn from the Philippines
Rizalyn Biong, a 28-year-old mother of three, is one of the millions of people that were heavily affected by typhoon Haiyan in December 2013. But Rizalyn is no ordinary woman, she is one of the most energetic community risk assessment facilitators in Plaridel village of Dagami town, Leyte, in the Philippines.
Becoming a community facilitator has totally changed Rizalyn’s life. “Before Haiyan I was just staying at home. I really wanted to do something but I never had the opportunity. When I got this chance to help my community, I immediately grabbed it even though I doubted my capability at first.”
Rizalyn is now seeing the change she has helped to bring about: “People in my community really apply the lessons they have learned from us. Whenever there’s an upcoming typhoon, they already make plans, keep their belongings safe and prepare to evacuate to safer locations.”
Carmen from Peru
Carmen, 23, lives in the Shullcas region of Peru. She’s the eldest of six children. When she was growing up, she became worried about her family’s economic situation: as the temperatures kept rising, their land was giving them less and less. She was also worried about the future of their water resources, as the Huaytapallana glacier was disappearing.
Carmen moved to Lima to work as housemaid, but she was treated badly, “as if I was worthless.” She decided to return to her village and joined one of CARE’s projects on adapting farming practices to climate change. “My family and I replaced corn and wheat crops with forgotten varieties of cereals and native potatoes. These crops are more resistant to climatic hazards, they need two to three times less water, and they’re more nutritious.”
“Today, I’m fighting the idea, shared by many poor rural households, that rural areas have no future. Local solutions are possible, and we can help small family farms to survive. But we also need global action to limit the damages of this climate crisis.”
Saada from Ghana
Saada Mahama is a 50-year old married woman with five children and eight grand children from Jawani in the East Mamprusi District in the northern Ghana. She participates actively in different initiatives in her community; she’s even won the best farmer award for her district in a national competition.
Saada is working as a Community Monitor for CARE’s Adaptation Programme, leading pilot community based adaptation initiatives, like testing of early bulking cassava varieties, drought tolerant maize and soya beans, compost making and crop rotation. She has also learned to use climate information and advisories to guide her farming decision-making. “I did not win this award because I cultivated a large piece of land with plenty of harvest. I won the award because I am the best adopter and leader of new agricultural technologies in my community and the district.”
Sumati from India
Sumati, 21, is part of the Adivasi, a small native community in the Chhattisgarh State in India from India. Her community is reliant on farming, but rains have become erratic and the monsoon season is changing. Less and less people are now able to survive by simply farming our land for food and have had to move away to look for work elsewhere.
Sumati works for CARE as a community organiser for a climate change adaptation project. “I am in charge of mobilising and educating women and girls from my village on water resources related questions. We also discuss ways to adapt our livelihoods. I want Adivasi women to have better access to different resources and services.”
While empowering other women in her community, Sumati is also taking correspondence courses. “It’s extremely rare for a woman from my community. We don’t have many opportunities, only many responsibilities.”