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Women Leading Climate Change Action at Grassroots

India is already experiencing the impact of climate change. Unusual and unprecedented spells of hot weather, declining monsoon rainfall with increased frequency of heavy rainfall events, increased incidences of drought, falling ground water levels, melting Himalayan glaciers and loss of snow cover threatening the stability and reliability of our rivers and altering their course which could significantly impact irrigation jeopardizing our livelihood and food security. This will also increase risks of natural disasters like landslides and flash floods. Decreased availability of water and increased temperature will challenge required power generation. Climate change could also impact our health and increase mortality rates due to malaria, other vector-borne diseases and diarrheal infections and heat waves.  

Awareness followed by developing resilience is the way forward. However, climate change is a serious, complex and technical issue making it challenging to communicate. Women are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change and yet they play a crucial role in adaptation and mitigation actions since traditionally they play a major role in the management of natural resources in their communities and are the chief transmitters of knowledge and wisdom to younger generations.

In order to address the difficulties women face in accessing financial resources, capacity-building activities and technologies limiting their role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, we reached out to the women leaders of Dewas in Madhya Pradesh with the support of Earth Day Network, India, to develop women leadership for community based green actions as part of developing resilience to climate change.

We mobilized participation of women elected representatives and the leaders of women’s livelihood collectives called Self Help Groups (SHGs) along with local NGOs to anchor the efforts. The very first hurdle was communicating such a technical subject in a simple and easily comprehensible manner. Our methodology of using simple theatre based games and activities to make learning simple, entertaining, participatory came in handy. Once they understood the core issues of climate change the women started relating them with the drastic changes in temperature and weather patterns, especially monsoons, severe water scarcity, depleting ground water levels, changing crop patterns and increased disease burden, all of which compounded to threatening their lives and livelihoods and over all well being. The women leaders then chose small actions that they will like to initiate in their areas like increasing green cover, creating systems to replenish ground water using indigenous knowledge and traditional techniques, cleanliness drives like proper drainage systems and adopting alternate energy sources. Interestingly the SHG women showed keenness in taking up solar based household items as a means of livelihood and positively impacting environment. We introduced the women to available support instruments like small grants, bank schemes energy companies.  

The initiative led to small initiatives like a waste management project in Bagli by the administration, development of project proposal for a solar street lights, one of the local NGO initiating dialogue with a solar energy company looking for partners to set up assembling units to reach out to disadvantaged women and augment their skill base in this area as livelihood option. They are also planning to scale up their recycled product initiative. 

From the Dewas experience, it is evident that there is opportunity for development of women led social enterprises offering climate change solutions with the required supporting eco system for access to funds and technology.


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