Climate Change Media Partnership

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climate change and gender - missing link.....

Harmful impact of climate change has emerged as one of the potent threat to human existence in today’s world. Most of the debates about climate change have revolved around countries relative responsibility for limiting the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and funding efforts to shift to low carbon energy and other green technologies system. What is little acknowledged is that, climate change threatens to erode human freedoms, engulf inequalities between  castes, class and largely between men and women in relation to climate risks and vulnerabilities.

 In case of India, indegeneous and marginalised population, who are however a negligible emitter pays the largest price against climate change risks. Marginalised population have different  branching into Dalits, Adivasis etc. But the worst sufferer within these sections are women. They not only share caste, class division with their male counterparts but additionally bear the burden of socially constructed gender image. For instance women belonging to dalit clan cannot fetch water from the same well meant categorically for high caste people use. But since it is her share of gendered natural responsibility, she has to travel at strech , which then also attracts the  possibility of loss of appetite, violence etc.

The socially constructed vulnerability extends to the contextual gender and power relation.Widespread
patriarchal structures continue to limit women abilities to obtain equality of opportunity.

With new vulnerabilities and new responsibilities women constructed gender roles become more “naturalized” since identity of  women in rural India is still deeply embedded in her gender role. Her public space gets shrinked owing to wider responsibilities in private sphere. In India private is still not public and is largely an invisible domain

However , while underscoring  gender vulnerability it is important to acknowledge that woman  support their household and community to adapt to abrupt climate change. Since rural women are largely dependent on natural resources for their household work, they have generated a great deal of enviornmental sustainable knowledge (it is not because of their natural link to nature but due to gendered division of labour). However, very scant regard has been given by policy makers to integrate their concerns and capacities in to "malestream" policies. Boyd attributes its failings to mainstream model of sustainable
development, which for her is riddled with masculine bias. Adaptation strategies which are not gender sensitive may disadvantage rural women ,even, though they seem to work well at household and community level. This lack of ignorance may leave rural women more vulnerable. Thus, it is important to build on their adaptive capacity which aims to reduce their risk and vulnerability to climate
change.

Amartya Sen suggests in this regard that the ability of rural women to adapt to climate change pressures will be enhanced by using the ‘capabilities approach’ to direct development efforts. According to Sen, accessto the five instrumental freedoms, namely political freedom, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and protective security – helps women to gain a better quality of life and acquire the capabilities they need to act as their own agents of change (Sen, 1999).

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