Why We Do It

"When drought parches wells and streams, someone must carry water. When storms bring devastation and disease, someone has to nurse the sick. Climate change hits hardest on the planet’s vulnerable edges. If women hold up half the sky, what do we do when it seems the sky is falling?"
— BARBARA KINGSOLVER , RIPPLE EFFECT IMAGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Most people in the Western world are unaware that women in developing countries suffer far more than men as a result of environmental changes. In drought, they must walk for hours to find water for their families. In nearly all situations, women are the ones who feed the children and the elderly, carry the young when they are forced to migrate, and nurse them when they are sick from waterborne diseases or malnutrition. Unfortunately, as critical decisions are made about designating climate change dollars, the specific needs of women are often excluded. It is a fact that the highest impact programs that mitigate climate change are those that invest in women and girls. Statistics show that when women are offered even a small opportunity, they pay it forward to their families and communities at three times the rate that men do. Climate change dollars designated for women's programs have a significant impact on both human lives and the environment.
  • Problem: Water Availability

    Lynn Johnson, India

    Photo by: Lynn Johnson, India

    Availability of water resources has changed dramatically, due to climate change, limiting the ability of women and girls to access water. Some regions of the world face devastating drought conditions, while other regions face rising seas and flooding. Women and girls are the primary providers of water, and often spend hours each day hauling water from distant sources.

    Solutions

    • Involve women in helping to identify, manage, and build wells, cisterns and other water catching devices
    • Teach women how to improve water and sanitation habits
    • Include women in decision making on water management boards
    • Train and support women with information on improved irrigation techniques such as drip and sub-surface irrigation and rainwater-harvesting technologies
    • Replant forests and mangroves to help protect water supplies
    • Ensure that water privatization schemes do not negatively impact women and girls who rely on those same resources for survival
  • Problem: Food Security and Decreased Nutrition

    Ami Vitale, Malawi

    Photo by: Ami Vitale, Malawi

    Food security is threatened by climate change and women are largely responsible for providing food to their families. Yet women and girls in many regions are prevented from owning land, or having access to sustainable agricultural practices.

    Solutions

    • Provide women access to technologies and techniques to improve agriculture and reduce the need of women to obtain food from unstable habitats
    • Help women gain the legal right to own land
    • Incorporate environmentally-appropriate crops into farming practices
    • Prevent soil erosion by using native plants and ground cover to stop the loss of soil and vital nutrients
    • Protect mangroves and grasslands and other key habitat types that help stabilize land
    • Provide micro-insurance programs to ensure that women have access to food when crops fail
  • Problem: Health Security

    Annie Griffiths, Cambodia

    Photo by: Annie Griffiths, Cambodia

    Women and their children face increased exposure to diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and rift valley fever. Increased poverty results in increases in HIV/AIDS, and variations in outbreaks such as cholera. Natural disasters have been proven to disproportionately impact women.

    Solutions

    • Improve access to health services, preventative medicines, and preventative technologies such as malaria nets, water filters etc.
    • Improve access to information, education, and training to prevent the spread of diseases and ensure that women, who are usually the primary care givers, are educated and informed as to how to care for their sick families and community members
    • Provide innovative medical techniques appropriate for treatment to rural communities that have little access to modern facilities
    • Ensure that forests and biodiversity that provide critical traditional medicines, are protected and available for women to access
    • Provide training, disaster relief strategies, and evacuation plans that are gender appropriate and engage women in designing and implementing these strategies
  • Problem: Energy Security

    Annie Griffiths, India

    Photo by: Annie Griffiths, India

    Millions of women rely on fuels that are not sustainable. Burning these fuels contributes to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions and, in many cases, creates dangerous indoor air pollution. Women and girls must travel increasingly further as fuel sources disappear, often putting themselves in danger and spending valuable time away from home. The hours spent looking for resources prevents them from pursuing education, income generating activities and sustainable practices.

    Solutions

    • Provide energy efficient options that reduce reliance on wood for fuel for domestic use and for small businesses such as solar and biomass
    • Involve women and girls in replanting forests to both help absorb CO2 from the environment as well as to enhance fuel wood supplies
    • Improve decentralized village-based renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic’s, modernized biomass, and micro-hydro systems to support electrical and other clean power. Such innovations increase not only energy efficiency and save time but provide desperately needed illumination that helps to improve literacy levels in women.
    • Ensure that credit and financing is available to women so that they may afford energy efficient equipment that is needed to start small businesses