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India’s rural women are ‘bearing the brunt’ of climate shocks

WorldAsiaIndia's rural women are 'bearing the brunt' of climate shocks
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A woman crossing the dry Sabarmati river in India. India’s rural women bear the brunt of climate-related shocks such as severe drought and extreme weather events.

Universal Images Group | Getty Images

India’s rural women are bearing the brunt of climate-related shocks such as severe drought and extreme weather events, severely affecting their daily livelihoods.

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Climate change is fast emerging as “a major issue”, said Megha Desai, president of the Desai Foundation in India, a public foundation aimed at enhancing the health and livelihoods of women, especially those living in rural communities. For.

Every organization working in rural India has “seen its constituents feel the direct and immediate impact of climate change,” said Desai, who has helped expand the mission’s work to nearly 2,500 villages in eight states.

“Whether it’s being displaced, experiencing drought, or crops drying up and no access to running water — women are bearing the brunt of these issues,” she told CNBC.

Last year a report by the United Nations highlighted that women are more sensitive than men to the adverse effects of climate change.

“Extreme weather events caused by climate change disproportionately affect women and girls and their ability to perform daily tasks, which partly explains why some girls are forced to drop out of school,” the report said. is done.”

Clinton’s Climate Fund in India

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left) accepts salt grains from a salt worker at Kuda village in Little Rann of Kutch on February 6, 2023. (Photo Sam Panthaki/AFP via Getty Images)

Sam Panthaki | AFP | Getty Images

Clinton said in an interview, “I drove about three and a half hours by car to visit the salt marshes to meet the women who harvest the salt. And some of them are the seventh generation of their families doing this very hard work.” Is.” Town hall,

“I was talking with the female construction workers. In that heat that you’re dealing with — over 120 degrees [Fahrenheit]They can’t hold the equipment,” Clinton said.

“You can sense that devices are burning up. We need creative ways to design and invent new devices that won’t be prone to overheating.”

The poor don’t need charity. This is the biggest lesson we have learned in the last five decades. All they need is an enabling environment.

Reema Nanavati

Director General Services

As part of the Clinton Global Initiative, the former First Lady announced $50 million Global Climate Resilience FundIn partnership with Self Employed Women’s Association, the largest women’s trade association in India.

Clinton said the Climate Fund would help women and communities fight climate change and provide new livelihood resources and education.

The Desai Foundation has also partnered with SEWA and CGI on the Climate Fund. To help alleviate the problem, the foundation is providing reskilling courses so that women can take up new jobs in sectors such as banking and entrepreneurship across four states in rural India.

urban-rural divide

The climate issue is emblematic of the deeper challenges facing India’s women, Desai said, highlighting the gap in gender progress between urban and rural areas of the country.

“People living in cities forget about rural India and do not bring them along in their plans for the advancement of women,” she said, adding that “almost 70% of the population still lives in rural communities.”

“This is one of the biggest hurdles – the urban-rural divide,” Desai said. “We still have a long way to go to bring running water to many of these communities.” She added that having access to clean water makes a huge difference in tackling overall health issues for rural women.

In the latest Economic Survey released in February, the government said that rural women are increasingly participating in economic activities.

There are 'very clear' signs that India's labor market is improving, says Chief Economic Adviser

Data from Ministry of Finance Highlighted the significant increase in rural female labor force participation rate – from 19.7% in 2018-2019, compared to 27.7% in 2020-2021,

This trend was seen as “a positive development on the gender aspect of employment, which may be due to increased rural facilities freeing up women’s time and higher agricultural growth over the years,” the Economic Survey said.

Akanksha Khullar, a visiting fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, said government schemes and policies have helped rural women. As a result, many now “feel empowered to step out of their homes, run businesses, and access services like bathrooms and clean water.”

KOLKATA, INDIA – MARCH 8, 2022: Indian women activists participate during a demonstration to mark International Women’s Day demanding gender equality on March 8, 2022 in Kolkata, India. (Photo by Sukhmoy Sen/iPix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Future Publications | Future Publications | Getty Images

Still, “the urban-rural divide exists,” said Khullar, who also serves as an assistant manager at Invest India in the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

“Things are changing, but very slowly. If this is improved, then yes, India will do better in the gender equality index,” she said.

gender discrimination

Last September, Oxfam India released its latest “India Discrimination Report 2022,” which shows that gender-based discrimination was very high in all categories of employment – ​​both in rural and urban areas of the country.

The report was based on government data on employment and labor from 2004 to 2020.

Bringing women to the forefront is not enough to increase numbers – the add-and-shake approach is out-of-date.

Akanksha Khullar

Visiting Fellow, Observer Research Foundation

Oxfam India said, “In simple terms, this means that the employment status of women does not depend on their educational qualification. This leads to alarming results from a mathematical model that gender discrimination in the country is almost complete.”

The report states, “Thus it is patriarchy that keeps a large section of women, who have equal or even higher qualifications than men, out of employment, and this shows no improvement over time Is.”

Oxfam India calls upon the government to actively implement effective measures for equal pay and work rights and protections for all women.

Asian Development Bank says we need to make economies work for women

The biggest problem for India, Khullar said, are “the patriarchal structures and discriminatory institutions that remain and are only exacerbated during the pandemic.”

She said that “supremacist masculinity culture” needed to change in order to achieve any progress in gender equality.

“Bringing women to the forefront is not enough to increase numbers – the add-and-stir approach is now out-of-date,” she said. “These women, whether they are in urban or rural India, need to be provided with adequate tools that will help them thrive.”

Reema Nanavati, director general of SEWA, India’s largest women’s trade union, visited the salt fields with Clinton and expressed a similar sentiment. She added that women just want to work in an environment where they are treated with dignity and respect.

“The poor don’t need charity, that’s the biggest lesson we’ve learned in our last five decades. All they need is an enabling environment.”

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