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By Maham Abbasi, Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: Women have long been associated with nature, metaphorically, “Mother Earth”. Women have been generally passive, as has been nature. Historically, women have had no real power in the outside world, no place in decision-making. Women have long been restricted to the private spheres of life, unparalleled by their male counterparts, accessing the public spheres. Today, we have Ecofeminism, a branch of feminism that sees environmentalism, and the relationship between women and the earth, as foundational to its analysis and practice. Ecofeminist thinkers draw on the concept of gender and examine the relationships between humans and the natural world.
For indigenous women, the earth is intimately connected with their indigenous culture and it is symbolized as “Mother” because it offers its occupants all the resources necessary for their existence and survival. Mother Earth provides rivers, forests, and a diverse range of flora and fauna, many of which are beneficial for medical or technological purposes, contributing to a better quality of life. This is why, indigenous women feel tremendous respect for their Mother Earth, and they try to live harmoniously with nature as a fundamental part of their being.
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From the high level to the grassroots, women play a crucial role in managing natural resources on community levels and are most affected by environmental degradation. In communities around the world, women manage water, fuel, and food, as well as both forests and agricultural terrain. Women produce about 60 percent of food in developing countries. The 1992 UN Earth Summit, India’s Chipko movement, and Kenya’s Green Belt Movement all highlighted the role of women’s voices and perspectives in sustainable advancement. The best example in India is the Chipko movement, when women lead by Gaura Devi protested determinedly against the commercial abuse of the Himalayan forests. The issue she commanded was of saving trees and planting ecologically appropriate trees.
The star example of women’s participation in environmental activities is sketched by the work of Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt Movement. With her efforts, participants in this movement in public and private lands have planted more than 30 million trees. Her work has led to the restoration of Kenya’s rapidly diminishing forests and has empowered rural women in environmental preservation techniques.
A couple of years back I visited and stayed at The Barefoot College Tilonia, Rajasthan that trains women in solar engineering in ways that ensure that this scientific knowledge remains, grows, and circulates within the community. Solar engineering projects have provided pathways for women to join solar electrification initiatives. By enrolling women and their communities as partners, Barefoot College has increased community awareness of sustainable practices while supporting traditional knowledge. Workshops on how to dispose of plastic responsibly, use solar cookers, improve management of water resources, including rainwater harvesting, and other good practices that are kinder to the environment enhance the quality of rural life.
In Bolivia, the Centro de Mujeres Candelaria and its political platform, the Permanent Forum of Aymara Women, organized women into grassroots groups that drew on ancestral knowledge and practices to predict hazardous events and teach how to protect their farms and food and have also organized community banks, craft centers, and women’s education centers.
In addition, the increasing participation of women in environmental training activities is allowing them to educate both the public and policymakers about the critical link between women, the use of natural resources, and sustainable development.
In this facet, women have better access to local environmental issues and how to approach them than men. Women often have had a leading role in reducing unnecessary use of resources, promoting environmental ethics, and recycling resources to minimize waste.
A recent example is the Bhageshwari Mahila Mandal – a group of women volunteers in India, who work on village issues and have been functioning for about 15 years and have 48 to 50 members. These women are between the age group of 20 to 60 and quite recently fought against solid waste dumping in Sudher, Himachal Pradesh. These women took matters into their own hands when the Parivesh website of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, which documents all environment clearances and forest clearances for diversion of forests for non-forest uses, did not list this particular waste dumping site. Officials when contacted, were not available to comment on this.
Therefore, women of the world are the key to sustainable development, peace, and security. As women are the leading resource managers for their families in many parts of the world, their engagement in remedies for and adaptation to climate change is imperative.
Women play significant roles in their natural environment across the regions and cultures of the world,. Often deeply dependent on available natural resources for food, fuel, and shelter, women can be particularly vulnerable to environmental changes or threats. Because women’s workload is often centered on managing natural resources, biodiversity, and ecosystems, their experiences and perspectives are essential to sustainable development policymaking and actions at each level, for a healthy planet for future generations.
As women’s participation in environmental management has increased, they have become more visible and now have a voice in local politics.
Women have always played a decisive role in meeting community energy needs. Inadequate energy resources and a lack of access to efficient technologies of energy utilization force the people to depend on their own labor, animal power, and biomass energy to meet their daily requirements. With adequate environmental education and awareness, women can conserve energy resources far more efficiently as compared to men.
Practically being closer to nature, women are always able to apprehend environmental issues better. Since women are the prospective users of the facilities, it is necessary to consider their views in planning to save the environment and implementing projects for the betterment of us all. As women around the world put a great amount of energy and work to create a better planet, it’s crucial to encourage women in their efforts. Providing more women with opportunities can open up greater hope for the earth.
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Compiled and Curated by Maham Abbasi