By Syeda Sarah Gilani
A standout among the most determined disparities on the planet is the – socially built imbalance between men and women. The advancement that has been made over the past years in accomplishing the 3rd Millennium Development Goal (MDG) – on women empowerment and gender equality, is fundamentally brought about by the progress in female’s access to education.
In Pakistan and other Asian countries like Bangladesh, there are still differences between women’s and men’s positions, opportunities and rights.Climate change is not gender impartial, when the access and quality of the natural resources changes, women are the ones who are hardest hit. In rural areas, Women are in direct contact with natural resources like clean drinking water and fuel, if there is lack of these resources nearby, they have to take long walks over rough terrains. Similarly preparing food is responsibility of women, if there is less food, and women are the last toward in the family to eat, there will be left over for them. The regularly poorer health of women goes under high pressure. They are regularly exposed to polluting substances from fuels. Furthermore, the way that the body carries out reproduction, make women extra unstable in the midst of and after pregnancies, especially for malaria.
According to Global Risk Index list of countries most vulnerable to climate related disasters, Pakistan was ranked number one in 2010. However in 2012, Pakistan was 3rd in the list of countries hardest hit climate change disasters. An investigation by NDMA in 2014 that analyzed natural disasters risk reduction, demonstrated that the chance that women survive is fundamentally littler than that of men. The more grounded the calamity, the bigger this impact; and the bigger the gender differentiated impact. Thus, Women are more vulnerable to climate change.
Across the globe, when moderate unset or sudden debacles hit, women are active to sort out themselves. They are the pioneers in the climatic change adaption, disaster risk management and in recuperation. There are numerous examples that show how women played their roles in adjusting to climate change.
I was watching a story of this woman by OXFAM- Together for Change, Sahena Begun from the village Kundrathur in Bangladesh. Kundertar is a coastal area and is often impacted by flash flooding. But the women are so trained and strong, they never felt like victims, they are survivors. Sahena Begun when inquired about the disasters says ‘We are not born to suffer: we are born to fight’. Sahena Begun is chairperson of the local disaster committee, mainly constituent of women, she is a young woman who participated in training on disaster risk management against all norms of her family, and now she teaches the women in the village to be prepared for the moment that a disaster occurs. She is a role model to all the women in her village and her then against family is now proud of her occupation. In Kundrathur, the women uses clay to make portable stoves from clay and together with dry firewood put these at a high level in the house. They save seeds for after the floods, and build their houses on higher locations. According to the survey by OXFAM the women in the rural areas are now well prepared for another natural disaster, even if they become more frequent and intense.
Regardless of the high helplessness of Pakistan to climatic extremes and fiascos, the general reaction to environmental change has been poor and a noteworthy spotlight on the gender dimension at community level is missing. Like Bangladesh, Pakistan needs to understand social and economic vulnerabilities specific to women, for better disaster risk management. A better insight and understanding on women’s role in climate change adaptation will guide an appropriate response at the local and community level.
I have tried to emphasis on gender dimension on climate change that needs attention. We have many women in Pakistan like Sahena Begum, ready to become climate leaders in their communities, but it is only possible when the policy makers understand their role in disaster risk management. Although NDMA is very active in this regard but it is important that experts and policy makers realize that climate change is not only a geophysical issue, but also a social problem. The human face of climate change should not be neglected.