By Anushay Hossain
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Climate change is already having a disproportionate impact on women, as witnessed in her homeland Bangladesh, says Anushay Hossain. But where are women's voices and outrage in response to this growing concern?
Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.
Women are not only at the "frontlines" of climate change, but their work and relationship with the environment is so intimate that their experiences with it changing are often just as personal.
Let's take the example of water, a natural resource especially sensitive to climate change and one that traditionally women are the managers of in their households. Women and girls in the developing world on average travel 10 to 15 kilometers, spending up to eight hours a day, gathering water for their families, according to UNIFEM.
Droughts caused by climate change are eliminating existing water supplies, making the distance to walk even longer. Because of the distances women and girls have to travel to fetch water for their families, millions of girls around the world are unable to go to school.
Imagine that. The average person may not make the connection between accessing water and girls' education, yet it exists.
As the gendered impact of climate change becomes increasingly palpable my question is, where are the feminist voices? Why are more women's rights advocates and activists not picking up and rallying around this issue vigorously?
As we approach the Copenhagen conference, you see articles on climate change in the news everyday. But where is the real action? More importantly, where is the outrage?
Recently, for instance, I read an article in the LA Times about how the newest kind of refugee is not from war, but from climate change. They are called "climate refugees" and the article stated that almost 10 million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes for "reasons ranging from rising (or falling) sea levels, lack of rain and desertification." The article, however, expressed no outrage at this issue as it's not the journalist's job; it's a job for advocates.
Back home in Bangladesh, the list of innovative ideas to combat and, more importantly, adapt to climate change is endless. International aid organizations are working with local nongovernmental organizations to build "floating villages," clinics on boats and help women educate their communities about securing flood and cyclone shelters.
There has to be more. Women may be at the frontlines of climate change, but they are not just victims. Their personal and intimate experience of the harsh impacts of climate change means that they also have the real solutions to combat the problem.
If the voices from the women's rights movement don't pick up this issue--loudly, clearly and unanimously--climate change will not only drown out countries, but the agents of change, women, with it. And that is simply not an option.
It is the responsibility of the women's movement, both in the United States and abroad, to make the issue of our altering environment our issue. Otherwise everybody loses.
Anushay Hossain is the editor and founder of Anushay's Point (http://anushayspoint.wordpress.com/). She is a native of Bangladesh.
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