Gender and climate change has a complex but interesting relationship. Have you ever wondered even nature would treat gender disproportionately?? Let us have a glance over this.
Nepal, a small country located in between India, China and Tibet, is blessed with diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and 8 of the world’s tallest outstanding Himalayas; overwhelmed with natural beauty and biodiversity. Nepal is agricultural country where more than 66% people are involved in agriculture (FAO, 2017). Nepal is rich in culture, religion and tradition. The major cause for lagging development in country is poverty and gender discrimination. Nepalese cultural, social and religious patterns repeatedly enforce the low status of women, often leading to a destructive lifestyle between genders.
Although, more than half proportion of Nepalese people are involved in agriculture: Low profile of agricultural growth, lack of infrastructure development and poor utilization of human and natural resources fueled the poverty and inequality in Nepal. Every day about 1500 people mostly men migrates toward urban and foreign land thereby living women to fulfill their reproductive as well as productive role. Besides, there are different driving forces for the livelihood shifts in rural areas. Some of the force observed are seasonal migration, permanent migration to urban areas or abroad, globalization, influx in communication technology and transportation( Eele, 2009). The present livelihood pattern are not only contributing to the high population densities in some urban areas but are also changing household dynamics by ‘feminising’ agricultural activities which increases both the workload and the responsibilities of women and creating more livelihood dependency on remittances coming on rural areas from foreign and national employment(Sharma, 2016).
Status of women in Nepalese society
Gender is culturally and socially constructed difference between men and women that varies from place to place and time to time. Nepalese society is male dominated society, where the position or status of women is very low. The women especially in rural areas have less access to productive resources(inputs, resources, credit and land), economic opportunities, education /technology and mostly decision making power. They are confounded within household activities, the productive as well as reproductive role; should bear all the responsibilities of children and other household activities. Economically women are fully dependent upon their husband :In labor market ,those who are working are not paid for their work and if paid receive a little portion compared to their male counterparts. Access to credit is difficult since many of women are unaware of the government policies and subsidies. Reason behind the marginalization from economic and social opportunities might be illiteracy, poverty and conservative social taboos. Prevailing social exclusion and inclusion, gender, caste system and Superstitious belief halting the development of women; one of the example is chaupidi pratha where women on their period in Nepalese village are banished to wooden huts with no walls as they risk their lives in bizarre. Still we can observe such situation in rural areas of Nepal.
Causes and impact of climate change on women
Vulnerable people specially women, indigenous groups or lower caste people, struggled with ongoing socio economic crisis rather than climate change. This socio-economic crisis is due to the poor access of women to the resources with other socioeconomic factors of class, caste/ethnicity, and age. Vulnerability and adaptive capacity varies upon the people’s economic status, educational levels, and access to information and technology. Some indigenous women carry out adaptation by using their indigenous knowledge. Gender structure shaped in Nepalese society allows poor access of women to education, decision making power, along with economic dearth has exacerbated the climatic risks. Whereas, men are free from climatic risk due to their abroad migration. Recently, massive earthquake hits the Nepal. According to the data published by the Nepal police more women and girl children died in the earthquake compared to men and boys, it mentioned that 55% of the casualties were women and children.
Unlikely the village women, urban women are less susceptible to the impact of gender discrimination and climate change.Paradoxically women herself are responsible for their own backwardness. Government of Nepal has already made efforts to extirpate the gender discrimination following the quota system. Meanwhile 33.3% of women are involved in parliament whereas; realm of Nepal is governed by women president for the very first time. Amalgamation of Illiteracy, superstitious belief, poverty gender inequality and fragile ecosystem of the hilly and Himalayan areas together tends to increase the impact of climate change on women. Although Nepal is modernizing and gender roles are changing, the traditionally patriarchal society creates systematic barriers to gender equality. According to the World Economic Forum, the 2016 Global Gender Index reveals that Nepal ranks 110th out of 144 countries on gender parity. Nepal score for this index is 0.661 with 1 representing gender parity. Climate change scenario in Nepal Being sandwiched between two of the largest contributors of GHGs (China at first and India at fourth) Nepal cannot escape the rapidly increasing influence of climate and global changes. According to recent NDC submitted by Nepal to UNFCCC,Nepal’s contribution of GHGs is negligible i.e. 0.027% of total global emissions but the impact is outrageously higher. The rapidly retreating glaciers (average retreat of more than 30 m/year), rapid rise in temperature (>0.06°C), erratic rainfalls and increase in frequency of extreme events such as floods and drought like situation are some of the effects Nepal is facing during the last few years (karki, Mool, and Shrestha,2009). Most of the big rivers of Nepal are glacier-fed and its main sources of water and hydroelectricity will be seriously affected due to the ongoing changes in glacier reserves, snowfall and natural hazards.
UN environment program noted that women are 6 times as much connected to the nature as compared to the male members in Nepal. Due to this disproportionate in gender roles, norms and values women are the one who are at vulnerable and susceptible state of climatic catastrophe in Nepal. This is unjust women have less contribution to the climate change but bearing its greatest brunt. Existing situation of Nepalese condition such as poverty, gender discrimination is the major cause for higher impact of climate change on women. After the overview of all limiting factors gender disparities is the major factor found to be responsible for increasing vulnerability of climate change on Nepalese women. Correction on the gender structure of Nepalese society would lead to unlock the key of development and help to mitigate the climatic risks on women.