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Powerful together: Women act against climate change

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On 22 April, Earth Day this year encourages individuals to undertake a ‘billion acts of green’ that can reduce the carbon emissions which contribute to climate change. In solidarity with these efforts, the humanitarian organisation CARE International urges people to support poor women who are taking action to tackle the challenges they face due to shifting rainfall patterns, increased droughts and floods, more severe typhoons and other climate-induced events.

Around the world, women are leading community-managed adaptation efforts that include contributing to savings groups in Ethiopia to prepare for drought, discussing strategies in Peru to live with decreasing water supplies due to glacier melt, and taking up new livelihoods like pig farming in Vietnam when farmland becomes salinated due to typhoon disasters.

‘Poor women are often portrayed as victims of climate change,’ says Charles Ehrhart, CARE International’s Climate Change Senior Technical Advisor. ‘And while they are often one of the most impacted groups, they are also powerful leaders with unique skills and vital knowledge that are needed within communities facing an uncertain future due to increasing climate hazards.

Even with extensive global emissions reductions, CARE knows that the impacts of climate change will be felt by poor communities for many years to come. The World Food Programme estimates that, globally, climate change will be responsible for an increase of 10-20 per cent of people at risk of hunger by 2050. Of these, almost all people at risk of climate-related hunger will be in developing countries, with 65 per cent expected to be in Africa. The majority of the world’s hungry and undernourished people will continue to be women and children.

One way CARE helps women adapt to climate change is by working with them to diversify their livelihoods, especially when farming alone can no longer support their families. For example, poor agro-pastoralist women in Muguja, Ethiopia, are struggling to get out of poverty exacerbated by more frequent droughts in the region, rising food prices and land scarcity for farming and animal grazing. In Ethiopia, CARE works with women to establish and operate savings and lending groups that help them support their families in times of food scarcity. The members of one such group call themselves ‘Robot’ to signal unbreakable willpower and hard work. The ‘Robot’ group is managed entirely by women. It actively plans ahead and carefully uses the money it saves.

Around the world, women are joining together as agents of change in their communities. “To these women, having their own ways of support means empowerment within the family, and self-confidence as they contribute to everyone’s wellbeing in the household. It also means empowerment within the community,” says Ehrhart.

Find out more about CARE and climate change.