Adivasi women as nature’s champions

Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adivasi women from the Indian state of Chhattisgarh have developed new skills in traditionally male dominated domains in response to changing weather patterns. They use nature’s reserves and cultural traditions to conserve resources and protect themselves.

These were some of the findings of a regional study on the impact of climate change on indigenous women and men in India and China. Undertaken by UN Women from 2008 to 2009, the study clearly showed that by far, it is the women that bear the brunt of all these changes and that they find creative ways to adapt to the impact of climate change.

As Lucky Sherpa, a Member of the Constituent Assembly from Nepal, states: “Indigenous women in their day to day struggle for livelihood experience a triple discrimination: as women in Nepal, as members of the indigenous community, and as women of the indigenous community.”

The objective of the study was also to assist global learning from the regional analysis, share knowledge on biodiversity of natural resources and analyse roles from a cultural and gender perspective. Undertaken from 1 October 2008 – 31 December 2009, the study was supported by UNIFEM, IFAD and the Christensen Fund.

In spite of significant mitigation mechanisms, only limited efforts have recently been made to include indigenous peoples in climate change related agreements. The study equally addresses the issue of economic security of Adivasi women by detailing alternative livelihood strategies. Presented and used for advocacy on traditional knowledge, and adaptation strategies, the findings from this study have already created a significant impact.

Firstly, they were presented at national, regional and international meetings, including the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and the COP-15 at Copenhagen in December 2009.

The study was instrumental in developing strategies on the gender dimensions of Climate Change. The Government of India has shown interest in addressing the problems of tribal women regarding climate change. They have started discussions and are planning consultations with leading tribal women in North East and Jharkhand.