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GUEST COLUMN: Building resilience to climate change, supporting the most vulnerable women in the world

Climate change will render some aspects of our natural world extinct. —
. — - 123RF Stock Photo

By Simone Philogène

Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge of our generation, one that necessitates a grand solution.

Yet while we in the North debate how to curb our contributions to the changing climate in relative comfort, women in the in the Global South are feeling the heat.

Already disadvantaged because of poverty, they have few rights and few resources to mitigate their situation. The consequence for them are dire. Women farmers account for 45 to 80 percent of all food production in developing countries. Disruptions to the food supply due to drought, disease, or extreme weather impacts women’s livelihoods, risking the health and freedom of them and their families. Senegal has seen a 35 percent decline in rainfall, making it more difficult for women to collect water. Warmer temperatures in Ghana affects the ability of women and girls to collect wood to use as fuel.

Still, with small investments in existing green technology and political will we can mitigate the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable.

As we mark International Women’s Day, Crossroads International is calling on policy makers and development stakeholders to focus on strategic, tangible change that can reduce inequality and help address the climate crisis.

It is widely acknowledged, as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change describes “women are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts such as droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events.”

Canadian governments understand this message. Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy names the environment and climate change as one of its action areas.

It is widely acknowledged, as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change describes ‘women are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts such as droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events.’

Crossroads International is working to build resilience by supporting women in their local contexts, to improve livelihoods using clean green, low technology solutions. Solar powered water pumps and a drip irrigation system reduce women’s labour dramatically. Coupled with mentoring from Canadian volunteers with experience in the maintenance and diversification of year-round crops, 1,500 women farmers will increase their yields and their incomes through drought resistant, nutritionally dense crops with shorter production times.

Real hope lies in this approach.

With support from both the Governments of Quebec and Canada, the project’s small investment is a game changer that will provide a long-term sustainable source of food and revenue, doubling their incomes while contributing to global efforts to mitigate climate change. In the spirit of volunteer cooperation, this project may also offer lessons in resilience and strategy to those of us in the North.

There are many examples of how this kind of focused, pragmatic, and cooperative approach to development bolsters women’s rights while reducing their vulnerability -- from a green gardening project that is helping bring an end to female genital mutilation in villages in Tanzania to training programs in sustainable farming to help improve economic prospects for youth in Bolivia.

We can be proud of these innovative efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change, but the gravity of the climate crisis calls for more.

Canadian policy makers, business leaders, and citizens need to better support green tech, women driven solutions on climate, especially in the South. This is the grand solution.

A new International Development Minister, Maryam Monsef, is in place. A new federal budget is just days away. There is an opportunity to engage the most vulnerable women and support their investment in simple, green technology that will increase their autonomy and their rights. What better signal for Canada to send the world than by taking creative action to stand up for gender equality and a clean, green, secure future for all.

Simone Philogène is vice chair of Crossroads International, a volunteer cooperation organization dedicated to advancing equality for women and girls globally. She writes from Toronto.

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