The first monsoon showers for the year 2018, arrived at Ara District, Bihar-India on July 25th. One month later than the ideal monsoon arrival dates. I reached Ara a day before to conduct household surveys among the farming communities across 10 villages in this area. My professor and I were interested in looking at how factors such as climate perception, socio-economic status, irrigation accessibility, literacy and bio-physical characteristics influenced the cropping decisions of the farmers in this region. On an average 30 farmers per village were interviewed. We interviewed those members of the household who were directly responsible in making farming decision in the family. Unsurprisingly, considering the social fabric of many villages in India, out of the 345 interviews conducted, only 7 interviewed were women. With a lot of ifs and buts in my mind, I returned to Ann Arbor to jump start a new semester.
Fast forwarding 6 months hence, I found myself at Katowice attending the 2nd week of COP24. I was extremely thrilled to see thousands of people from all over the world, under one roof – the roof of Spodek Arena, discussing one heated issue. The environment instilled a soaring rush of unstoppable aspiration in me towards curbing global warming in whatever capacity I could. The most exciting aspect of week 2 was its thematic element engrained into the overall organization. Each day was dedicated towards discussing issues such as climate literacy, adaptation, gender day, just transition and many more. Out of the highly varied and extremely interesting topics that were at our disposal, I was particularly drawn towards following the main and side events that emphasized on gender, adaptation and climate change. My interest in this area was obviously influenced by the remaining mental impressions that I had from my field trip. The issue that kept bothering me the most was the vast gender imbalance that existed in agricultural decision making. My thesis analysis shows that even though farmers’ are aware of climate change and its negative impacts, they seldom have any farm level interventions to combat its adverse effects. I wonder how cropping decision and adaptation techniques could evolve, if only there were more women who voiced their opinions too.
Fortunately, COP23 established the Gender Action Plan (GAP) recognizing the importance of involving men and women equally in climate action. This involves seeing a balanced participation at all levels ranging from climate mitigation, adaptation, resilience, finance, and capacity-building. Additionally, it also stresses on understanding the differentiated impacts of climate change on women and men with special considerations for local and indigenous communities. Climate change impacts come as an extra burden to women who are already walking the tight rope of meeting societal norms, this specifically applies in rural settings across the world.
Ropani as they are fondly called, are women employed by the farmers to transplant paddy into the agricultural fields. For minimum wages these women work all day long transplanting rice saplings one at a time into the ground. During the interview, when asked if men also transplant the question was scoffed at and we got responses saying it was not a man’s job. Surely, a back breaking task, these women toil in the heat and pouring rain transplanting rice sapling over vast acres of land and ironically their voice remains unheard during the decision-making process.
System Change for Climate Change
Focusing on gender equity and women empowerment was one of the main highlights at COP24. There were a lot of side and main events that talked about gender transformative resilience and adaption funds and promoting a more inclusive gender action plan. From my field experience and the observations made at COP24, I believe that a community based participatory approach can help address this issue. Additionally, the local administrations could promote and create awareness on the importance of inclusive agricultural decisions making. Finally, the existing gender barriers could only be broken if women are provided with equal opportunities in terms of knowledge transfer, access to technologies and income generation.