Some much-needed Sisterhood on the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day

8 March, 2011 | General

As the evening light rapidly faded, a group of children stood silently posing with wide eyes, staring intently into my camera lens. They didn't know how to react; I don't think they had ever seen a camera before. Their mothers stood on the side, smiling at the attention their kids were getting.

I was on my second trip with the international humanitarian group Oxfam, this time to Nepal. I met with women farmers to learn about their struggles to produce from the soil, put food on the table and make ends meet on the front lines of climate change.

As I walked around the village of Rampurwa in the southern Terai region, women invited me into their homes to tell me their stories and share with me their fear for their children's lives, their livelihoods and their future.

Sitting with me, next to a modest mud hut, in the village of Rampurwa, 55-year-old Kamalawati tells me her home was destroyed during a flood, but since she didn't have the money to build a new safe house raised on concrete platforms, the only alternative was to build a hut made of mud and bamboo. She is scared for the next time the dramatic rains come.

55 year old Kamalawati describes the unpredictable weather to Helena Christensen. Philip Riches/Oxfam

Alone in her struggle to care for her family, her husband, like so many others, has gone to India to try and earn some money to provide for the family. There are next to no sources of income in rural Nepal, the situation is true for so many. The men are forced to leave the country in order to get work, leaving their wives and children behind to fend for themselves.

I also met with Khanal, a young woman, who lives with her 8-month-old son and 11 other members of her family. "Earlier rainfall used to come at the planting season, but now it comes much later causing flooding for 15 days and resulting in the loss of our crops," she told me.

It was a total flashback to my trip to Peru, the year before. Different continents, different climates, but the same struggles and fears.

 Helena Christensen/Oxfam

In the highlands of Peru, at the foot of the Ausangate glacier, farmers told me that because rainfall is less frequent than it used to be, it is impossible for them to predict and plan their crops, so the general production has suffered enormously.

The already difficult life, marred with poverty and discrimination, is only being made so much harder. People have less food to eat and less produce to sell. One of the farmer-wifes I met on this trip, Elizabeth Ayma, confessed to me she felt huge shame about no longer being able to afford to pay for her children's school fees.

In Peru, in Nepal and around the world, millions of women already face a daily struggle to put food on the table because of discrimination and inequality. While women grow a majority of the food in many developing countries, they are also the ones who go without meals in order to ensure their families have enough to eat.

Climate change is making their situation worse -- much, much worse.

The mothers I met in Nepal and in Peru face an uncertain future. They simply don't know where the next meal is coming from, where they are going to get water for themselves and for their crops.

I wanted to speak about this today, on the 100 year anniversary of International Women's Day. The women I met on my trips with Oxfam need all the help and support they can get, in order to lead their communities and enable them to adapt and make the necessary changes they need to survive.

What better day to join their fight than today, International Women's Day.

More about how Oxfam is celebrating International Women's Day

Comments

Some great photos there, just

Some great photos there, just a shame the quality isnt that good or they have been compressed badly, are you using a digital SLR camera.

These are great cameras even though they are a few years old now, but they can be picked up cheaply

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