Pakistan: Women farmers raise their voices on climate change

In many parts of Pakistan, climate change has threatened the livelihoods of millions of people in recent years. Rural farming communities are the worst hit. Changed weather patterns, frequent floods and droughts are witnessed in different places across the country, including the vast plains as well as riverine, desert and coastal areas.

The impacts and implications are equally diverse: Early or late rain spells with devastating effects on crops, saline water rendering thousands of acres of land barren, frequent and continuing land erosion. To make matters worse, periodic occurrences of water related disasters are snatching from the poor and vulnerable whatever they have left with, and thus creating a worrisome situation of food insecurity.

Unfortunately, rural farming communities, especially the fishing communities  - already considered economically weak and vulnerable-, are the people forced to bear the brunt of climate change impacts. The women from these communities are double victims of this economic and social jeopardy because they are women, they come from economically marginalized groups and they have no say at all at any decision-making platform.

Women are no longer silent

Women from rural farming communities, in most cases, are unable to voice their specific needs even in a disaster situation. The increasing level of poverty has deterred the efforts aiming at social and economic empowerment and emancipation of women at different levels. However, at the same time there have been some developments  that revived the hope that the challenges, regardless of their scales and volume, could be turned into opportunities with the right policy, planning and on the ground  practical measures.

Working with partner organizations and the communities worst hit by or most prone to climate change, we have been able to develop a number of model projects for dealing with disturbed weather patterns. While designing the models, we focused especially on creating resilience among the communities and on the economic and social revival of women farmers.

Women from climate change hit areas have finally decided that they will no more remain silent and would come out and raise their voices for their rights.

The state of climate change resilience

Many women farmers and climate change vulnerable communities joined the GROW Week celebrations. This can be seen as a sign of a better tomorrow. However, it’s a long and hard journey. There is a long way to go before having effective policies on climate change and food security beyond the closets of power corridors and implemented on the ground. These policies must benefit the most vulnerable prople and protect their lives, livelihoods and right to (quality) food.  

The recent Global Hunger Index issued by the International Food Policy Research Institute has shown a slight improvement of Pakistan on the hunger index. However, for a meaningful and significant advancement in combating poverty, the socio-economic emancipation and empowerment of vulnerable people has a crucial role to play. Hence, women farmers need to be on the forefront of all the endeavors against hunger and poverty.

The celebration on the occasion of GROW Week, with a considerable participation by women, youth & men in the rallies, seminars, dialogues, universities, and urban centers demanding  policy actions on climate change and food security is a remarkable milestone across Pakistan.  This is something to celebrate as the role of women in public sphere of the country, especially in the rural communities have always been dismally insignificant in the past.

The fact that women are taking the climate change and food security agenda in their hands also shows that a considerable dent has already been made in the traditional exclusion of women in society. A lot has yet to be achieved to make the vulnerable communities climate change resilient in practice. The emergence of women from nowhere to everywhere in public spaces is an indication that the destination is not that far away now. Therefore, these voices for more resilient societies in the face of climate change need to be strengthened and heard and the GROW campaign will continue to do this at every level.

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