Bad times to support a family
The impact is far from being a feminist abstraction or of groups concerned about the environment. According to UN Women, small farmers produce between 45 and 80 percent of the food consumed on the planet. The efficiency of this work, essential for the survival of poor rural communities, is significantly reduced when they have to walk several hours a day to fetch water. It is estimated that rural women in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa spend 200 million hours a day on this task.
Frequent droughts force women to travel long hours to find sources of water.
Drought or disruption of the rainy seasons reduce harvests. Rural women, who must guarantee food for their families in developing countries, work harder to extract the fruits. When the weather rages on the land, they completely lose their source of livelihood. While men may migrate alone in search of economic opportunities, they are left stranded at home, prey to famines. Women represent 70 percent of the poor.
In difficult times, mothers turn to their daughters for help. As a result, girls and adolescents drop out of school more often than their male peers. In the medium term, this desertion erodes the potential of girls to aspire to a better economic status. In sub-Saharan African nations, fathers sell their young daughters to alleviate food shortages. For these young wives, marriage almost always represents the closure of their aspirations and an increased risk of dying from reproductive complications.
The statistics of the last natural disasters reveal a gender imbalance. According to the United Nations, women are 14 times more likely to die in extreme weather events than men.
But women are not standing idly by. They know that any strategy to face climate change must include them, or they will continue to star in the most tragic stories.
Aleta Baun (left), like Gandhi, led a movement of peaceful resistance to mining companies.
One of these environmental leaders is Aleta Baun, an indigenous woman from East Timor, in Indonesia. “Mama Aleta”, as her compatriots know her, led a movement of peaceful resistance against the marble mines on that island. For more than a decade he opposed the destruction of the environment on Mutis Mountain. She and a hundred women sat at the entrance to the mines and wove traditional clothing from the Molo people.
Baun suffered threats. In an ambush by hired assassins from a mining company, they spared her life, but not before hitting her and wounding her legs with machetes. For six months she lived hidden in the jungle. He later had to flee with his children, when the threats escalated. But the companies finally left the region in 2010.
Last April Mama Aleta was elected to represent her people in the East Nusa Tenggara province parliament. Local environmentalists call her the "Avatar of Indonesia", in reference to the James Cameron film (2009). The Molo consider the trees, water, soil and stones of their island sacred. Their names come from the rocks. If someone destroyed these resources, they would die.
Baun's story, while extraordinary, is not unique. Women from rural and indigenous communities in other countries work on projects to defend their resources and mitigate the effects of global warming. The planet needs us to hear their voices, before climate chaos is hopeless.
La Tribuna, from Honduras