On the Front Lines of Global Climate Change and Women’s Rights

indigenous woman photo

Bali recently hosted the first Summit on Women and Climate. It’s all about raising women’s voices and women’s leadership on global climate change. It’s an issue that will impact everyone but for indigenous women who are the primary farmers, foragers, and cooks throughout much of the world, it will have an especially harsh impact.

“For indigenous women, the relationship with the environment is very important – it has such a high impact on [their] lives,” Mariana Lopez, program coordinator for the International Indigenous Women’s Forum said to Grist. “They have a very close relationship with the cycles of nature. But with climate change altering those patterns — well, when nature is unpredictable, it’s very disruptive to their lives.”

Women like Ursula Rakova are also in control of moving their communities in places like Tulun in Papua New Guinea because the ocean has eaten up so much of the farmland that growing their staple taro is no longer possible. She’ll be moving her entire community to Bouganville, a nearby island. She’s on the front lines of action and reaction.

Global Greengrants, one of the hosts of the event, has been documenting women’s roles as the planet warms. They’ve already distributed 700 small grants in more than 80 countries this year to get people working on critical local issues. In all, 24 percent of these grants will go to women led organizations.

Out of necessity, indigenous women are already implementing solutions in their communities–protesting to defend their land, saving seeds, using solar panels on their huts, and using energy efficient cookstoves.

EcoWatch documented the work of one particular women on the front lines:

‘Mama’ Aleta Baun, an award-winning Indonesian environmental activist, was the first grassroots woman to speak at the recent Summit on Women and Climate. This diminutive yet powerful indigenous leader organized women in several communities to fight against land grabbing by mining companies in her region of West Timor. They successfully kept four mining enterprises out by blocking their access to sites, sitting each day for months and weaving the traditional cloth that her people wear as turbans and skirts.

The summit outlined other qualities that show why women may be our best hope for fighting global climate change:

  • Women are most often directly responsible for feeding their families.
  • Indigenous women are often closer to nature and see the impact of global climate change first because they are farming, foraging, and fishing.
  • Women are on the front lines of peaceful protest against the destruction of their traditional territory.
  • Women are particularly strong at working together toward a common solution which means they’re better able to network with other associations.

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Image: Fabrice Florin