When the Asian Development Bank (ADB) launched their $263 million rural water project in Sri Lanka in 2006, it required that women be put in leadership positions for this program. The stipulation apparently worked as experts branded the initiative very successful in providing 900,000 people in the eastern and north central regions of Sri Lanka with potable water.
What contributed to this success? Kusum Athukorala, head of the Network of Women Water Professionals, Sri Lanka (NetWwater) and the Women for Water Partnership, sums it up in one statement: “Women are the foot soldiers of climate change adaptation.” By educating women in the rural areas on climate change and water management, they foster the program’s continued success. Association member Sheila Herath adds the practicality of putting women in key posts for this program: “We know how much is needed. Women do most of the household work like cooking (and) washing clothes. We ask our members to limit use when we have problems.”
Women are also crucial in protecting the forests of the world, particularly those in Indonesia and China. Since they know the value of the forests to their lives women at the grassroots are tapped to ensure that the damage inflicted by humans remains within controllable limits. Indonesian expert on forest management and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Avi Mahaningtyas puts it simply: “A forest with a value will not easily be cut down. And it is the people who work within it who will know intimately that value.”
In rural China, the responsibility of protecting the forests has increasingly fallen on the shoulders of women. Chinese gender specialist Xiaobei Wang explains: “In China most of men from areas near forests have left as migrant workers, making women the major labour force. About 60 percent of those working in forests and farm land are women. If their rights are not protected and enforced, there will be lots of issues in reducing poverty in forest areas and ensuring the sustainable management of forests.”
But despite the success that women clearly bring to programs that seek to save the environment, research shows that they are still marginally represented and even ignored in resource management processes that take place in Asia. According to Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the organization that conducted the study, excluding women in decision is detrimental to “global climate and poverty reduction goals.”
Category: Women in the World