By Erika Sales, Programme Officer, ARROW
Young feminists from different parts of the world gathered on the third day of the negotiations at the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris to share how they are already organising in creative ways to address the impacts of climate change.
I was particularly interested to join this group to learn more about the initiatives of young feminists for climate justice. The gathering included sharing of reflections, stories, and campaigns. I was glad that this space was created by young feminists and many supporters came to the gathering. We discussed the inherent linkages of climate change to health and nutrition and how these compound the vulnerabilities that young women are facing in their everyday lives. Though women are vulnerable, young feminists emphasised that women are agents of change and they provide solutions to the pressing climate crisis.
Often, in climate change discussions, women are often described as vulnerable and as being impacted differently. Creative means, such as storytelling, are important to understand the complex realities of what is happening in the everyday lives of women and to address their needs and recognise their demands. Postcards featuring young women’s stories from the climate frontlines from Asia were presented during the Young Feminists Day. I shared the story of 23-year-old Chanh from Lao PDR, and 21-year-old Sumitra from Bangladesh.
Climate change is currently causing prolonged devastating draughts in Lao PDR and has raised significant issues around food security in the country. Large families, in particular, face the nearly overwhelming challenge of trying to meet the nutritional needs of their family in this economically unstable time. Chanh, a 23-year-old mother of six, faces this struggle every day. Access to comprehensive family planning services would have given her the agency to decide the number of children she would like to have based on her capacity to provide for them. This option, however, was not made available to her. She shares her story to raise the importance of access to sexual and reproductive health services in the face of calamities cause by climate change to enable rural women like herself to make choices that are best for them and their family – Chanh, 23 years old, Sekong, Lao PDR
Abject poverty seen in Bangladesh is currently being exacerbated to an overwhelming degree by climate-change-related devastation, such as flooding, which has created concerning issues around food security. Twenty-one year old Sumitra was encouraged to enter into an early marriage during a post-flood devastation period in the hope that it would safeguard her future. She got pregnant soon after her marriage but miscarried because she was unable to access proper food and adequate medical care. Climate change related disasters are forcing families to find quick solutions to their immense struggles and the unavailability of adequate medical services is adding to their burden. Early marriage can reduce the economic burden to family but we know it is often never favourable to the women and girls involved. Sumitra’s story speaks for the need to increase awareness around harmful practices that limit sexual and reproductive health, including early marriage, so girls have healthier lives and brighter futures. – Sumitra Mondol, 21 years old, Satkhira, Bangladesh
Both Chanh and Sumitra are demanding the fulfilment of their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The postcards were shared to the participants and the first Young Feminists Day concluded with a celebratory chant about moving forward and mobilising together.
The first Young Feminists Day was organised by the Young Feminists for Climate Justice. ARROW’s series of postcards were also launched at COP21 on 4 December 2015. The postcards featured stories from climate change affected communities in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines.