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  • Manasvi Nag

What Climate Change means for Rural Women.

Whilst documenting traditions of Tribal groups and other vulnerable communities across Gujarat, documentary filmmaker and photographer, Divy Bhagia, documented multiple women who are forced to adapt to climate change daily.

“People like you and I have the agency of choice; we can choose whether or not we even want to talk about it. But, when I was in conversation with people from these communities, I was surprised to know that despite them not knowing ‘climate change’ as a phenomenon, they deal with it every day! Women from these areas are not educated, but they very well know how to work with bare minimum resources to sustain their families; something that you and I will have a hard time even adapting to."


Households that are located in rural spaces and belong to marginalised communities face the repercussions of climate change the most; and, among these households, the onus of fulfilling basic needs falls on the women.

In most families, women innately play the role of primary providers of food, water and fuel.

Climate change has led to irregular rain patterns which makes farming possible only 4 months a year. Every member of this family is involved in tilling the landlord’s farm in return for ¼th of the produce which barely lasts them a few months.

In rural spaces, among marginalised communities, these roles are amplified because women are the centre of the house’s functionality. From fetching drinking water to collecting firewood for fuel, women are burdened with unpaid domestic work.

And, When a global phenomenon like climate change occurs, rural women, who walk kilometres daily for water, are affected the most.

Young girls of the village fetch water, dressed in traditional clothing as their male counterparts pass them wearing jeans and strolling confidently. The difference in their demeanours depict the deep-rooted gender biased roles of girls and boys from the same socio-economic backgrounds.

We may not see the effect of climate change in our lives, but, women from lesser privileged backgrounds who grow up with no access to basic resources, face the wrath of climate change the most.

Climate change affects the availability of resources like water, firewood and food; and in a situation where there already is a scarcity of them, women as primary providers are required to fend for themselves and their families.

The gender norms of our society dictate women, especially those from such backgrounds to not just act as primary providers but also as primary caregivers of the families, especially the children. Thus, the health, nutrition and the upbringing of the child depend completely upon whether or not their mothers can provide them with necessities.

The socio-economic conditions of these families don’t allow women to choose between the roles of primary providers and caregivers. As a mother, she must work to earn, walk distances to get drinking water and look for fuel to cook food; all while caring for her children. There is no choice between the two.

Lakshmi ben sits outside her makeshift house on the streets of Chandisar, a village in BanasKantha, feeding her child in the hot sun. As migrant labourers, their work includes digging roads and laying pipelines. Here, they work on a stretch of 10kms and use the leftover plastic pipes as makeshift houses.

Studies conducted by the UN show that 80% of people displaced because of climate change are women.

The woman sustains her family through flood, drought and displacement.

A common sight in this flood ridden village is of broken houses and walls of families who cannot afford to get them rebuilt.

Marginalised women fall on the bottom-most tier of society. They earn lesser, have access to minimal resources, avail negligible or no education and migrate in search of opportunities.

“We talk about glaciers melting and sea creatures dying, things that are far away from us, which leads to us not realising the urgency of climate change. If you want to see what climate change is, try going 30kms from your city and asking people who live there; they are facing the implications every single day. These communities, who still engage with traditional practices and know-how, have a better understanding of how to adapt to climate change and you’ll be surprised to know that they use several sustainable techniques too!”

“We should learn a thing or two from them if we want to educate ourselves, after all, what’s better than practical knowledge,” says Divy Bhagia.

The average representation of women in climate change related decision making bodies, both globally and nationally is less than 30%. It is the need of the hour to promote gender sensitive strategies and responses to combat climate change on both local and global level.

Written by: Manasvi Nag

Pictures and Curation by: Divy Bhagia

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