Changing Climate, Changing Leadership:
Grassroots Women’s Groups Model Climate Resilient Development
Grassroots women leaders shared their local inovations to confront climate change in their communities last week in an event at the United Nations where they spoke alongside partners from the Norwegian and Guatemalan governments as well as the World Bank.On February 23rd, the Permanent Mission of Norway, the UNDP Gender Team and the Huairou Commission organized this interactive discussion at the 55th session of the UN Commission on Status of Women, for to grassroots women’s groups to share their firsthand experiences and solutions.
Huairou Commission: http://www.huairou.org/node/948
Rural Women’s Panel
Leaders of women’s farming organizations from India and Nicaragua talked about organizing women to adapt their farming practices to ensure food and livelihoods security, and to reduce environmental degradation.Godavari Dange, who began organizing grassroots women into savings and credit groups after the Latur earthquake in India in 1993, now leadsa federation of savings groups of more than 5,000 women, working together on livelihoods, health and sanitation. To cope with food insecurity, her federation organized more than 4,000 women to create vegetable farming groups in 153 villages. Since vegetables have shorter production cycles and improve both consumption of nutritious food within the family as well as contributed to women’s incomes, the women realized that if they prioritized vegetable farming they could make major progress in their empowerment. The women also introduced collective farming practices and seed banks to preserve indigenous seed varieties and lower their expenses on seeds and other inputs.Haydee Rodriguez emphasized the importance of preserving indigenous seeds to combat changing weather patterns such ans drought that increases food insecurity for rural women and families. She represents the Union de Cooperativas Las Brumas, a network of organized women’s farming cooperatives of 1200 women farmers in Nicaragua. Rodriguez also shared her experience working with local authorities to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action, noting that she and other grassroots women leaders in her network had to first teach her local authorities about this government agreement, and then work with them to use it as a tool for implementation. She also spoke about the importance of sharing practices between grassroots women in her region, noting that her relationship with other grassroots women’s networks in Guatemala were crucial for the success of their partnership with CEPREDENAC, the Central American Regional Disaster Resilience Authority.Lily Caravantes, Presidential Secretary for Food Security and Nutrition from Guatemala who is partnering with grassroots women’s organizations to build food security in Central America, reiterated the need to invest in grassroots women’s leadership. She talked about the need to bring women into decision making – into public policy with ‘voice and vote.’
Urban Women’s PanelWhile climate change is usually framed as a rural issue, Margaret Arnold Senior Social Development Specialist at the World Bank pointed out that the urban poor are experiencing and responding to climate change. Participatory research conducted by grassroots women on climate change in urban areas affirms that housing is a major asset of the poor. Thus, vulnerabilities of the urban poor are heightened when weak tenure rights limit their ability to access basic services such as water supply, sanitation and garbage collection. The absence of secure tenure also lowers incentives to strengthen housing structures and pushes people to settle in unsafe areas. Delivering resources to grassroots organizations and local institutions, providing women’s networks with resources and information and engaging grassroots organizations in carrying out participatory appraisals were named as three strategies that are effective ways of building community resilience. Lastly she stated that each of the practices being featured in the panel were practical, sustainable and scalable.All three of the urban panelists presented how climate change exacerbated the negative effects of urbanization.
Resilience means having secure housing, accessing basic services and being able to respond to emergencies, saidJosephine Castillo, a community leader of DAMPA, a network of more than 200 community based organizations in urban poor communities In a flood control program in Metro Manila in which 7500 households were relocated without access to basic services or livelihoods options, DAMPA successfully negotiated with local and national governments to access livelihoods programs and basic services for 3500 households. Community groups in two settlements have formed water cooperatives and negotiated access to safe water from Manila Water. Women have also organized emergency response teams in several communities.Joyce Nangobi, representing Slum Women’s Initiative for Development (SWID) in Jinja, said that her communities were affected by drought and unpredictable weather as well as the privatization and commercialization of lands which are taking away the small plots in which women have traditionally grown food. A recent community survey of 400 households found that most families were unable to eat 2 meals a day. In the face of these adversities SWID has organized women to plant trees to reduce soil erosion and degradation, grow drought-resistant crops and pooled women’s savings to buy a 3-acre plot which they can farm collectively. In addition to helping 44 women secure land tenure, SWID has also constructed model houses to show how women can build decent housing with access to basic services.Relinda Sosa representing GROOTS Peru, a network of 3 grassroots organizations from the Lima Metropolitan Area stated that her group, CONAMOVIDI, had substantial experience in building community resilience as they had a history of coping with political violence, economic crises and the 2007 earthquake in Chincha. Through a community risk and vulnerability mapping process, women found that poor families are living in particularly unsafe conditions and that single mothers often have an acute need for secure tenure but their lack of land titles means that their needs are often ignored by government. Sosa also spoke of the importance of collaborating with local and national governments. Women are currently negotiating with the city of Lima to be part of city planning and decision making processes. Learning from the Central American experience in the GROOTS network, GROOTS Peru has also initiated a dialogue with the Andean regional disaster management authority called CAPRADE.
A Call to Do MoreFinally, Prof. Vinod Menon, former Member of the National Disaster Management Authority of the Government of India quoted from the IFRC’s World Disaster Report 2010, that “…large development assistance agencies frequently do not know how to support community-level organizations – indeed often they never talk to them.” Prof. Menon went on to discuss the need to leverage the transformative leadership of grassroots women’s organizations.
As a concrete example, Prof. Menon talked about the Community Resilience Fund which had resourced grassroots organizations in 8 states of India and was endorsed by the National Disaster Management Authority. The Fund has since been supported by Norway, UNDP Gender Team and South-South Fund of the Global Facility for Disaster Recovery and Resilience at the World Bank, and is currently operational in 13 countries. He highlighted the new roles that grassroots women in India were taking on in their communities as a result of the Fund.
Menon also called for strong advocacy initiatives with central planning agencies of governments such as the Planning Commission, National Disaster Management Authorities and nodal ministries such as the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare.Randi Davis, the Deputy Director of the UNDP Gender Team, noted how humbled she was to speak after such experienced grassroots leasders doing “real development work” and was struck by how the challenges facing them are the same as 10-15 years ago. She called on onther multilateral organizations and UN agencies to “step up their game,” saying that “We [UN agencies] need to do far more than we are doing.”Finally, Jan Peterson, Chair of Huairou Commission ended with a strong statement in which she stated that this is an opportune moment to bring the priorities and practices of grassroots women’s voices to be at the forefront of the climate change field, in partnership with others. She stated, “It is not just that the grassroots women are doing all the work. [This new paradigm] shows that we need local governments, we need feminist women who are fighting for gender to be included, we need a new way of partnering. With the formation of UN Women and the increase of climate change, this is the time to partner and bring grassroots women to the table . . . this is the moment!”This UNDP publication presents a set of grassroots women’s development
innovations that build community resilience. The women’s groups and collectives
described in this publication are grassroots women’s groups, whose survival and
everyday lives are directly affected by natural hazards and clima…
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UNDP – New Publication (pdf)- Grassroot Women's Groups Taking Action!
April 26, 2011 by Leave a Comment