Chandigarh, May 26
Climate crisis is an issue of the survival of humanity, melting glaciers, sinking islands, the whale with a ton of plastic in its stomach, polar bear which has lost its habitat, corals which have lost their colour and many more. These were the views expressed at the ICSSR sponsored ‘Seminar on Climate Crisis and Feminisation of Poverty’, organised by the Department-cum-Centre for Women’s Studies and Development, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
Inaugurating the seminar, Sant Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, an environmentalist, Padma Shree awardee and Member of Rajya Sabha, highlighted the environmental aspect of the ancient and medieval scriptures. He emphasised that Guru Nanak Dev had laid a focus on “Pawan guru, Paani pita”. “But we got into trouble when we ignored the teachings of the sages,” he said.
Seechewal further emphasised that the Indian Constitution too put upon the citizens the duty to conserve the environment, but the people paid no heed to it. The educated upper class had failed in their duty to raise awareness and instead contributed to environmental degradation, he said.
Aparna Sahay, former Member Secretary, Rajasthan State Commission for Women, highlighted the role women can play in decision-making in climate change, particularly in the context of Sustainable Development Goals. She cited the example of Sendai city, which was badly affected by Tsunami. However, the local people and the government came together and managed to rebuild the city. She emphasised that the climate crisis has to be tackled through a gender lens, failing which, all efforts at tackling the situation will come to nought.
Prof Rumina Sethi, Dean of University Instruction, in her presidential remarks began with an anecdote about a judge who was not happy with the ways things were being projected when it came to women; he felt that men were equally oppressed. She highlighted the heterogeneity of women’s issues and their multiple marginalisation. She looked at the way women were linked with the environment, control over their sexuality and control over environment. She concluded by citing the example of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, which impacted women differently from men, but no heed was paid to their problems because this was dictated by the funding agency.
Prof Pam Rajput also laid stress on the need to involve women in decision-making on issues of climate change. Women, she stated have been the conservator of the environment. Women’s indigenous knowledge can help restore the biosphere, she said. She added that in 1992, at the time of the Rio Conference, 145 gender issues related to the environment were taken up. Many gender issues were raised after that, but women have still not been brought to the decision-making table. She said, “We also need to question the model of development which has led to this climate crisis.”
Patrick Hebert, Consul General of Canada in Chandigarh said the next few years are going to be very dangerous and hazardous. He highlighted a number of initiatives taken up by the Canadian Government for this, including gender advocacy.
The seminar also saw paper presentations on themes such as agricultural distress, food security, livelihoods, impact on vulnerable regions, violence against women and gendered adaptation strategies. The seminar was attended by around 80 participants.
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