Looking for Leaders on Climate? Follow the Women Farmers

Published on Sunday, March 08, 2015 by Common Dreams
by Jon Queally, staff writer

Across the globe, countless women are standing up to the ravages of climate change – and to the governments and big businesses who are allowing it to destroy the world.

Ipaishe, a farmer and climate campaigner from Zimbabwe, is among the women climate leaders who are showing others the path towards a more sustainable and equitable future. (Photo: Oxfam International)

Ipaishe, a farmer and climate campaigner from Zimbabwe, is among the women climate leaders who are showing others the path towards a more sustainable and equitable future. (Photo: Oxfam International)

“I give you a message from my heart,” she says, “let’s move forward and work together for the benefit of everyone. And especially for those who work in the fields, as we are the ones who suffer the most.”

That is the voice of Arminda, a farmer and agro-forestry advocate from Bolivia, who is among a number of women farmers and activists featured in a campaign video by Oxfam International which celebrates female voices from around the world who are raising the alarm about climate change, organizing their communities in response, challenging others to recognize their wisdom, and pressuring local and national officials to follow their lead.

According to Oxfam, the small group of brave women in the film is just a sample of the thousands of others who are standing up to the ravages of climate change – and to the governments and big businesses who are allowing runaway global warming to destroy the world.

With Sunday recognized by the United Nations as International Women’s Day, Oxfam’s focus on the vital role played by the women farmers is part of the organization’s ongoingGROW Campaign, which targets the intersection of hunger, climate change, and global inequality.

Alison Woodhead, director of the campaign, says women make up 43 percent of the agricultural workforce in the world’s developing countries and play a vital role in both food production and preparation.

These women, explains Woodhead in a blog post on Sunday, “have a wealth of knowledge about seeds, crops, water and land management. But the imbalanced responsibility of them putting food on their own family tables, as well as producing much of the world’s sustenance, is getting tougher all the time because of increasingly unpredictable weather.”

As this recent reporting by Agence France-France explores, climate change may be a “man-made” problem, but its negative impacts are disproportionally felt by women across the world.

“It boils down to the fact that women and men have different types of vulnerabilities already in the world,” explained Tara Shine, special advisor to the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice think tank, headed by the former Irish president-turned UN special envoy for climate change. “And then climate change comes along and accentuates all of those.”

In addition to their insight on the threat of climate and food insecurity, it is because of their unique role within their families and communities, argues Woodhead, that women are now essential leaders in the global fight against climate change. The video produced by Oxfam, she says, represents only “a snapshot of the huge contribution women across the world are making in the battle against climate change – an issue that impacts everyone, regardless of gender identity.”

Also featured in the video is Langing, a farmer and climate youth leader in the Philippines, who says she saw no other option but to rally to the cause after her schooling was cut short after drought killed off the crops of her family’s farm.

“In my opinion it’s unfair on us,” says Langing. “We are not the main contributors to climate change. But in these times, we should not blame each other. If we do what is right and start with ourselves, imagine the impact we could have. If we all believed in the same principles, we surely would be able to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

And Rosario, who like Arminda hails from Bolivia, adds, “If you want something, you can get it – it’s just about the power inside you to go and do things.  So my message to people would be ‘let’s get organized, let’s get together, let’s talk and move forward towards the same point.'”

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