Connecting the dots: Women, climate change and natural resources

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
There is a growing struggle in communities of the Asia Pacific region for environmental justice. This is true of other developing countries too where development projects challenge the traditional ways of life. Policies of increasing consumption and unregulated exploitation of natural resources have made life on our planet unsustainable. Women who account for nearly 66% of the people living in extreme poverty bear the brunt of policies of increasing consumption and unregulated exploitation of natural resources, leading to gross inequity and insecurity.

Some of the women activists spoke to Citizen News Service (CNS) during the 2nd Asia Pacific Feminist Forum (2nd AFPP 2014) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, sharing their country experience of the linkages between women, climate change and natural resources.

Tin Tinyo, General Secretary, Women’s League of Burma, rued that, “Although my country is very rich in natural resources 50 years of civil war and the arrival of many unwelcome investors in the name of development, have taken away all these resources from the community leaving them with no assets. Development projects like building dams, laying gas pipelines, logging, and jade mining are adversely affecting the lives of women. Water levels have depleted and there is no potable water in areas where they are living. So they have to trudge long distances to fetch water. They face a lot of violence too, especially sexual violence. So resource mismanagement is a big problem. Where ever development projects are taking place, women are being exploited as prostitutes and/or like temporary wives. This is a big challenge for the community and families. Like other countries in the world, Burma is also affected by climate change. Climate change like excessive heat and floods lead to health and livelihood problems and women are burdened the most.

Helen Hakena of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, and Director of Leitana, Nehan Women’s Development Agency, said that, “Women are the biggest sufferers of climate changes that affect the whole life of women, making them more vulnerable. In my region erosion of islands is forcing women to move to other places. This migration is not only unsettling the women but also unnerving them, as they are not adapting well to their new habitats. Papua New Guinea is seeing an influx of refugees, including women, from Carteret Island which is sinking and is now just 1.5 metres above water. The women are not only losing land, they have lost their livelihood also. Their children are not going to school, there is no food, and no help as they are far away from mainland of Bougainville.”

For Vernie Yocogan Diano, an indigenous woman from the Cordillera region of Philippines, and Executive Director of Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Centre, the survival and rights of rural and indigenous women are very much connected to their ownership of land and natural resources. She believes that, “Unless these two things are not in control of the women community, they will never enjoy their rights and their survival will be at stake. States and other structures of power (like corporations) have been taking these assets away from women. The framework of development still revolves about monopolising land and resources, not for the benefit of women but for industries.  No development goals for women can be reached if their basis of survival is taken away from them.”

Activists will have to empower communities to stand up for their rights, and demand of the decision makers to be very careful and think of environment friendliness for every project they do, ensuring that it neither takes away the daily livelihood of the people nor erodes the natural resources beyond redemption.

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service (CNS)
1 June 2014
(The author is the Managing Editor of Citizen News Service - CNS. She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA and received her editing training in Singapore. She has earlier worked with State Planning Institute, UP and taught physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. She also co-authored and edited publications on gender justice, childhood TB, childhood pneumonia, Hepatitis C Virus and HIV, and MDR-TB. Email:, website:

Published in:
Citizen News Service (CNS), India