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Climate Change and Energy Equity - A Campaign for Women’s Right to Energy Entitlements

In India women from poor rural, tribal, migrant, coastal and urban marginalised communities bear the primary responsibilities over cooking, fetching water, working and living in very unsafe and unsustainable conditions whether it is walking long distances for daily wage labour, performing multiple labour intensive tasks in their farms, factories or other occupations, having little or no access to electricity, water or toilets that can provide decent and safe spaces of human existence. Women face many challenges whether to collect firewood or to afford or access LPG for safer means of cooking.

As farmers, most of the activities are performed by women manually as technology and energy resources are inaccessible to them. In factories women work with poor ventilation, lack decent toilets or even drinking water facilities and are paid the lowest. Women informal workers in agriculture, construction, mining or other unorganised sector activities have to constantly migrate seasonally with no proper shelter, access to fuelwood, water or toilets and they often walk long distances for work because public transport in most rural areas is poor or not available. Adivasi women living in the forest collect forest produce and walk down the hills in hazardous conditions to sell their produce in the towns or haats.

As climate disasters are increasing either in the form of floods, droughts, crop losses, drying up of water bodies or other sudden or prolonged forms of crises, poor women and their children in these marginalised communities face the worst impacts through starvation, hunger, ill health, increased workloads for livelihoods, collecting water, firewood, caregiving or other daily activities. This is also visible in the growing distress migration, children dropping out of school and child labour, with violence at work and at home.

In short, women and children have the smallest carbon footprint and are paying the highest price for the global climate crisis. They are also paying a high price for the global climate action solutions that are causing further hardships for women. The targets to address climate crises like alternate energy solutions through renewables, ground water, tree plantations or alternate transport technologies are barely reaching the large majority of poor women and their households. Although solar, wind, hydrogen, hydro and other alternate energy solutions are increasing in a big way, women are yet to experience any beneficial change in their daily energy needs. Majority of them still depend on firewood whereas LPG, clean cooking stoves or other technologies are either not accessible or are at experimental stages. Women continue to walk long distances to collect water and have very minimal access to public transport for their travel. While there are some schemes for addressing women’s needs under the climate action targets, we feel that these are grossly inadequate, inequitable and inaccessible to the large population of poor women.

However, women are facing a new crisis when they have to give up their lands and occupations for setting up new climate action projects like solar parks, wind parks, dams or plantations, the fruits of which are benefited by a largely urban population and the private and industrial sector. Women who are forced to give up their resources are not getting benefits of these green energy projects for their cooking or for public transport or water or for toilets, and therefore, becoming climate action victims. We believe that green energy is today not gender just or socially equitable and the poor are paying for the privileges of those who can consume and demand for green energy. If we have to make energy finance sustainable, we have to ensure that the new energy resources, technology, skills and knowledge are reaching the large population of women. We also need to listen to the knowledge and local wisdoms of women who have been conserving resources - forests, firewood, water, land and other ecosystems - and women are practising sustainable energy solutions.

In order to bring to public attention this urgent need to recognize women’s energy needs and energy knowledge in the global climate change dialogues and energy finance policies, we would like to call upon women’s networks, unions, collectives and local communities to come together to lobby for women-centred and gender just energy policies and for bringing women’s energy needs as a priority in energy finance and technological investments.


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