She has over 20 years of work experience at the community and policy levels to strengthen climate action by supporting inclusive and participatory practices that promote social-ecological and democratic equity.
How do women in Pakistan’s mountain areas contribute to sustainable development?
The climate is changing, and we cannot allow the equity gap to increase. Therefore, we must hasten and accelerate our efforts to reduce this gap so women’s challenges are reduced and their resilience is strengthened.
In rural communities, people directly relate to ecological goods and services. For example, mountain women must travel long distances to collect water, gather firewood, water the fields, and harvest. They play a critical role in managing these resources and using these resources.
However, they’re not managers of these sources, but they understand their role when changes happen, for example, temperature changes or precipitation patterns. So it has a hydrological imbalance that directly impacts their food security.
It also has a direct impact on the health of the girl child and the education of the girl child. In addition, it results in out-migration of the male population. Hence, a host of other related issues happen due to this connection between people and nature and the disruption of that nature and the impact of that on human lives.
I have been working in mountain communities for the last two decades. I think that my observation is that women understand these dynamics as nurturers and care providers. Perhaps it’s part of their DNA to understand the value of conservation and the need for preserving and protecting.
I also find that women are more receptive to learning. In addition, they understand the long-term benefits of doing things, so I believe sustainability cannot be achieved without including women. Therefore, the sooner we empower and equip rural women to address their issues and sustainably interact with nature, the better.
Pakistan is exploring new climate-smart investments in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). But how can such climate investments be gender inclusive?
The first step towards inclusivity is improving gender equity. For instance, Pakistan has a Gender Action Plan which makes a wide set of recommendations on plotting a gender-responsive strategy in the NDCs and meeting the emerging threats and challenges in climate mitigation and adaptation.
We have seen significant economic damage from the recent floods. The World Bank has estimated these losses at around US $16 billion, and before that, Pakistan suffered at an annual rate of US $3.8 billion for many decades.
I think it clearly shows how disproportionately women will be affected. Women will continue facing this challenge as the climate continues to change (and at the pace it is changing with recurring disasters).
The climate is changing, and we cannot allow the equity gap to increase.
What opportunities does technology provide for civil society organizations to empower women in the face of climate change?
For example, they can continue to create an enabling environment for women to contribute to environmental decisions. We live in the age of climate change, so we must keep in step with this pace of change – we don’t have the luxury of time!
Therefore, technology can help civil society bridge gaps through early warning, e-Learning, agri-advisories, and telemedicine. All these things are technology-driven and can provide many opportunities for women to improve their coping capacities in times of disaster.
Aisha Khan spoke in a panel discussion commemorating International Women’s Day 2023 organized by ADPC.