Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Connection Between Women, Water, Climate Change and You

Whether or not you believe the human population is affecting climate change, the recent and frequent changes in climate are definitely affecting the human population. This year alone, we have seen earthquakes destroy entire cities and take millions of human lives. And on a less serious but still pertinent note, the snowstorm that swept over the northeastern section of the United States this winter buried us in several feet of snow, the likes of which we had not seen before.

And while there is excessive rain in some areas (like Rhode Island saw in the recent week), the air is dangerously dry in states ranging from Alabama to Florida to Texas, where there are now warnings of potential wildfires.

Global warming might not be the title you prefer for it, but climate change is happening. So you might ask, how is this a feminist issue?

Well, you see, women and water, and therefore climate change, are closely connected, particularly in developing nations and in areas where physical labor is the primary source of income for families. It is like a vicious cycle, with many functioning parts contributing to an overwhelming problem.

We can begin with a report released in 2009 by the United Nations Population Fund, stating that climate change will put the heaviest burden on women in developing nations. After all, women take care of the family, which means doing the cooking, cleaning and caring for the health of their family members, all processes that require water.

As a western nation, we do not think twice about the availability of water because it flows from our faucets, and we can ask for a glass of it for free (even iced) at almost any establishment. But imagine having to walk an average of six to nine miles to get water, and even then, it may not be in drinkable condition. You would have to bring it back in a large container, possibly filter it if you had the tools or the time, and be sure to use what you have for all your household responsibilities. You would view water differently then.

I hope it is clearer for you now how women and water are related. As I mentioned above, while some places might be flooded from climate change, other places experience droughts. This means women must walk even further to find a source of water. It is a painstaking process that slows down the efficiency of households. Of course, it also deprives women of even the thought of education and furthering themselves; their focus is to care for their family and their home.

Perhaps you feel distanced from the problem, since many of these women live in places so far from you. But there is a lot you can do to help, on your very college campus.

Please follow this link and read the Feminist Majority Foundation's Women and Climate Change materials. It provides ideas for activities that will raise student activists' understanding of these women's daily lives. The material also provides ideas about how to conserve water, and every individual effort counts toward our bigger goal of lightening the burden on women who seem so far away.

Photo credits: Flickr and Feminist Campus Team Website

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