Sarabjit Kaur, Editor, Inspire Spectrum

There is no easy day to be a woman. Across centuries, women have fought hard to be seen and recognized in the front space, along with men. The struggle is becoming tougher yet, with the climate crisis shadowing the world now more than ever. Latest data establishes a vital link between gender, social equity and climate change, and recognizes that without gender equality today, a sustainable and an equal future remains out of reach.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, it is essential to recognize that climate justice and gender equality go hand in hand. This year’s UN theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” calls for climate action for women, by women. As stated by UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous: “Let us make this International Women’s Day a moment to recall that we have the answers not just for SDG 5 but, through the advancement of gender equality, for all 17 Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030.

In the present time, gender inequality coupled with the climate crisis remains one of the greatest challenges as it poses threats to ways of life, livelihoods, health, safety and security for women and girls around the world. Women and girls experience the greatest impacts of the climate crisis as it amplifies existing gender inequalities and puts women’s lives and livelihoods at risk. Across the world, women depend more on, yet have less access to, natural resources, and often bear a disproportionate responsibility for securing food, water, and fuel.

Climate change is a “threat multiplier”, meaning it escalates social, political and economic tensions in fragile and conflict-affected settings. The climate change driven global conflicts make women and girls increasingly vulnerable to all forms of gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, child marriage, human trafficking and other forms of violence.

As women and girls bear the burden of climate impact, they are also essential to leading and driving change in climate adaptation, mitigation and solutions. On this Women’s Day, we bring you the success stories from across India to celebrate the contribution of women towards climate justice and gender equality.

The “Mother of Trees” – Saalumarada Thimmakka

Saalumarada Thimmakka hails from Hulikal village in Karnataka and was recently conferred with the Padma Shri award in 2019. She, along with her husband had planted and nurtured 384 banyan trees in the Magadi Taluk of rural Bengaluru. A U.S. based – environmental organization was named after her called ‘Thimmakka’s Resources for Environmental Education’. Thimmakka’s message has been that “even one sapling each could make a better place for our children”.

The “Encyclopaedia of Forest”- Tulasi Gowda

Tulasi Gowda is a member of the Halakki tribe from Karnataka and is known as an ‘encyclopaedia of forests’ due to her extensive knowledge of trees and herbs. She has worked for the Forest Department for over six decades, planting more than 30,000 saplings and maintaining a nursery. In recognition of her unparalleled knowledge of silviculture of the Indian forest and trees, she was awarded the Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Award in 1986 and Kannada Rajyotsava Award in 1999. She was recently conferred with Padma Shri for Social Work – Environment for 2020.

The “Turmeric Queen” – Kong Trinity Saioo

Kong Trinity Saioo hails from Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya and is a proud recipient of the Padma Shri award, 2020 for leading turmeric farming. Ms. Saioo was also conferred the ‘Excellence in Horticulture’ award by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India on the occasion of Women’s Farmers Day, 2018.

Saioo has aided the illiterate women with organic certification, documentation for availing subsidies, and marketing as well. She has led more than 800 women to cultivate and boost the popularity of indigenous, globally popular high curcumin content Lakadong variety of turmeric. Her initiative has allowed women farmers to triple their income.

The “Preserver of paddy seeds” – Kamala Pujari

Kamala Pujari hails from tribal-dominated Koraput district of Orissa. She has poured her heart into organic farming and preserved hundreds of indigenous varieties of paddy, in addition to several endangered breeds of black cumin, turmeric, sesame, maha kanta, phula and ghantia.

Ms. Kamala has been actively involved in promoting organic farming across the world. She participated in a workshop on organic farming organized by MS Swaminathan Foundation at Johannesburg in 2002. In the same year, Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) in Bhubaneswar was named after her. She also won the ‘Equator of Initiative’ Award in 2002. In 2004, the government of Odisha had awarded her with the Best Farmer Award. In 2019, she was conferred with the Padma Shri for Agriculture.

All these selfless women have spent their lives loving and nurturing nature and have tried to make the world a better place for our future generations. I hope these strong, yet empathetic ladies inspire you to do your bit towards the environment. Remember, each step towards sustainability is also a step towards ensuring gender equality. Leaving you all with a lovely quote…

Women are not just victims of a broken world, they can be architects of a better one.”

— Melinda Gates

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