All India Women’s Conference’s initiatives at national level to abate climate change

Kalyani Raj, All India Women’s Conference

As I travelled halfway across the globe covering two very different worlds, I found myself listening in on the same conversations everywhere. Government delegates, civil society organisations (CSOs) or strangers on the street, everyone was talking about climate change.

Ironically, there used to be a time when chatting about the weather was merely a veiled attempt at making small talk. Today, there is a much larger and more crucial issue hidden within those very conversations. Increasingly hotter days, harsher winters and extreme rain patterns are just a few of the weather changes under discussion these days. And while the abnormal weather patterns are observed by all, most people may be clueless about their origin. Despite the critical ‘climate change’ issue being a mandate on almost every agenda across global and national environmental forums, the common Indian man or woman from any rural Indian village is usually ignorant about the very concept.

All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), a pioneering non-profit organisation largely dedicated towards the socio-economic empowerment of women, has been working on environmental conservation and protection issues for over three decades now, through its vast network of over 500 branches across India. The propagation of alternative energy for domestic use, waste management and water conservation are a few among many initiatives undertaken by the organisation towards mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. At the national level, AIWC has trained many girls and women in the use, assembly and repair of solar equipment and, furthermore, provided them with an income generation opportunity by connecting these trained women to manufacturers.

The frequent extreme weather situations faced over the past decade and the resultant heavy burden on women, made us realise that there is a dire need to create awareness in adaptation techniques and enhancing resilience of women to combat the negative impact of post-disaster situations. With the support of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), we have conducted Disaster Preparedness Training in more than 15 states in India. Special training to provide minimum initial services for sexual and reproductive health (MISP for SRH), again with the support of NDMA, has also been initiated by AIWC and quite a number of women have been trained on MISP during the past four years.

To support AIWC’s goal of women’s overall empowerment, and to make the grass-roots level women aware of international scenarios relating to sustainable development and climate change, a series of advocacy workshops were conducted in different states across India in 2014, focusing on the impact of climate change on essential elements of human life like energy, water, health and agriculture. The workshops were supported by Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF). They also endeavoured to revive traditional adaptation techniques imbibed in indigenous women’s routine life and looked at ways to upscale them.

With active engagement in climate change mitigation and adaptation activities, AIWC continues to conduct programmes and training for urban and rural women in the areas of alternate energy, water management, waste management, disaster preparedness and a wide range of other topics, reaching out to hundreds of women in all states across India. This is an extension of its 86-year old mandate of empowering women and is symbolic of the continuing commitment to the cause of women.