Why organized grassroots women matter in the sustainable development of rural communities.

Author:Bagasao, Maria Fides F.

Women and girls are not intrinsically vulnerable but their social, economic and political conditions make them susceptible to risks and vulnerabilities. In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), to be held in Quito, Ecuador, 17-20 October 2016, the imminent threat of climate change must be seriously considered, as it increases the risks and vulnerabilities afflicting women and girls, including rural women and their communities. In case studies of organized networks of rural grassroots women (1) detailed below, we see how the effects of climate change-induced disasters were not only used to establish sustainable practices, but also as opportunities to reverse the social, economic and political conditions of women and communities. The cases illustrate that grassroots women's holistic, integrated and inclusive responses are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Recognition and support for climate change adaptation initiatives and bottom-up development interventions led by rural grassroots women are essential foundations for sustainable development.

Unsustainable development models characterized by underregulated, market-led economic growth are key causes of the destructive social, economic and environmental effects of climate change. Amid the devastation and displacement, women and girls often lose their sources of livelihood, and yet are still expected to carry out daily chores and care for their immediate and extended families.

It is essential to recognize that women's vulnerabilities are embedded in social, economic and political processes, and that the current gaps in development reinforce them. Sustainable development processes, when properly implemented, however, can empower grassroots women to transform the living conditions of their families and communities, and enable them to reverse these vulnerabilities. (2)

Linking gender equality with sustainable development is both moral and ethical. To achieve a just and sustainable future, the rights, values, and capabilities of half of the world's population cannot be denied. (3) Women's knowledge, representation and collective action is a powerful resource that can enhance ecosystem conservation, promote the sustainable use of natural resources, and be used to develop more sustainable food, energy, water and health systems.


Understanding how climate change further marginalizes and increases vulnerabilities for women and girls can inform policies and resource allocation, which will help in redressing the challenges they face. The challenge is to reverse and eliminate the conditions that increase risks and vulnerabilities, while enabling women and girls to act as the drivers of such a process. This...

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