Climate change is a severe crisis of modern times globally, and Nepal is especially vulnerable to climate change because of its topography. People’s dependence on subsistence agriculture relies heavily on the seasonal monsoon rain. People are experiencing rather unusual and intense rainfall that washes away lands in the mountains and hills and floods the paddy fields in the Terai plains. Many people have lost their livelihood and are forced to migrate to urban areas or abroad in search of work, leaving behind their women and children. As a result, women and children have been some of the most affected from the hardships brought by climate change.
On January 4, 2022, a Girl-Led Conversation program was held near one of our partner schools – Setidevi High School in Sokhel. The program was coordinated efforts from the 66th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66), the Working Group on Girls (WGG), civil society organizations (like Global G.L.O.W.), and Rukmini Foundation.
The objective of the program was to gather insights from the girls about how much they are aware of the subject and encourage them to share their opinion and voices with confidence on the following topics:
- How climate change and environmental disasters are impacting girls’ lives?
- What can be done to address these issues?
- What roles they can and would want to play in making change at the local level?
Suneri Basnet led the conversation explaining briefly what climate change is and how it impacts girls in their community. She said that “With the change in the temperature and rainfall patterns, water is becoming scarce. Girls and women have to walk long distances to collect water. Sometimes it becomes a life threatening risk as there is a chance of animal attacks, and even attack by traffickers or become a victim of sexual assault.” She gave the participants a chance to brainstorm and develop their understanding of climate change and environmental disasters, their impacts on girls and women, and solutions.
Girls engaged in discussions in a circle for nearly one hour. Girls came up with a list of impacts caused by climate change. They were:
- increasing child marriage
- increasing risk of trafficking
- increasing sexual and domestic violence, reproductive health problems,
- increasing illiteracy due to increasing dropouts in schools
Swikriti Shrestha discussed the issue posed by climate change; as the current trend of working adults migrating towards cities continues, the girls in rural areas face more challenges. The girls are responsible for doing household duties like fetching water, cooking, cleaning, and looking after children.
At the discussion, girls came up with following solutions:
- increase access to quality education for girls
- implement strict laws against gender-based violence
- provide self-defense training for girls
- provide skill development training for girls
- increase awareness programs about the importance of girls’ education for parents
- recommend parents teaching boys about gender-based violence and their roles in preventing it
- provide technology and internet access to girls to learn about climate change and disasters and find solutions
All the girls agreed that girls should know about climate change and disasters and know what they can do to protect themselves.
If a girl knows about the problems faced by girls due to climate change, she can share with her friends and family to help do something about it.
Today, I got the opportunity to learn new things that I didn’t know before. The discussion made me aware that sexual violence still exists in the community and girls are more affected by it due to climate change. This program gave us confidence to share our problems with each other and to help come up with our own ideas on how to fix the problems.
This was an excellent program for raising awareness on pressing issues like climate change. All of the girls involved in the conversation circle became aware of the “Climate Change” phenomenon. Engaging in the discussion and sharing their thoughts will give confidence in speaking out on issues and raising awareness in their community. Furthermore, Girl Advocacy representatives of the different countries, including Nepal, get a chance to participate in such rehearsals organized by Global Glow. Their findings will help the GirlAdvocacy Committee CSW66 Parallel Event, where they will raise their voices and propose their recommendations to policy-makers. Programs like these where girls can not only learn new things, but make suggestions on how to solve some of the world’s biggest problems is a great example of empowerment through education.