Women combat climate change

Healthy Families

(Photo credit: Kim Lovell, Sierra Club)

“We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a human future at all.”

This quote from Vandana Shiva was used to set the hearts and minds of more than 40 advocates who joined the Jan. 28 webinar, “Sacred Worth, Sacred Earth: The Intersections of Women & Climate,” co-hosted by Healthy Families, Healthy Planet of the General Board of Church & Society, and the Sierra Club.

We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a human future at all.

Focused on highlighting the intersections of climate change and women, the webinar is the latest in a series produced by Healthy Families, Healthy Planet looking at justice issues that affect global maternal health and access to family planning.

Past webinars have explored such topics as human trafficking, migration, domestic violence, and sexuality education.

Women at the center

Kim Lovell, program director of the Global Population & Environment Program at the Sierra Club, outlined for the group how women are often at the center of challenges produced by climate change, but also how they can be part of the solution.

Kim Lovell

Lovell

“Women are the primary resource managers for households around the world,” Lovell said. “And thus, when resources are compromised due to climate disruption, for example, droughts, floods, changes in weather, natural disasters, etc., women are on the front lines and impacted most.”

A key example used to highlight these challenges was access to water. According to water.org, women and children around the world spend 140 million hours each day collecting water. The disproportionate amount of time spent collecting water, especially in the face of severe droughts and natural disasters, often keeps women and children from attending school and caring for their families.

One woman at the center of solutions is Christelle Kwizera, managing director of Water Access Rwanda. She helped start Water Access Rwanda in 2014 noting the disproportionate impacts lack of access to water was having on women and girls in her country.

Christelle Kwizera

Kwizera

“Some women are spending up to six hours per day collecting and cleaning water,” Kwizera said. “Without access to water, we know the effects of dehydration will lead to stunting in young children and poor maternal health.”

In addition to leading efforts like Water Access Rwanda, Lovell pointed out that providing women access to education, economic opportunity, and voluntary family planning to time and space their pregnancies will help them to participate more fully in all aspects of community life, including responding to climate disruption.

Sacred worth, sacred responsibility

Listeners also heard from the director of the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet, Katey Zeh. She shared theological connections people of faith can make when discussing the intersections of women and the environment.

Katey Zeh

Zeh

“Responding to Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ requires us to consider the ways our behaviors impact the environment and the lives of others,” said Zeh. “Those of us who have access to resources must take responsibility for the ways we over consume God’s creation and how that harms those living at the margins.”

Zeh also pointed to the model of Jesus’ ministry of including women as an example of how we are to love one another, and that this should shape our efforts to bring restoration to the earth. “We must ensure that women and the contributions they make to healing the earth are honored and valued, “ she said.

Taking action

Speakers on the webinar highlighted several opportunities throughout the year to engage congregations in conversations about women and climate. Upcoming opportunities include:

  • March 8 — International Women’s Day;
  • March 22 — World Water Day;
  • April 22 — Earth Day; and
  • May 10 — Mother’s Day.

If you missed this webinar or are looking to review resources on these important topics, you can click to download the audio recording, slides, and one-page summary from the call.

Editor's note: Katie Kraft serves as Advocacy Coordinator for Healthy Families, Healthy Planet. Funded by a grant from the United Nations Foundation and housed at the General Board of Church & Society, Healthy Families, Healthy Planet educates and advocates both within and beyond The United Methodist Church for funding, programs and policies that support access to maternal health and voluntary family-planning services around the globe.

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