GUWAHATI, Dec 13 – Assam has been susceptible to the effects of climate change, and this has dramatically impacted the lifestyles and livelihood options of thousands of marginalised women and their households in the remote areas of the State.
This has been revealed by a study conducted by the Guwahati-based Centre for Environment Social and Policy Research (CESPR) and Rashtriya Gramin Vikas Nidhi (RGVN) in collaboration with Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) on the ‘Impact of Climate Change on Marginalised Women in the State of Assam’, which is a part of the highly eco-sensitive and fragile eastern Himalayan region.
The report, ‘Impacts of Climate Change on Marginalised Women – an exploratory study across six districts in Assam’, was released at Doha, during the course of the 18th UN Conference of Parties (COP) on Climate Change on December 7 by representatives of INECC.
The studied districts were Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Morigaon and Baksa, spread across the Brahmaputra valley. These locations were chosen as they have already started experiencing impacts of climate change.
“The North-east of India is very vulnerable to impacts of climate change, and we are happy that we could bring out issues related to climate change in Assam at the summit at Doha,” Ajita Tiwari, facilitator, INECC, said.
Copies of the report were also distributed at Doha and were given to representatives from different agencies and government representatives.
According to the report, Assam, which is a part of the North-east, has been witnessing adverse effects of climate change over the years.
“Assam being an agrarian economy is largely bearing the brunt of climate change. Unnoticed to the policy makers, one of the major victims of climate change has constantly been the marginalised women of society, who have always been the sufferer for being financially weak and also for lacking the power of decision making in the society,” it said.
During the course of the study, surveys were carried out at six different locations in the State which are ecologically fragile and vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and it was followed by several sessions of discussions in different parts of the state.
Throughout the study period, focus was laid on such women, and several such women also participated in the focal group discussions (FGDs) and also at a regional level consultation which was held at Guwahati.
The study found that women belonging to marginalised households and living in rural areas in the State are prone to the impacts of climate change and it was also seen that the effects of climate change have already stated gripping the marginalised women.
In several areas, the income of families who are solely dependent on agriculture for their livelihood has declined several folds, as with climate change there has been a change in the rainfall pattern and also there has been a decrease in the average rainfall. There has been a rise in the frequency of drought-like situation in the State which is also affecting the economic conditions of the farmers in the State.
As a result of the decline in the income, the report noted, women who were basically home makers, have now started to work to supplement family income and in many places they have even started working as daily-wage labourers.
“In hundreds of households women are now compelled to take up weaving, daily- wage labour and other related activities to make ends meet, and in many areas, women of the households are taking up fishing to make up for lost agricultural produce,” it added.
The report stated that this was affecting the education of the girl child to a great extent, as once the mother decides to go out in search of work, the responsibility of the house usually rests on the girl child and she is asked to leave school.
The findings also point out that in some areas the adverse effects of climate change have also pushed many belonging to once prosperous families to take up work as domestic help and daily wage labourers.
The study further revealed that in the last few years, change in climatic conditions in the State has had major impact on the economic conditions of several households which have also made young girls from the tea garden areas vulnerable to flesh trade, lured with promise of jobs.
Even otherwise, disruption of communication for prolonged period of time as a result of excessive floods broods ill more for girls who are often forced to drop out of schools and colleges.
There has also been significant change in the livelihood options of the people, ba