Climate heroines: Women on the frontlines of the climate crisis

Kelle Anyes, a farmer in Uganda, making the symbol for the 1.5 degrees campaign to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius

The burden of dealing with the impacts of the climate catastrophe falls harder on women and girls.

They are the ones who pick up the pieces after extreme weather, droughts, floods, storms.

They are the ones on the frontline when crops fail, when food is short, when water is scarce.

They are the ones who provide for their families and support their communities.

This year our annual #March4Women event to celebrate International Women’s Day focused on women on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

Here are six women, supported by CARE, who are taking a lead in responding to the climate crisis.

Let’s all follow their lead, and stand up for gender justice and climate justice!

Kediga Humed, farmer, Ethiopia

Kediga Humed, a farmer in Ethiopia

We were in the midst of an emergency. Poor people, like me, were the most vulnerable to food and water scarcity.

Kediga lives in Beladulo village in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Recurrent drought meant shortages of water and lack of grass and shrubs for grazing. People were having to buy maize to feed their animals.

Kediga came forward for training in drought-resistant farming, including irrigation crop production, storage, and selling in markets. She says that the mindset of the community is changing, and people overcome the lean periods by helping each other.

Before the project started, our pasture species died and we were unable to cope with the long drought. Now I am always in my village and working on my farmland. I see that the community has adapted to withstand drought.

Raquel Vásquez, leader, Guatemala

Raquel Vasquez, leader of Madre Tierra in Guatemala

There is a relationship between the Earth and women. They both feed the world, they both give life.

Raquel is the leader of the grassroots organisation Madre Tierra (Mother Earth). Started in 1993, during the civil war in Guatemala, Madre Tierra helped refugee women return home from Mexico. Now, under Raquel’s leadership, Madre Tierra is fighting back against the climate emergency.

The earth is changing. The strongest impact that we have experienced due to climate change is the lack of water.

Raquel understands how gender inequality is interlinked with the climate crisis. Madre Tierra provides training to communities in managing risk and adapting to the impacts of climate change – and crucially, women are in the forefront.

With the violence, discrimination and problems that women face, we have to be clear and understand that it is not something that we have been born with. It is a problem that society itself has been in charge of. But we can contribute a lot as young women to the processes of change and development of our communities.

Considering that the destruction of the earth is caused by human beings, the solution is in our hands. For me, the most motivating thing is the change that is seen in people. There will be no changes if people do not become aware of their impact on the planet.

Kelle Anyes, farmer, Uganda

Kelle Anyes, farmer, in a ploughed field in Uganda

This place used to have huge trees, it was bushy with lots of grass and vegetation. There used to be a lot of rain back then.

That was before. This is now: deforestation, reduced soil fertility, poor harvests – and a longer dry season as a result of climate change. For many years, the community struggled to farm during periods of unrest that often meant leaving the village to live in camps for displaced people.

What my community once owned was taken away, leaving us with nothing.

Kelle and her community received training on preserving wetlands, planting trees, and conservation agriculture – farming methods that help restore and protect the land.
Kelle now grows rice and cassava. She earns money by keeping bees and selling the honey locally. Community members have started to reconstruct their houses and send their children to school. She says:

The mentality of the community has changed. People have adapted to the new environment.

Kien Quang Thi, leader, Vietnam

Kien Quang Thi, a farmer in Vietnam

Kien Quang Thi is a human weather app! Not only does she forecast the weather, but she also provides advice for farmers on what, when, and how to plant. Her objective is to better prepare her community for extreme weather events.

Kien knows hunger: in 2008 she experienced a total crop failure and had to live on only manioc and maize for several months. In cooperation with meteorologists, local authorities and farmers, she wants to avoid crop failures in the future. She says:

I trust that our village leader acknowledges the importance of our forecasting and the information exchange amongst people. The government also needs to listen to those who are most affected by climate change and take advantage of our knowledge.

Josiane Ramaroson, tree-planter, Madagascar

Josiane Ramaroson, in Madagascar, holding a 1.5 degrees sign

Despite having leprosy, Josiane Ramaroson is a pioneer in adapting to climate change. With her strong will, hard work and hundreds of cone trees, she can face any weather event.

Her success story began with training, organised by CARE, in tree breeding and planting. She then founded her own tree nursery to reforest the northern coastal regions. The trees she has planted along the coast now protect villages from strong winds and flooding. They are so effective that the last cyclone (at time of interview) did not destroy a single habitation. She says:

I am working hard so that my daughters never miss a day at school and can take care of me when I am old.

Dilmani Kujur, role model, India

Dilmani Kujur, a farmer in India, with women from her community

Dilmani Kujur is a female farmer and role model in her region, Jududand. With the support of CARE, she has transformed five percent of her farm’s arable land into a water storage basin for collecting rainwater and irrigating fields. On the dam she built to protect her fields, she can also cultivate plants and vegetables.

Not only her family, but the whole community, benefits from this “five-percent-model”: by selling their vegetables and fish on the market, people are able to make extra money. In the future, her small enterprise will pay a lot more than just her children’s school fees. She says:

If we all work together, we can be even more successful.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.