Meet six women who are striving to make the climate conversation more gender inclusive

 - Sakshi Post

On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, these climate champions discuss sustainable solutions that can help tackle climate change

This year, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11) will focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a gender-specific lens, while a gender gap has persisted in disciplines like science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This underrepresentation in STEM subjects is also accompanied by vast gender disparity that renders women vulnerable economically and socially. It goes without saying that the disruption caused by climate change in societies and economies, particularly devastates women. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in fact stated that women in India are 14 times more likely than men to die during or after a natural disaster.

It follows then, that any attempts to address climate change must include women as equal stakeholders. That is why the Women Climate Collective (WCC) has come together to spearhead an inclusive climate movement in India. 

Here are six extraordinary women from the cohort who were encouraged into STEM fields and are now effectively tackling climate change in India

Hina Saifi

Hina Saifi hails from a small village called Sisola, Meerut. She has worked for over five years in areas like social services, air pollution, sustainability, and renewable energy. She is also associated with campaigns like the '100% Uttar Pradesh' campaign that offers solutions to environmental issues. Working at the grassroots level, she has sought to not just participate in climate and social change-related activities like NVDA (Non-Violence Direct Action) but has sought to promote behavioural change via public mobilisation activities such as public meetings, chaupals, door to door visits, surveys etc and wants to spread climate awareness in her own community because she believes it is rural areas where women know the least about how climate change can impact them. 

"Participation of more women in the technical fields will empower them to wield more influence in the climate sector. Schools need to encourage girls not only to take up science at the secondary and senior secondary levels but also to pursue careers in STEM. Only when women realise their full potential in these fields, will they be able to impact the world positively and enrich climate conversations  with their unique perspectives.”

Neelima Mishra

37-year-old green crusader Neelima Mishra took to composting during the Covid-19 restrictions when she realised that by nourishing the soil through kitchen composting, she was also easing the lives of sanitation workers in her city who risk their lives, exposed to germs, dirt, and the contagious virus. The Balianta resident was the only youth from Odisha who was an official participant in the Climate Force: Arctic 2019 Expedition, among 80 people from all over the world. Having graduated with an M.Phil in Environmental Policy from the University of Cambridge, UK and a post-graduate degree in Forestry Management, Neelima believes that the urge to do social good greatly helps in developing and nurturing personal and professional relationships as people feel connected to the sense of purpose. 

“Diversity matters, be it gender, background and experiences thus giving a wholesome perspective for solutions to innovation. There have been incredible achievements by women and we just need to be encouraged and have more role models.”

Elsie Gabriel

Elsie Gabriel is the founder of the Young Environmentalists Programme Trust and the National Coordinator of Oceans Climate Reality Project India. She is also the Ambassador for India Ocean Quest Global and has been certified by the former Vice President of the USA Al Gore on Climate Action. As a certified diver, Elsie had been researching ocean communities around the world with a specific focus on women as agents of change. Be it speaking up for ocean literacy, advocating for eco-Ganeshas, recycling water hyacinths, attending The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt or working to bridge the gap between women scientists and the seats of power when it comes to climate change issues, she has been on the forefront of the revolution she wants to see in the world. 

“The foundation for increasing the percentage of more girls and women in STEM should be enforced in early stages like schools rather than only at university and research levels. Increasing the admission of girls should be followed by scholarships and incentives. Enhancing Arts Institutions to expand their departments further to science and technology departments would be a solution. We need all hands on deck including all stakeholders to help bridge the gender gaps which are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science, technology and engineering. Our girls should not get left behind!”

KG Sreeja

Dr Sreeja KG is an agricultural economist with a PhD in Agro-ecology & Agricultural Systems from the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore. She also has a postdoctoral fellowship in climate change impact assessment from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Her work focuses on the challenges of climate change and its impact on tropical nature-based livelihoods. She also has expertise in integrated river basin management and has explored the policy and governance implications of socio-environmental transformation in multiple agricultural landscapes ranging from the mountains to the coast. As the co-founder of Dharaa Livelihood Initiative, she supports sustainable forest-based women enterprises and as the co-founder and director of Resilient Destinations Foundation, partners with tourism, humanitarian and development sectors.

“Centuries of discrimination against women in STEM has also resulted in stale ideas and lack of imagination or imagination limited by a male perspective. The handful of women in the field soon lose representation and are forced to think like men. You need more women of science so as to upturn this domination with building a clear women's perspective to STEM. Science flourishes when scientists can think out of the box. It is more a need of the hour, especially in this time of climate crisis when we need all brains on board. And new pathbreaking ways of thinking not bogged down by a limited male way of thought.”

Sneha Shahi

As a conservationist, Sneha aims to inspire positive climate action and has worked with a team to restore streams in Vadodara which are the habitats of crocodiles and turtles. She is currently pursuing her Doctoral Studies at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore and her work focuses on socio-ecological systems to restore the river Tamiraparani and setting observatories for the study in Tamil Nadu. 

“A more inclusive science would ensure holistic solutions and not just answers that cater to one gender. Women in Science have been inspirational time and again! I often get asked as a woman in Science what has been a breakthrough for me to which I humbly answer that given there are so many hoops to jump through its not just one big breakthrough but a series of chiselling and carving out space for my ideas and inspire talented young women to take up this wonderful opportunity to create change in the world.”

Ayadi Mishra

Ayadi Mishra is an architectural designer and a climate champion, working for inclusion and climate justice. She has expertise in the construction and urban/climate finance industry and has been the Asia-Pacific Liaison, Research Lead on public policy and circular systems for Mumbai as a UN SDSN Fellow, and Consultant in multiple UN negotiations. With YOUNGO (the official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Climate Change process) and MGCY (Major Group for Children and Youth), she works as a policy lead for Nature working group, and as a Constituency Member for the Stockholm+50 TF, Ecosystems Restoration and Climate Finance WG. She has also recently served as an Indian delegate at COP27, COP15 and COY17 (UN Climate Change Conference of Youth). 

"Growing up, it was extremely rare to see faces like mine making inroads as big achievers in the environment sector. Achievements of women like Eunice Foote who was the first scientist to conclude that rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels would change atmospheric temperature and impact climate have also been invisibilized. It's time we got recognition, equal opportunities and equal pay in STEM fields because only then more women will be encouraged to join them and will get to play a huge part in bringing a feminine perspective to conversations about climate change."

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