“If a tree is saved even at the cost of one’s head, it’s worth it” — these were the words of Amrita Devi Bishnoi, the woman who sacrificed her life in the name of conservation. Her devotion greatly inspired the Chipko Andolan in the 1970s and, to this day, motivates women from different communities to stand up for their love for the environment.

The “Amrita Devi Bishnoi National Award for Wildlife Conservation” was introduced by the Indian Government for those who make significant contributions in the name of conservation, and do extraordinary work for wildlife protection. 

Such a movement amongst women from rural communities is not a rare sight. This is because rural women are almost fully dependent on the natural resources from their environment for their daily survival. With the adverse effects of climate change, women (alongside other marginalized groups) are especially vulnerable, primarily as they are more dependent, and because of the lower access to resources and lack of autonomy.

With better resources and proper capacity building, many of these women could challenge the barriers they face and improve their overall socio-economic well-being. Therefore, it is crucial that the need for the empowerment of women is highlighted in all climate change conversations going forward.

The 8th Five Year Plan has already included “Developing Gender-Inclusive Climate Change Response Framework” and “Gender Focus of Climate Action” under the chapter “Sustainable Development: Environment and Climate Change,” bringing forward the intention to address the issue of women’s greater vulnerability to climate change, and the overall needs of the most vulnerable population. The Plan also highlights that appropriate measures that will be taken by the government to increase women’s knowledge of environmental management and conservation, and investments will be made in education, capacity building training, technology transfer and environmental projects focusing on women.

The draft “Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan” also shows promise in this regard, with the introduction of the new hallmark initiatives such as “Mujib Locally Led Adaptation Hubs” and “Mujib Resilient Wellbeing Programs,” which are both gender-responsive and inclusive. The Plan also contains some expected socio-economic outcomes by 2030, which include “enhanced climate risk adjusted returns for micro, small, and medium enterprises of 10% by 2025 and 20% by 2030, especially for women-owned and women-run enterprises” and “increase in women’s participation in the labour force and reduced vulnerability of women.” 

With women empowerment in mind, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and Action Aid Bangladesh are jointly organizing a 6-month long youth mentorship programme centering around young women in Bangladesh. The Young Women “RISE” Mentorship Programme will emphasize on women’s leadership and the need for it at a community and policy level.

The programme aims to capacitate young women in understanding different aspects of climate change, and how these changes may adversely affect their communities. This will be the third youth leadership program held under ICCCAD’s “RISE” Youth Program, abbreviated from “Re-think and Innovate for a Sustainable Environment”, with the first two being focused on mentoring a dynamic cohort of national university students.

These programmes are designed to equip the younger generations with knowledge of the environment and the different policies related to them, to bridge the gap between the youth and climate change policy makers, and help bring about new innovations in the field of climate change.

The objective of the Young Women “RISE” Mentorship Programme includes creating a new generation of female leaders and change-makers in the field of climate change, empowering women so they can better transform their community, and increasing capability for incorporating a gender perspective into climate adaptation initiatives.

This will be achieved through sessions conducted both online and in-person, where experts will be brought in to deliver knowledge. After the initial learning period, field visits will be conducted to be able to translate the knowledge on ground. Additionally, mentorship will be provided on certain aspects, such as analyzing the relevant plans of Bangladesh through a feminist lens.

Teams will be formed among the participants to review and analyze particular policy documents, and this will be followed by a roundtable discussion, where the action points will be presented to relevant policymakers. At the end of the program, the youth participants, policymakers, and other civil society representatives will discuss a collaborative way forward in better integrating gender perspectives into mainstream policy planning and design.

The programme kicked off on August 4, 2022 with an inception workshop held at the ICCCAD office at Independent University, Bangladesh. The opening remarks were offered by Dr Saleemul Huq, Director of ICCCAD, where he mentioned “Looking ahead, climate change should be considered as a challenge and an opportunity, not a problem. Early climate change education focuses only on building awareness. It is time to shift that focus from awareness to solutions. ICCCAD focuses on establishing leadership in this regard, centering around the young people. It is important that everyone knows what to do as a citizen to solve the problems brought on by climate change.”

Going forward, the mentorship programme will provide the youth participants with hands-on experience via in-person workshops and training. The participants will be given specific tasks and they will be guided by climate change experts to help develop the necessary skills required to become leaders and change-makers in this field. 

“Invest in girls’ education to become the leaders and champions of tomorrow. They should be empowered everywhere. Empowering the girls of today to become the leaders of tomorrow is the number one solution,” Dr Saleemul Huq stated at the 66th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), earlier this year.

Farhin Rahman Reeda is working at ICCCAD as a research intern. Her research interest lies in Locally Led Adaptation. She can be reached at [email protected] Nazmus Sakib is working at ICCCAD as a Project Officer. His research interest lies in Climate Justice. He can be reached at [email protected] 

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