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May 22, 2005
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May 22, 2005

Page: 25/42

Home > 2005 Issues > May 22, 05

World of Woman
Impact of environment on women

By Organiser Bureau

OUR mythological and spiritual traditions have highlighted the women?s connectivity with Nature. The influence of these traditions can be witnessed in everyday life when we refer to Nature as Mother Nature, and the earth as Mother Earth. We also realise that women?s health means health of the earth. Most rivers in India are named after women, e.g. Ganga, Yamuna, Saras-wati, etc. The hill ranges like Aravalli, Am-aravati, etc are also given female names. So women?s role in preserving the environment can never be stressed enough.

This year?s Nobel Peace prize was awarded to Kenyan ecologist, Wangari Martha, because of her 30 years of campaign to protect and restore the environment as well as to defend human rights. She is the first African woman and the first environmentalist to be awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize since it was instituted in 1901. While honouring her for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee said, ?Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment.?

The involvement of women in farming is for all to see. Farming by the Angamis in Nagaland involves cultivation of 15 to 20 crop species, pest control through multi-cropping and making possible the availablity of diverse food over several months in a year. It has been called a female farming system as sowing, maturing, weeding, seed selection and storage are carried out by women, while the men attend to felling of trees, clearing and burning of land as practiced in jhum cultivation. The positive role of women in tribal areas is apparent to all. Women contribute about 70 to 80 per cent to family labour in hilly areas due to seasonal male migration. However, the representation of women in local institutions and training is disproportionately low in relation to their contribution.

Over the past few years, the awareness on depletion of natural resources, the degradation of natural systems and the dangers caused by pollutants has increased remarkably. The deterioration of environment is posing an increasing threat to a safe and healthy life. In both urban and rural areas, environmental degradation results in negative effects on the health, well-being and quality of life of the population at large, especially of girls and women. Women have an essential role to play in sustainable development and in ecologically sound consumption and production patterns. The depletion of natural resources leads to displacement of communities, especially women from income-generating activities.

Environmental risks at home and workplace can have a disproportionate impact on women?s health because of women?s susceptibility to the toxic effects of various chemicals. These risks to women?s health are particularly high in urban areas, as well as in low-income areas where there is a high concentration of polluting industries. Decentralised action on environmental issues is urgently needed to stem the dangers to women's health.

Women play an important role in promoting sustainable development through their concern for the quality and sustainability of life, both for the present and future generations. Women are more aware than men of household needs-fuel, water, food and fodder requirements. Hence, their information and experience are valuable in planning and management of resources. Women in many communities constitute the main labour force for subsistence, production, including production of seafood, hence their role is crucial in the provision of food and nutrition, the enhancement of subsistence in informal sectors and the preservation of environment.

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