Scientific Publication

Vulnerability of women to climate change in arid and semi-arid regions: The case of India and South Asia


This article is a collation and synthesis of the literature review with the focus on the vulnerability of rural women in developing countries to climate change on the one hand and being pro-active in adapting to climate change on the other. The geographic coverage of the literature is global but with specific examples from India. The information presented in this paper is derived from diverse sources including journal articles and thematic books, and indicates severe adverse impacts not only on women's livelihood opportunities but also on exacerbating the workload and fatigue while decreasing their self esteem and forcing them to undertake some high risks and hazardous activities. The literature indicates that poverty, gender inequality, insecure land rights, heavy reliance on agriculture, less access to education and information are among the principal reasons for their vulnerability to climate change. The vulnerability is also confounded by the meager asset base, social marginalization, lack of mobility and exclusion from the decision-making processes in response to a disaster. However, the literature also shows that women are not only the passive victims of climate change but are also pro-active and agents of hope for adaptation to and mitigation of abrupt climate change. They utilize their experience and expertise to reduce the adverse impacts by adopting prudent strategies. They are also concerned about environmental issues, and are highly supportive of policies regarding environmental restoration. Large knowledge gaps exist regarding the vulnerability of women to changing and uncertain climate especially in arid regions. Authors of this article suggest some action plans and strategies to minimize vulnerability to climate change such as empowering women economically and educationally, organizing training and outreach programmes, and involving them in formal climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and programmes. Authors also outline research needed in order to identify and implement strategies regarding climate change. Collective and continuous efforts are critical to finding the sustainable solutions for this global phenomenon which is adversely impacting the most vulnerable but critically important members of the society.