Story of broken women

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					 A Story of Environment, Climate Change and the Impact
                      on Women

Ghous Pirzado

   1.     Name of writer                     Ghous Bux Pirzado
   2.     Designation                        Program Officer
   3.     Organization                       Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre
                                             Karachi, Pakistan
   4.     Contact                  
   5.     Website                  
   6.     Land line number                   021-35878341
   7.     Cell Number                        03333760857

Broken Women
Shirkat Gah is a multifaceted not for profit organization that provides legal assistance,
awareness and capacity building services in all provinces of Pakistan to uplift the status
of women in their own environment. Capacity building focuses on women at an
individual level supported by selected outreach partners across Pakistan, and at a strategic
level to ensure good governance and policy making at the local and domestic levels.
Shirkat Gah also actively conducts and supports research with the objective of
empowering women. It works closely with civil society and community based

Over almost three decades, Shirkat Gah has, and continues to play the role of a catalyst in
bringing about change at the grassroots by increasing awareness of existing policies,
programs and laws.

Today, Shirkat Gah has expanded well beyond the Collective to an organization
operating across Pakistan, regionally and internationally, and enjoys ECOSOC status at
the United Nations.

Background of the story:

As part of its environment and livelihoods programs, Shirkat Gah conducted an action
research pilot case study in four villages in Union Council Sakrand, Benazirabad District
of Sindh (Pakistan). Approximately 1,800 to 2,000 inhabitants and 600 to 700 women
were covered in this study. The objectives of the action research were:

1. To generate evidence about the impact of climate change on local women and their livelihood
2. To make communities and local duty bearers aware of the negative impact of climate change
   on women and their roles so that adaptation strategies and mitigation measures factor in their
   perspective and needs.
3. To get recognition of the impact of climate change on women by district, provincial
   and national policy makers engaged in planning adaptation strategies and mitigation
4. To provide a case study that can act as the basis of similar studies in different
   ecological zones to highlight the interconnections between climate change,
   livelihoods and women.

Shirkat Gah is carrying out another action research study on the impact of land
distribution amongst poor women by the Government of Sindh and has conducted field
visits and meetings with the women who got the land and with those who applied but
failed. The main focus of both studies was to see the impact on women’s empowerment,
the environmental situation in their areas and the pattern of their livelihoods.

During both studies the SG team conducted FGDs, interviews and web exercises with
about 700 women in Districts Nawabshah, Qamabar Shahdad kot, Gotki (Sindh) and
Jaffarabad (Balochistan) of Pakistan. Women shared their problems related to the
environment and impact of climate change on their livelihoods.

Women’s Case studies
                  Interview with the Ms. Allah Rakhi in District Thatta

“I want to live because I have been awarded a life by God. I want to survive in this
beautiful world but day by day life has becoming tougher and tougher for me”. These
were the painful words of Ms. Allah Rakhi who lives in one of the most impoverished
village, Khamoo Chandani, one of the most deprived district Thatta of the Sindh province
of Pakistan.

Allah Rakhi was born in a wooden grass tent to a poor farmer and was among the last of
his 10 children. She was underweight when she was born and never got enough food to
meet her nutritional needs during her childhood. She spent her whole life without owning
any shoes and barely any clothes. She experienced the harshness of the winter air due to
lack of bed sheets and blankets and warm clothes. The only relief her siblings and she got
in the harsh winter days were from wooden fires.

         “I didn’t get any education in my life because we were living in the far-flung
coastal area of district Thatta. There was no school in our village in those days and there
still isn’t. I feel sorrow and regret at my lack of education every time I think about it. If I
was educated, I would have been able to face all my problems,” she said.

        She said, “16 years ago I got married at the age of fourteen, to a fifty year old man
and now I have fourteen children. My husband is a fisherman but due to shortage of
water he is unable to hunt fish regularly and is only able to sell two months in a year.
After the fishing season, he and I work together in the fields of landlords who are very
cruel. They make us undertake labor the whole day in their fields and pay cheap wages
that are not enough to enable us to get enough food according to our requirements.”
               Focus group discussion in village of District Benazirabad

        During a focus group discussion on climate change, farmer women of District
Benazirabad During said, “We had three major sources of income in the past which were
the forest, agriculture and livestock, all of which are being destroyed now due to climate
change and we are sinking deeper into poverty. Linking the climate change situation with
their lives, they said: “During the last two or three years we are facing rising
temperatures. In the past, we used to work in the fields up to 1:00 or 2:00 pm but now we
cannot withstand the heat after 11 am. If we spend the required time in the fields i.e. up to
1 pm we get health issues and now it is risky to work in the fields up to that time.” They
said that due to shortage of fresh water of the Indus River, the forests are completely
finished, which were the source of grazing of our livestock. They stated that due to the
huge number of livestock that they had, they had been able to fulfill their nutritional
needs from milk, butter and meat. But now they can no longer afford to keep such a large
number of livestock in their homes due to lack of forest grass. They informed us that due
to deforestation women go to pick grass for their livestock from agricultural lands during
hot days with the result that their workload has increased and they are facing health
issues. They described the forest as source of income. They said they used to cut the
wood from the forest and also obtain honey and sell these items in the market and meet
their home expenses. Forests were the natural place for birds and other animals and
species but now these birds and animals have disappeared.

Women mutually shared the environmental, climatic and livelihood issues
S.No Situation 10 years Current situation         Impact
   1. Rains had their own Rains have become During the two large floods
      time limit (such as unpredictable and have during 2010 and 2011 millions
      monsoon rains in resulted in floods and of people were affected and lost
      July period)        disaster; other times their lives, property and
                          they do not occur for 2 livestock.
                          or 3 years in some
                          areas of the country.   Due to floods, poverty has
                                                  increased all over the country.

                                                           Thousands of females were
                                                           affected seriously by floods and
                                                           faced sexual and physical
                                                           torture during the floods
                                                           Their mental, reproductive and
                                                           physical health was seriously

                                                        Thousands of families haven’t
                                                        got shelter to this day.
   2. Farmers      used    to Banana         introduced Banana converted agricultural
   cultivate onion, grain (highly economical lands into wastelands. (Banana
   and jawar in their profit to landlord or trees require a lot of water and
   fields                 feudal)            last for a long time, not
                                             allowing the land to be
                                             cultivated and receive enough
                                             sun; water-logging occurs

                                                      Due to the use of pesticides and
                                                      fertilizers, harmful diseases
                                                      amongst the land laborers or
                                                      farmers increased.
3. Life insurance and      Resource able feudals,     The Wood, honey, natural grass
   income      recourses   politicians         and    were the main sources of
   were linking with the   bureaucracy cut down       income for people but are in
   forests                 the forests and made       shortage due to cutting of
                           them cultivating land.     forests.
                                                      Birds, forest animals, fresh air
                                                      and other natural resources have
                                                      Due to lack of forests
                                                      temperatures increased in the
                                                      whole area (which is the main
                                                      cause of diseases). Hepatitis,
                                                      cancer, asthma, skin diseases
                                                      and allergies are now common
                                                      in the area.

4. Community       used    Due to climate change      Fishing has been completely
   fresh water of Indus    the Indus river water      finished and highly affected the
   river for drinking;     had stopped for fifteen    source of income of        poor
   their   lands    and    years and suddenly         fishing communities
   fishing were their      floods came in 2010
   sources of income                         Factory owners left wastage of
                           and affected people at a
                                             factory, chemical water in the
                           large scale. (Climate
                           change     was    Indus river, which has polluted
                           cause)            the fresh water, and local
                                             communities suffer from skin
                                             diseases, allergies and other
                                             diseases from the polluted water
                                             of the Indus river.
5. Forest was grazing Now      women     are Livestock was the main source
   land for livestock picking grass from the of income for women; they used
                      fields       (workload to sell milk, butter and meat
                      increased).            which they are now unable to
                      Communities        are
                         buying grass from the Due to shortage of livestock
                         markets at a costly women’s poverty levels have
                         price.                increased

                                               Due to lack of sources of
                                               income (livestock) women have
                                               been affected by depression,
                                               irritation and other diseases.
6. Temperature was not Now the duration of the Due to lack of source of income
   so high               summer (heat) period (livestock) women have been
                         has increased.        affected by depression, irritation
                                               and other diseases. (Hepatitis,
                                               cancer, TB and other skin and
                                               allergies      diseases       have
7. Organic way of Use of pesticides is Cotton-picking women have
   agriculture prevailed prevalent             been affected on a high scale, as
                                               they have contracted some fatal
                                               diseases from the effect of
                                               pesticides and other poisonous
                                       Banana field

Due to climate change and environmental situation women are affected on a large scale.
Due to destruction of agricultural lands and degradation of the forests, they have lost their
source of income and poverty is rapidly increasing amongst our country women.

Due to destruction of agriculture landlords have increased the use of unorganic ways
instead of organic ways to cultivate their lands. They are frequently using pesticides and
fertilizers in their lands, with the result that cotton and vegetables are affected by

Women are particularly working in the fields of cotton and vegetables, so they are more
affected by the negative impacts of pesticides than men farmers. Most of the women are
affected by diseases such as hepatitis, asthma, tuberculoses, cancer and physical, mental
and reproductive health diseases. Due to lack of health facilities many of the women are
not able to get treatment for these diseases. Women lack awareness of keeping
themselves safe from the negative impacts of pesticides and deaths amongst women are
increasing day by day as a result.

Due to destruction of forests women have lost their livestock, which was their main
source of income and safeguard against poverty. They also have to deal with shortage of
fish. Due to rising temperatures and workload of getting grass from the fields they have
been affected by physical, mental, RH and other diseases the most.


      To mitigate environmental degradation issues, there is a need for capable women
       to adopt alternative ways to alleviate poverty.
      To generate a campaign against pesticides in the region and in the current
       situation there is a need to make women farmers skilled in dealing with the
       negative impact of pesticides.
      There is a need to provide capable women the skills and technical trainings for
       producing local products (stitching and embroidery) so that they are able to create
       their own source of income.
      Health sessions should be arranged on large scale for women farmers in the
      Women farmer networks should be organized where they can meet and discuss
       their issues and search for solutions collectively.