Mauritius: Gender and Climate change: let the women be part of that debate!

Mauritius: Gender and Climate change: let the women be part of that debate!

Date: June 25, 2015
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Port-Louis, 25 juin: The 2015 national summit of Gender Links on the SADC Gender Protocol, held at the Gold Crest Hotel in Quatre-Bornes, Mauritius, has helped to bring forward a number of ideas and presentations favouring gender equality and climate change. Linking what may appear as distinct themes, that is, gender and climate, is made first of all because it is clear now that women and children bear the brunt of climate change.

Then, it is to ensure that climate change policies, decision-making, and initiatives at the global, regional and national levels are gender responsive and this is critical for solving the climate crisis. The non-governmental organisations who participated at the Summit were APEDED presenting on solar powered herbal tea, the Falcon Citizen League on the promotion of ecologic bags, the association Fraternite Nord Sud with cultivation under greenhouse and the Plateform Citoyenne with worldwide views on climate and energy.

Annoradah Pooran, representative of the APEDED who has won many awards including the Gender Links national awards in 2012 and 2013, made a presentation in a very confident way. The APEDED centre was founded in 2006 and consists of 22 female employers. Dealing with solar power herbal tea, she specialises in capacity building and empowerment of women and gets funding from the Ministry of Agro-industry. The project was initiated in order to help poor women from low-income families to overcome financial challenges.

The women were trained in the understanding of the rationale behind the project, on cultivating techniques and caring of various medicinal plants in a small nursery that was set up. APEDED has been granted permission by the Central Electricity Board (CEB) to produce its own electricity through the Small Independent Power Producers Scheme of the Government of Mauritius. The training processes include selecting, washing, dehydrating, mixing and crushing the leaves. Annoradah Pooran’s goal is to sensitize people to make use of herbal medicines or to encourage cultivation of medicinal plants. Income earned is shared amongst the women who are then able to contribute to their household budget. This project has already reached 28 suppliers which in turns encourages her to grow in the market.

The eco-friendly bag has always been on the agenda for a number of years now. But there has not been many parties interested in launching this business. Mahess Roupan, from the non-profit organisation Falcon citizen league, took the lead and launched the production of eco bags by women. He explains that the manufacturing process does not involve the use of chemicals which tend to be harmful for health and for the environment. At the same time women are empowered and acquire a sense of satisfaction through their daily work routines. Moreover, many organic grocery stores and consumer co-operatives offer these reusable ecological shopping bags, thus contributing to the protection of the environment.

From prison yards to retirement and to programs for troubled youth, the practice of backyard gardening is everywhere. The association Fraternite nord sud, represented by John Oliver Fanfan and Brother Julien Lourdes, brings forward the idea of having a space dedicated to welcoming victims of violence, mentally challenged persons, and sex workers for a specially eco-friendly therapy: the gardening therapy. According to the presenters, a therapeutic garden is a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature. Women are able to relax and talk openly with each other in a green space. Also, children who are having learning difficulties are offered a specialised way of learning along when creating gardening passion in them.

The organisation Platforme Citoyenne represented by Fabiani Balisson, introduces us to a broad view of climate changes where energy is primarily thought of in terms of electricity to operate appliances and equipment, gasoline and diesel fuels for motors and vehicles, and the delivery of oil for natural gas. According to the presenter, dealing with these different mediums is often considered as men’s work; women are not expected to be involved with power generation and fuel distribution. As a result of these socially-rooted preconceptions, women and men face differences in training and social expectations. Indeed, women are not usually included in discussions about energy plans and policies, says Fabiani Balisson. This exclusion also means that women do not participate in, nor contribute to the elaboration of key strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change.

However, in many developing countries, especially in the poorest areas, most energy currently comes from traditional biomass fuels such as wood, charcoal and agricultural wastes – and the collection and management these fuels is strictly the business of women. It follows that the lack of recognition of the role of women in the energy sector leads to gender-blind energy policies that fail to address some of the most pressing factors affecting the capacity of developing countries to adapt.

During his presentation, Fabiani Ballisson proposes the ideas of halting the establishment of the coal-based energy station, City Power; a project which would have affected the cultivation of sugarcane in the northern part of the island. He hence pointed out how women are affected by daily environmental issues and that women should be given greater involvement in the energy policies so that energy supplies can be managed more effectively and productively in the face of rapid climate change.

The presentations of APEDED and Plateforme Citoyenne impressed the jury and the first NGO got the Award and the second one was the runner-up.

Yeshna Dindoyal is a student of the University of Mauritius. She is part of the Gender Links team covering the national Summit for GL’s newsletter.



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