Women of the Lagoon: confronting Climate Change in coastal Vietnam
Women are part of the solution, they demand climate justice
As world leaders are gathering this week in Paris, France to discuss solutions and reach an agreement on how to deal with climate change, women in many parts of the Asia and Pacific are steadily organising and strengthening their capacity to adapt and demand climate justice. The wealthy, developed countries need to be told that they owe women of the Global South an historic debt given the development and industrialisation of rich countries and the damage it has done on the global environment has been at their expense.
Women are the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. They are exposed to increased risks because of their primary role in care work and agricultural production and because climate change is increasing the burden of water and food collection, which usually falls on women. They have also felt the burden of caring for family during disaster, caring for young and elderly family members during floods and storms.
For the women of Tam Giang Lagoon in Thua Thien Hue province, Vietnam they have had to find strength in themselves to meet the risks and develop their own solutions.
One village woman prepares her field carefully, it is by the seaside and was just a rough patch of sandy soil. She has had to find additional ways to plant crops as rice production has been poor due to increasing soil salinity. This year she has harvested 500 kilos of watermelons from this field alone, enough to augment her income from rice planting. Planting on sandy soil has become a necessity for women in this village in the east of Vietnam, as is disaster preparedness and more systematic garbage collection. These are all women-led initiatives to adapt to climate change.
Meanwhile, another group of women have empowered themselves to join the historically male-only Village Rapid Response Team to handle disaster risk reduction and preparedness. They have been trained in rescue and first aid techniques as well as participating in storm warning drills. Besides participating in the usual activities of the team, the women have built on feminist collectivity in practical ways. They have organised themselves into a sub-group to conduct their own activities, such as starting a movement within their communities called “Green and Clean Roads in the Village”.
“The first day of joining the rapid response team, there were a small number of other women whispering that this is the work of men and those women should never do it. But some time later, when we women were cleaning village roads and helping the community during a disaster, everyone started to change their views and behaviour. Now others are saying that it is true that women can also do the work that previously man only did!” – Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hoa, Hai Duong Commune, CJ-FPAR participant
The story of their journey of empowerment has been documented under a feminist participatory action research conducted by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development with the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development, a Vietnamese organisation.
Every storm season brings a level urgency as lives and livelihoods are increasingly threatened by climate change. But they know that it is up to the world’s leaders to make the crucial decision that will turn back the tide of climate change. Through the climate justice programme, the women of Tam Giang lagoon have articulated key demands for governments at COP 21:
- Commit to a radical and urgent transition from extractive, profit-based economies to people centred models that are just, equitable, gender-sensitive and locally driven.
- Commit to a comprehensive, ambitious and binding new climate agreement which aims to limit global warming below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and that ensure a ‘paradigm shift’ in global governance and economies focused on redistribution of wealth, power and resources, guided by science and principles of equity.
- Human rights, gender equality, indigenous peoples rights, food security, just and equitable transitions should be recognised as objectives of the Paris agreement, and incorporated in all elements of the document and in all climate actions and decisions.