Scaling the Mountain: Women, Health, and the Environment in Nepal
On Wednesday, January 7, the Wilson Center hosted the event “Scaling the Mountain: Women, Health, and the Environment in Nepal”. Speakers included Rishi Bastakoti, Vanier Scholar, University of Calgary; Roger-Mark De Souza, Director of Population, Environmental Security and Resilience, Wilson Center; Judy Oglethorpe, Chief of Party, Hariyo Ban Program, World Wildlife Fund, and A. Tianna Scozzaro, Population and Climate Associate, Population Action International. The room was filled with gender and climate professionals, as well as, Nepalese citizens.
The room was briefed on a USAID sponsored project that combined women’s reproductive choices with environmental sustainability. The project worked at a local level to look at what changes could be made by the communities of Nepal in order to combat climate change. There are many aspects of climate change that local Nepalese farmers have no control over, but that doesn’t make them helpless over their day-to-day lives. In fact it is often this title of victim that often frustrates those who have been adapting to environmental changes their entire lives. Rather than fall into victimization, this project has worked with communities in order to tackle the problems they do have control over. This has been done through reduced deforestation and increased use of family planning measures.
Deforestation creates much vulnerability including increased landslides during rainy seasons. A significant reason for high deforestation has to do with wood burning cooking methods and the high demand for wood because of large family sizes. By increasing education in climate dangers and contraceptive use, the implementers have seen a gradual change in cultural norms surrounding gender values. Where once, families would continue to grow until a son or even two were born, more families are now valuing having no more than two children even when both are daughters.
Population control coupled with implementation of non-wood burning cook stoves and changing farming methods combine to reduce the environmental degradation in Nepal. This project has not been without obstacles, but overall it has shown much success. The coordinated group of actors anticipates continued progress moving forward.