Tuesday, 31 May 2011

ENVIRONMENT AND INDIAN WOMEN


Women and environment are mankind’s greatest assets .It is time we worked towards the welbeing of both.
Environment impacts everyone .However looking things from a women’s perspective the impact that environment has on her is tremendous.It takes a different connotation on women in the urban India as opposed to rural Indian women.
Women are most vulnerable to negative impact because of their poor nutritional status.Water and food scarcity hits women the hardest as traditions and gender relations force them to decrease their intake to such an extent that extreme malnutrition and even death may occur.
Lets take the women of the urban poor living in the narrow snaking lanes of the slums .She is holed up in there doing chores for her husband and subsequently children and if is lucky enough get employment in the neighbouring colony as a maid . She  then gets into  a vicious circle of housework for free and housework at a price and before long is reduced to a mere shadow of herself .
In her one room home she has her kitchen where she inhales the gasses emitted while cooking food ,also the stench from the open drains outside ,the swarm of flies keeping her company . The curtains made out of her old sari (an absolute necessity for some semblance of privacy ),collects dust mites to spread respiratory diseases .Types of housing also affects her health…small houses,lack of ventilation and privacy to manage personal sanitation often leads to mrbidity.
Her morning begins by queuing her utensils ,pail  etc for water at the common tap
Then she stands in the line of  surging masses to relieve herself . Even here she gives in to her womanly instict of seving her household by prioritising and lets her man or children taking precedence over hers. She has learnt the art of supressing her nature’s call to the extent that affects her health in the long run!The cities have not been able to cope with the existing sanitation needs of the slum communities.posing serious public health and environmental risks for the entire city. Sulabh India is a venture in this regard where the human excretia is converted into gas for street lighting!
In the summer heat she prays for rain and when it does,along with a little relief it
also brings mud,slush and overflowing drains !The daily contact with water of poor quality due to pollution,stagnation etc exposes women to water borne diseases. Shortage of water leads to poor sanitation ,especially among women in the reproductive age group . Lack of toilet facilities in the increases the chances of infection .

A rural Indian women ,is the overworked one when village ponds and wells go dry . She treks to ever more distant sources with utensils on her head and one resting on her waist . A pretty picture for the poets and writers who visualise such beauty that they write such emotive pieces.According to a study by UNICEF the principal collectors of water  in an Indian household are women between the ages of 15 to 35 years collecting about 192 litres of water a day for an average household.
 When forests are destroyed it is they who go farther and father afield in search for firewood .In most forest bound economies ,women play a significant role . They are involved in food gathering fodder collecting and also rejenuating forests through indigeneous conservative practices. As lands are degraded and forests recede ,it is they and their animals that trudge hundred of kilometres in search of grazing land . Commercial interest has worked havoc with forests . Forests are their fundamental right to survival . In her inimmitable way she has crusaded against the mindless felling of trees .Amrita Bai of Khejralli village of Jodhpur dist of Rajasthan paved the way for the modern Chipko movement.They firmly believe that it is the forests that bear soil,water and air and the three substances are basic to their survival!
 It is their livelihood  and their hopes that shrivel in the arid anguish of drought and are drowned in the raging fury of floods.
When Factories spew harmful gases into the air the infirn,children and women suffer the contagium. At home she generally uses Bio mass fuels such as wood,cow dung ,and crop residues .Studies in carbon monoxide exposure have shown significantly high levels of toxic gas in the blood of women cooking with bio-mass fuels.
When industrial units discharge their affluent into rivers ,it is the poor fishermen and their families who are deprived of their incomes .The water is unsafe killing so many people.
Today the hotest topic is Environment .Any Magazine is incomplete without issues connected with it. The writing is very clear on the wall …man will perish if he does nottake recourse to any action.Every nation in it’s own way chalking out plans . In the tenth plan the mechanism of Forest Development Agencies have been reinforced.Vrikshsamitra award recognises the women’s contribution in the field of tree plantation.Toilet complexes …in order to protect the dignity of women of the poorer sections ,the Ministry as a part of National River Construction Plan has been emphasising the construction of toilet complexes.Under UNDP project Self Help Groups have been constituted.
Efforts are made to generate awareness about renewable resources. Solar Energy,should be tapped in India of which we are richly endowed.Government Ministeries can do a lot if the people of a certain area will contact their local representatives and together work out a solution to the problem at hand!

 To a women who is a victim to a marginalised environment the conferences about environment mean nothing .Not for her is the threat of Ozone depletion or the Green HouseEffect.All she desires is humane conditions , a desire to live with dignity!











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