A non-profit organization is teaching women in the slums of India to improve their lives and be more resilient to climate change. Based out of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, the Mahila Housing Trust is helping women in 100 neighborhoods across five big cities in western India.
Mahila Housing Trust works to redevelop poor neighborhoods and show women how to legally secure property rights. They also educate on sustainability techniques like rainwater harvesting, composting and household energy efficiency.
“[The women] may not understand the science of global warming, but they have first-hand experience of its effects, and with some education and simple solutions, they are better able to tackle it,” said Bharati Bhonsale, program manager at Mahila Housing Trust.
Reflective paint is one of the newest experiments designed by the Trust, and along with other low-cost options like insulated ceilings and modular roofs, families have begun to see considerable improvements in quality of life. “We used to really suffer from the heat. We could not sit inside, we could not work, people were falling sick,” said project participant, Meenaben.
Meenaben is one of many women in the Ramesh Dutt Colony that works from home, sewing clothes and blankets. “This year it has been so much better. The paint brought the temperature down by several degrees, and I have been able to sit in my home, do my work,” said Meenaben.
India is one of the places in the world suffering most from the effects of global warming. Unbearable heat, combined with extreme weather events and poor infrastructure, can devastate thousands of vulnerable, impoverished households.
“They work so hard to improve their lives, their homes. But even one setback from something like flash floods or a heatwave can have a big impact and cause them to slip back into poverty,” said Bhonsale.
Mahila Housing Trust is helping houses clear out storm drains and plant shrubs to prevent flash flooding. They also have installed warning systems in some neighborhoods, which alert residents during especially heavy rains, so they can move food and important items, like documents, to higher places in the house.
Bhonsale explained, “A flash flood can destroy their belongings, heat stress affects their work and their health. So it is important they are equipped to manage the effects of climate change…For poor women, their home is also their workplace, their storehouse. They are much more sensitized to the impact of climate change, and understand the seriousness of it.”
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