Contributions to the volume

At the 15th Conference of the Indian Association of Women’s Studies in 2017 held in Chennai, for the first time the theme of gender and climate change in India was introduced and the papers presented were later published in the Women’s Studies section of the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) (2018).1 Together with two of the papers published in EPW, this book goes beyond the Indian situation to open up the debate on the realities of climate change and its gendered impacts across the subcontinent. The wider focus on the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal has brought in nuances of gender relations across borders, presenting the many similarities and differences across locational, sociocultural and policy contexts. The chapters explore the links between climate variability and environmental change, along with other political economy factors, the precariousness of livelihoods and women’s work burdens both in production and reproduction, and their health and nutritional wellbeing and indeed very survival, links that have hardly been explored in the case of South Asia.

Having set out the conceptual framings and assumptions underpinning the study of gender and climate change in South Asia in this introductory chapter, the book goes on to use empirical cases from South Asia to explore the effects of increasing climate variability on poor women and men - their social roles, agency and indeed adaptive capacities. In particular, it focuses on the notions of contextual and relational vulnerabilities (Taylor 2013; Turner 2016), examining how issues such as water scarcity or drought are addressed across contexts, pointing in the process to the gendered nature of water access (Yadav and Lai 2018) and the changing gender roles therein (Kulkarni 2018). We also explore a range of adaptive options available to differently positioned women (Bhatta and Aggarwal 2016; Rao et al. 2019). By adaptive options, we mean “the array of strategies and measures that are available and appropriate for addressing adaptation. They include a wide range of actions that can be categorized as structural, institutional, ecological or behavioural” (IPCC 2018: 542). While male migration emerges as an important adaptation strategy (Bhatta et al. 2016; Jha et al. 2018; Ahsan 2019), the chapters examine the implications of a range of activities that differently positioned women undertake including changing cropping patterns, livestock rearing and petty business to reduce their everyday vulnerabilities. Experiences of women and men in response to alterations in the social-ecological system, be they real or perceived climate stressors, have implications for inter- and intra-household relations and in turn on the wellbeing of individuals (Sarkar 2017; Goodrich et al. 2019).

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