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Climate Change – A New Challenge for Coastal Women

Women on the island nation of Mauritius are preparing for extreme weather made more frequent by climate change. “A New Challenge for Coastal Women” educated dwellers of local coastal communities about the challenges of – and prepared potential responses to – climate change that is already taking place. The project has harnessed the motivation and key position of women to make communities more resilient as a whole.

Fast facts:

  • 4 villages in pilot project
  • “Climate change kit” template made available
  • Project results published in climate change book and shared at international forums

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The problem

Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean between Africa and India, faces special risks from climate change – it is small and isolated from larger continents, and three-quarters of its population lives along the coast. This population largely lacks access to education, and makes a simple living fishing and farming. Such coastal communities depend on natural resources for their livelihoods – which makes them particularly vulnerable to weather-related changes.

The solution

Partners in the New Challenge for Coastal Women activity – headed by EPCO – recognized that women have natural potential as community leaders. In their roles as home managers and caretakers, women demonstrated more interest than men in learning how to protect their families from weather-related changes.

Women in four disparate coastal communities were organized into “climate change preparedness teams” and walked through a four-step process. Talks helped them understand climate change; verbal surveys and mapping were conducted to gather information on the current situation; the “vulnerability index” tool was used to assess a level of risk for each household; and finally, response plans for worst-case scenarios were created. A “climate change kit” consisting of emergency items like candles and rope was developed for households to use in the case of extreme weather events.

Helping the planet

Coastal communities were taught better management of natural resources in light of possible collapse of resource systems, promoting sustainable use. The preparedness program lessened dependency on natural resources – for example by encouraging tourism – which can contribute to environmental conservation. The process triggered a sense of stewardship among local women that is hoped to continue into the future.

Helping people

The climate change preparedness project improves quality of life for people living in the four coastal Mauritius communities by reducing potential negative effects of natural disasters like flooding. For example, resilience plans addressed the possibility of water-borne disease and other health hazards that could be caused by natural disasters, which may help the communities to cope in such an event.

Spillover effect

The project was implemented in four villages located on various extremes of the island, each with its own microclimate and different weather patterns. That the same activity could be amended to fit the particular needs of each village shows how it could be expanded across the island. And since Mauritius is home to both African and Asian culture, success there indicates that it could be replicated in different contexts on both continents.

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Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.