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.
- 4 villages in pilot project
- “Climate change kit” template made available
- Project results published in climate change book and shared at international forums
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.
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 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.
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
Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.