BATTAMBANG, Cambodia – The Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC) has furnished a report from the SE Asia Regional meeting on “Women and the Impact of Climate Change” which was held in Battambang Prefecture, Cambodia recently.
The Church and the United Nations has a special concern for women, especially those who are dependent on farming, who are the first to experience the hardship brought on by weather extremes which undermines their agricultural rhythms and food security. They are the ones who have to cope with increasing work but diminishing production as the land yields less and less. They are the first to suffer the impact of poverty brought on by disasters. When there is less food, women are most likely to do without while men and children are fed. When there is pressure on income, the girls are kept back from school and not the boys. The impact of climate change is to erode even further the rights and dignity of women and the girl child in situations where women are already discriminated and exploited.
Forced migrations, Human trafficking, increased prostitution,domestic violence are exacerbated by poverty and climate change is one major cause of increasing poverty today. There are other causes like wars, corruption and poor governance but Climate Change looms larger than all the rest.
For the six countries of SE Asia represented in the Seminar from 7-11 Mar 2016, all could resonate with the topic and found many examples where women are already experiencing the negative impact of unpredictable weather systems and a weak social and political response. Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines were represented by lay and religious women from their national Women’s Commissions. Two Bishops accompanied the process. Indonesian Archbishop Nicholaus Seputra of Merauke Diocese (West Papua) and host Bishop Kike Figaredo. There was a total of 32 participants.
The real challenge in these days was to keep the focus on the “Impact on Women.” The tendency was to get carried away with just doing many little things for protection of the environment but the important thing for the meeting was to see how one can support women who are facing the ongoing hardships in the various countries. Most participants could see clearly the connection between the deteriorating conditions for women and girls and climate change. There are many connections of course with the poor and other vulnerable groups but in a three day meeting it was not possible to address all the concerns.
In the Panel discussion on the third day, Fr Pichet explained that it is not enough to work against Climate Change as there are many agencies engaged already. For Christians, they have to work from within as the human person is central, starting with themselves, with the human person and then going beyond the human being to creation. On a similar note, Fr Allwyn called for a deeper reflection to be made, following the three step ‘See Judge Act’ Method.
The three day meeting ended with a much greater determination and conviction that all must act and all must act together. – FABC