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Training rural women and women Panchayat leaders to adapt to climate change

Given the important role of women in climate change mitigation and adaptation, there is a great need for enhancing capacity of rural women and elected women Panchayat leaders to help communities adapt to climate change and ensure food security. 
 
 To train women leaders, Training of Trainers (ToTs) Summary Manual on Gender, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security has been prepared by Alternative Futures. A 1.5 days’ TOTs workshop was conducted in the State Capital, Patna, for 50 rural women leaders from Mahila Samakhya (MS) and elected women PRI members from various districts in Bihar. Each of the trained trainers further trained 35 women PRI leaders and MS members at the district level in 17 districts. Thus, a total of 1750 women leaders in Bihar were trained between October–December 2012. The manual is also being used to train women at the grassroots in Nepal.
 
The training of women leaders in Bihar focused on making climate change relevant to village women by relating to their lives and livelihoods. The linkages between climate change, agriculture and food security were deconstructed to illustrate what this meant at their household level. The science of climate change was explained but with examples that they could connect with. Similarly, government programmes and schemes that could help women adapt to climate change impacts on their farms, their kitchen gardens, their poultry and their fish were discussed at length so that they could learn about them. The training also focused on how the women could access and benefit from the government schemes. The training helped the rural women leaders, especially elected leaders on local self-governance structures, as they can now use the knowledge in their local areas to train other women on improving food security. Bihar was selected as the training ground of rural women leaders because it is a priority State for the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Programme (CCAFS) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
 
 ‘Awareness on women farmers and mushroom cultivation from the agricultural department trainer has been of special interest to me’, said Ms. Ranjeeta Kumari, Mukhiya, district Jamui during the training.
 
 The presence of government functionaries reinforced the belief in PRI members that they need to connect more with government agencies. It also brought to the forefront several gender barriers in accessing government programmes. For MS trainers, it was an opportunity to focus on government programmes for climate change and agriculture as a capacity development issue at village meetings. For the government departments, partnering with this training was also beneficial. “We’ve done several training programmes for PRI women members but never one on climate change, agriculture and food security,” said the Resource Person from the Panchayati Raj Department, government of Bihar.
 
One of the biggest learnings of these series of trainings has been that any work at the grassroots must be planned and implemented bottoms-up. To take two examples: women, even elected leaders, found it difficult to break the mobility barrier and travel to the training centre; two, the training period coincided with the harvest time so many women, especially those whose husbands had migrated or who did not have the wherewithal to engage more labour, could not attend the training. At the same time, these trainings also broke new ground by bringing hope to women who thought there was nothing that they could do to change their or their family’s fate.
 
The training also had some other major outputs, like understanding gender dimensions of climate change impact, overcoming gender barriers, understanding viable adaptive mechanisms, understanding new issues and concepts, large number of PRI women leaders’ participation, active participation of local agriculture officers, local action plans agenda for PRI members and expanding Mahila Samakhya agenda. 
 
Several challenges were also experienced in this training, such as mobilizing PRI leaders, unsuitable time of the year and absence of trainers from PRIs and government officers.