Examining False Solutions to Climate Change: A Postcolonial Feminist Perspective and a Hopeful Inquiry

Shehla Arif

March 28, 2024

Hybrid - Ballroom B (U03-3550B Campus Center), University of Massachusetts Boston. For in-person attendance:

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Climate Change and Drought: Impact of Food Insecurity on Gender Based Vulnerability in District Tharparkar


Memon, Manzoor Hussain, Naveed Aamir, and Nadeem Ahmed. 2018. "Climate Change and Drought: Impact of Food Insecurity on Gender Based Vulnerability in District Tharparkar." The Pakistan Development Review 57 (3): 307-21.

Authors: Manzoor Hussain Memon, Naveed Aamir, Nadeem Ahmed


Climate change has now become a reality that has intensified the sufferings of people living in arid ecosystems. Decrease in rainfall, rise in temperature and increase in the frequency of extreme events are some of the changes observed in the semi-arid desert of district Tharparkar. For thousands of years, people of Tharparkar are coping with drought and aridity of the land by using indigenous knowledge. However, global changes in the climatic pattern and deterioration of social and economic conditions have pushed the inhabitants of this arid region into extreme vulnerable situation. This paper investigates the link between climate-induced natural disasters, particularly drought, from the perspective of changing climate patterns which have resulted in food insecurity and water scarcity. The paper analyses the rainfall pattern in the last 38 years—dividing it into two periods i.e. from 1975-1994 and 1995-2014. The findings of the paper have challenged the prevailing notions about aridity and rainfall patterns in Tharparkar district. The research found that there is an increase in average annual precipitation in the district with erratic patterns. Thus, the nature of drought in the district has changed from its historic pattern of less or no rainfall to more but erratic rainfall that is more threatening to livelihoods of the people that in turn have multiplier effect on water and food insecurity. In particularly, women are more vulnerable in the absence of social security and lack of basic necessities for their survival amidst drought. For instance, traditionally the burden of managing water resources falls on women, which leads to an increased work load during the time of drought and also water scarcity. (Abstract from original source)

Topics: Security, Food Security Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Pakistan

Year: 2018

More Bang for Your Buck: Nuclear Weapons and Their Enactment of Colonial and Gendered Power


Urwin, Jessica A. 2016. “More Bang for Your Buck: Nuclear Weapons and Their Enactment of Colonial and Gendered Power.” ANU Undergraduate Research Journal, no. 8.

Author: Jessica A. Urwin


Analysing the nuclear weapons regime through both postcolonial and feminist frameworks demonstrates that the possession of nuclear weapons has incredibly important implications for the security agenda. While both postcolonial and feminist scholars have delved into the relationships between their respective disciplines and the dynamics of the nuclear weapons regime, gaps in the scholarship ensure that postcolonial feminist critiques of the regime are lacking. This article endeavours to combine postcolonial and feminist critiques to demonstrate how the nuclear weapons regime is underpinned by pertinent gendered and colonial assumptions. These assumptions ensure that certain states are prioritised over others; namely, the behaviour of nuclear weapons states is considered more legitimate than that of ‘rogue states’, their desire for nuclear weapons hinged upon racial, colonial and gendered assumptions of legitimacy. Closely analysing the gendered and colonial dynamics of the nuclear weapons regime sheds light upon how patriarchy and imperialism have shaped the security agenda in regard to nuclear weapons.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Femininity/ies, Gender Analysis, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Peace and Security, Security, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Countries: India, Pakistan, United States of America

Year: 2016

Women and Disasters in South Asia: Survival, Security and Development


Roy, Sajal. 2018. “Women and Disasters in South Asia: Survival, Security and Development.” Gender, Place & Culture 25 (2): 315–16.

Author: Sajal Roy


Women and Disasters in South Asia: Survival, Security and Development is an edited collection that investigates primarily how gender and politics are shaping post-disaster reconstruction and development processes in South Asian countries. Most of the disasters included in this collection are profiled in Indian case studies, including the Indian Ocean tsunami as witnessed in Tamil Nadu (2004), the earthquake in Gujarat, (2001), the super cyclone in Odisha (1999), the flood in Bihar (2008), the Cloudburst in Ladakh (2010). A few chapters extend beyond India to examine events such as the floods in Pakistan (2010) and post-tsunami reconstruction in Sri Lanka (ongoing since 2004). The book captures both women’s vulnerabilities and resiliencies in post-disaster setting, demonstrating that women and men experience disasters differently due to the social construction of their socioeconomic positions, gender roles and relationships with government and society.

Topics: Economies, Poverty, Environment, Climate Change, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Men, Women, Post-Conflict Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

Year: 2018

Engendering Climate Change: Learnings from South Asia


Hans, Asha, Nitya Rao, Anjal Prakash, and Amrita Patel, eds. 2021. Engendering Climate Change: Learnings from South Asia. New York & Oxon: Routledge.

Authors: Asha Hans, Nitya Rao, Anjal Prakash, Amrita Patel


This book focuses on the gendered experiences of environmental change across different geographies and social contexts in South Asia and on diverse strategies of adapting to climate variability. The book analyzes how changes in rainfall patterns, floods, droughts, heatwaves and landslides affect those who are directly dependent on the agrarian economy. It examines the socio-economic pressures, including the increase in women’s work burdens both in production and reproduction on gender relations. It also examines coping mechanisms such as male migration and the formation of women’s collectives which create space for agency and change in rigid social relations. The volume looks at perspectives from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal to present the nuances of gender relations across borders along with similarities and differences across geo-graphical, socio-cultural and policy contexts. This book will be of interest to researchers and students of sociology, development, gender, economics, environmental studies and South Asian studies. It will also be useful for policymakers, NGOs and think tanks working in the areas of gender, climate change and development.


Table of Contents:

1. Gender, Climate Change and the Politics of Vulnerability: An Introduction
Nitya Rao, Anjal Prakash, Asha Hans, and Amrita Patel

PART I: Vulnerabilities

2. Vulnerabilities of Rural Women to Climate Extremes: A Case of Semi-Arid Districts in Pakistan
Ayesha Qaisrani and Samavia Batool 

3. Gendered Vulnerabilities in Diaras: Struggles with Floods in the Gandak River Basin in Bihar, India
Pranita Bhushan Udas, Anjal Prakash, and Chanda Gurung Goodrich

4. Of Borewells and Bicycles: The Gendered Nature of Water Access in Karnataka, South India and Its Implications for Local Vulnerability
Chandni Singh

5. Vulnerabilities and Resilience of Local Women Towards Climate Change in the Indus basin
Saqib Shakell Abbasi, Muhammad Zubair Anwar, Nusrat Habib, and Qaiser Khan

6. Climate Change, Gendered Vulnerabilities and Resilience in High Mountain Communities: The Case of Upper Rasuwa in Gandaki River Basin, Hindu Kush Himalayas
Deepak Dorje Tamang and Pranita Bhushan Udas 

PART II: Adaptation and Wellbeing

7. Wells and Well-being in South India: Gender Dimensions of Groundwater Dependence
Divya Susan Solomon and Nitya Rao

8. Gender, Migration and Environmental Change in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta in Bangladesh
Katharine Vincent, Ricardo Safra de Campos, Attilan N. Lázár, and Anwara Begum

9. Women-Headed Households, Migration and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Mahanadi Delta, India
Sugata Hazra, Amrita Patel, Shouvik Das, Asha Hans, Amit Ghosh, and Jasmine Giri

10. Gender Dynamics and Climate Variability: Mapping the Linkages in the Upper Ganga Basin in Uttarakhand, India
Vani Rijhwani, Divya Sharma, Neha Khandekar, Roshan Rathod, and Mini Govindan 

11. Shaping Gendered Responses to Climate Change in South Asia
Asha Hans, Anjal Prakash, Nitya Rao, and Amrita Patel

Topics: Agriculture, Displacement & Migration, Climate Displacement, Migration, Economies, Environment, Climate Change, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan

Year: 2021

Hashtagging Girlhood: #IAmMalala, #BringBackOurGirls and Gendering Representations of Global Politics


Berents, Helen. 2016. “Hashtagging Girlhood: #IAmMalala, #BringBackOurGirls and Gendering Representations of Global Politics.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 18 (4): 513–27.

Author: Helen Berents


This article explores how gendered, racial and youth-ed concepts of girlhood shape the way conflict, violence and the lived experiences of girls in conflict-affected environments are understood globally. In particular, it examines the broader context and effect of social media campaigns that specifically invoke a concept of “girlhood” in their responses to crisis or tragedy. It focuses on two hashtags and their associated social media campaigns: #IAmMalala, started in response to the attempted killing of Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012 by Taliban gunmen, and #BringBackOurGirls, started by Nigerians and adopted globally in response to the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by terrorist group Boko Haram. In both instances, understandings of the broader political context are shaped by the focus on girls. Both hashtags also appropriate an experience: claiming to be Malala and claiming the Nigerian girls as ours. Through this exploration, I argue that particular ideals of girlhood are coded within these campaigns, and that these girls’ experiences are appropriated. I critique the limited representations of girlhood that circulate in these discussions, and how these limited representations demonstrate the problematic narrowness of dominant conceptions of girlhood.

Keywords: Girlhood, activism, social media, Malala Yousafzai, Chibok girls

Topics: Age, Youth, Education, Gender, Gendered Discourses, Media, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-State Armed Groups, Race, Terrorism, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa, Asia, South Asia Countries: Nigeria, Pakistan

Year: 2016

Forging the Ideal Educated Girl: The Production of Desirable Subjects in Muslim South Asia


Khoja-Moolji, Shenila. 2018. Forging the Ideal Educated Girl: The Production of Desirable Subjects in Muslim South Asia. Oakland: University of California Press.

Author: Shenila Khoja-Moolji


In Forging the Ideal Educated Girl, Shenila Khoja-Moolji traces the figure of the ‘educated girl’ to examine the evolving politics of educational reform and development campaigns in colonial India and Pakistan. She challenges the prevailing common sense associated with calls for women’s and girls’ education and argues that such advocacy is not simply about access to education but, more crucially, concerned with producing ideal Muslim woman-/girl-subjects with specific relationships to the patriarchal family, paid work, Islam, and the nation-state. Thus, discourses on girls’/ women’s education are sites for the construction of not only gender but also class relations, religion, and the nation. (Summary from UC Press)

Topics: Class, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Development, Education, Gender, Girls, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India, Pakistan

Year: 2018

Ecofeminism and Pakistani Anglophone Literature


Jabeen, Neelam. 2018. “Ecofeminism and Pakistani Anglophone Literature.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 21 (3): 354-66.

Author: Neelam Jabeen


Ecofeminist discourse is primarily developed by western scholars. It does not always take into account the discrepancies that the non-western examples of human–nature and women–nature relationships provide. This essay studies certain Pakistani Anglophone texts that abound in such examples that help develop an alternative ecofeminist analysis to explains these discrepancies. I term this alternative analysis “postcolonial ecofeminism” which does not completely depart from mainstream ecofeminism. Postcolonial ecofeminism still rests in the basic ecofeminist assumption that there is a connection in how one treats women and the environment and all feminized and naturalized entities. However, it contends that to explain the women–nature relationship, especially in the South Asian, post/neocolonial Pakistani context, it is important to consider the material realities of women (and men) that are directly related to their status as members of post/neocolonial societies.

Keywords: Pakistani Anglophone literature, postcolonial ecofeminism, women-nature relationship

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Feminisms, Ecofeminism, Gender Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Pakistan

Year: 2018

Caregivers at the Frontline of Addressing the Climate Crisis


Butt, Myrah Nerine, Saleha Kamal Shah, and Fareeha Ali Yahya. 2020. “Caregivers at the Frontline of Addressing the Climate Crisis.” Gender & Development 28 (3): 479–98.

Authors: Myrah Nerine Butt, Saleha Kamal Shah, Fareeha Ali Yahya


This article draws on Oxfam’s work in Pakistan. It explores the burdens of addressing the climate crisis on the unpaid labour of poverty-stricken women in Badin, Pakistan. A case study methodology has been used to highlight the experiences of four women farmers in Badin and understand the impact of climate change on their care workload. Seawater intrusion and rising temperatures are key stressors leading to acute shortages of water. This is increasing women’s time spent on key care activities like fodder and water collection, and livestock rearing. A severe negative impact has been observed on the drudgery of care work and, in turn, on the health and well-being of the women. In a context where prevalent gender inequality and social norms lead to unequal life chances for women, it has been observed that due to climate change, women have to travel further, work harder, and assume more care responsibilities. It has also been observed that care is primarily seen as a feminine task with residual care responsibilities falling on the shoulders of other women in the household, particularly girls, crippling their life chances. Despite all these challenges, women are organising and raising their voices on key issues around climate change. The article recommends that the four ‘Rs’ framework – recognise, reduce, redistribute, and represent –  developed by feminist economists and care experts, be integrated across mainstream climate policy and programmes to help women in poverty improve their well-being and exercise their social, economic, and political rights.


Cet article s’inspire des travaux menés par Oxfam au Pakistan. Il se penche sur le fardeau représenté par les efforts de la lutte contre la crise climatique sur le travail non rémunéré des femmes pauvres de Badin, au Pakistan. Une méthodologie d’étude de cas a été employée pour mettre en relief les expériences de quatre agricultrices de Badin et pour comprendre l’impact du changement climatique sur leur charge de travail liée aux soins. L’intrusion de l’eau de mer et la hausse des températures sont des facteurs de stress clés qui entraînent des pénuries aiguës d’eau. Cela a pour effet d’accroître le temps consacré par les femmes aux activités de soins comme la collecte de fourrage et d’eau, et l’élevage. Un grave impact négatif a été observé en ce qui concerne la pénibilité des activités de soins et, en conséquence, sur la santé et le bien-être des femmes. Dans un contexte où les inégalités existantes entre les sexes et les normes sociales donnent lieu à des chances de réussite inégales pour les femmes, on a observé qu’en raison du changement climatique, les femmes doivent parcourir de plus longues distances, travailler davantage et assumer plus de responsabilités de soins. On a également observé que les soins sont principalement perçus comme une tâche féminine et que les responsabilités résiduelles de soins reposent sur les épaules des autres femmes du foyer, en particulier les filles, ce qui compromet leurs perspectives de réussite. Malgré ces défis, les femmes s’organisent et se font entendre sur des questions clés relatives au changement climatique. Cet article recommande que le cadre des quatre « R » — reconnaître, réduire, redistribuer et représenter — mis au point par les économistes et les experts féministes en matière de soins, soit intégré dans tous les programmes et politiques généraux en matière de climat pour aider les femmes pauvres à améliorer leur bien-être et à faire valoir leurs droits sociaux, économiques et politiques.


Partiendo del trabajo realizado por Oxfam en Pakistán, el presente artículo examina la carga que supone para el trabajo no remunerado de las mujeres afectadas por la pobreza en Badin, Pakistán, abordar la crisis climática. Con este propósito se utilizó una metodología de estudio de casos para poner de relieve las experiencias de cuatro agricultoras de Badin, a fin de comprender el impacto del cambio climático en su carga de trabajo vinculada al cuidado. Tanto la filtración de agua de mar como la elevación de temperatura constituyen factores estresantes fundamentales que provocan una grave escasez de agua. Esto determina que las mujeres deban aumentar el tiempo que dedican a actividades clave de cuidado, como la recolección de forraje y agua, y la cría de ganado. Ello ha ocasionado un grave impacto negativo, tanto en el trabajo de cuidado como en la salud y el bienestar de las mujeres. En un contexto en que la desigualdad de género y las normas sociales predominantes dan lugar a desiguales oportunidades en la vida para las mujeres, se ha observado que, debido al cambio climático, las mujeres tienen que viajar más lejos, trabajar más duro y asumir más responsabilidades de cuidado. Además, se ha constatado que el cuidado es considerado sobre todo como una tarea de mujeres y que las responsabilidades residuales del cuidado recaen sobre los hombros de otras mujeres del hogar, en particular las niñas, lo que limita sus oportunidades en la vida. A pesar de todos estos desafíos, las mujeres se están organizando y alzando su voz en cuestiones clave relativas al cambio climático. El artículo recomienda que el marco de las cuatro “R” —reconocer, reducir, redistribuir y representar— desarrollado por economistas feministas y expertos en cuidados, se integre a la política y los programas climáticos principales para ayudar a las mujeres marginadas a mejorar su bienestar y ejercer sus derechos sociales, económicos y políticos.

Keywords: climate, care work, agriculture, Pakistan, water, WE-Care

Topics: Economies, Care Economies, Poverty, Environment, Climate Change, Gender, Girls, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Pakistan

Year: 2020

Women, Land, Embodiment: A Case of Postcolonial Ecofeminism


Jabeen, Neelam. 2020. “Women, Land, Embodiment: A Case of Postcolonial Ecofeminism.” International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 22 (8): 1095-109.

Author: Neelam Jabeen


In continuation of a previous essay about how Pakistani Anglophone literature intervenes into the mainstream ecofeminist paradigm, in this essay I show how South Asian literature – specifically, Pakistani and Indian fiction – challenges the mainstream ecofeminist assumption of a symbolic woman–nature (land) connection where terms like fertile, barren, seed, rape, womb, virgin, etc. are used for both women and land, symbolically feminizing land, and naturalizing women. I argue that this woman–land connection cannot be merely regarded as symbolic because in the post/colonial South Asian societies that the selected texts present, women’s bodies are actually treated as land, which in turn complicates the notion of women–land embodiment, allowing a deeper understanding of the cause of the twin oppression of women and land.

Keywords: embodiment, postcolonial ecofeminism, women-land/nature connection

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Environment, Feminisms, Ecofeminism, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India, Pakistan

Year: 2020


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