Buzz Women in collaboration with IIM Bangalore and the ClimateRISE Alliance, organized “Seeds of Change: Catalyzing Rural Entrepreneurship and Womens Leadership in Indias Climate Agenda” at IIM Bangalore. The event aimed to spotlight the voices of rural women entrepreneurs and deliberate on the ways various stakeholders across the development landscape can enable women into leadership roles, promoting entrepreneurship and fostering sustainable livelihoods in the face of climate change challenges.
The day featured insightful panel discussions and inspiring speakers, emphasizing the pivotal role of women in climate action and economic resilience. Key panelists and speakers from diverse backgrounds included Ashwini Kulkarni from Pragati Abhiyan, former Bindi International CEO Gloria Jonathan, Anagha Kamat from Mann Deshi Foundation, Susan Bhaktul from Industree Foundation, Megha Johar from Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), and Rajiv Prakash from Rainmatter Foundation. The discussions were led by Prof. Padmini Srinivasan of IIM Bangalore and Anand Sri Ganesh, NSRCEL. The panelists shared their experiences and views on how women can act as effective agents of climate resilience with the right kind of enabling conditions and collaborative action. The event also spotlighted four women entrepreneurs from rural Karnataka and their journeys as rural climate champions. The voices of these rural champions – Bhagyamma, Sujatha, Jayalakshmi, and Sarvari, not only renewed the audience’s faith in the transformative power of enabling woman entrepreneurship but also showcased the often invisible and truly intersectional dimensions of climate impact on women in rural areas.
Climate change in India has drastically altered the livelihoods of women, exacerbating existing socio-economic vulnerabilities such as reduced food security, and increased poverty. India, with 69% of its population residing in rural areas and women constituting 63% of the agricultural workforce, is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. When provided with adequate resources women can increase their agricultural yields by 20 to 30 percent. The conversations through the first panel discussion highlighted the intricate connections between climate action, womens economic empowerment, and rural entrepreneurship – introducing innovative interventions and strategies led by CSOs towards building resilient livelihoods for women.
Building on the strategic interventions that can be facilitated by CSOs at the grassroots Anagha Kamat, the Director of Strategy, Impact and Innovation at Mann Deshi Foundation said, “Women are inherently creative and understand the concept of sustainability without knowing the word itself. If provided with the right resources and training, they can work towards climate action in a holistic manner. At Mann Deshi Foundation, we have seen women work across various intersections such as textile, agriculture, health, and environment. Their intergenerational knowledge ensures livelihood along with sustainability making them the local agents of climate change.”
When it comes to building climate resilience in communities, empowering women, and involving them in all aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation is crucial. The second panel featured women climate champions, their journeys, and their role within the communities as torchbearers of climate action – using their valuable traditional knowledge, connecting all vital dots, spearheading climate-conscious businesses, driving awareness & behavioural change, and ensuring last-mile delivery of sustainable energy practices by curating local solutions keeping in mind the needs of the grassroots communities. During the discussion, one of the climate champions Jayalakshmi said, “With the aim to bring behavioural change among people in her community by being more conscious in their usage of plastic, I stitched cloth bags and started distributing to people for free. I wanted to shift the mindset of people in my village towards using plastic bags. And now my village has become a model village in this regard.”
Reflecting on the overall event, Uthara Narayanan, Co-founder, Buzz Women added, “Women are still fighting for financial freedom, and the social and political hurdles have kept them from equality. And now the ecological hurdles pose a risk of pushing them further behind. No climate change strategy would be complete without taking gender into consideration. We are nowhere close to finding all the solutions for adapting, mitigating, or building resilience, but we at least started. At Buzz Women, we started with giving women encouragement, by bringing out their strengths with the right questions and tools so that they can come up with the relevant solutions for their local contexts. This Conference was a coming together of CSOs, Government officials, grant makers and rural women in solidarity to address a pivotal intersection of our times-rural entrepreneurship, womens leadership, and Indias climate agenda.“
One of the panels during the event touched upon channelizing funding to solve the most pressing issues and how it remained one of the biggest questions for the development sector. The session explored systematic interventions necessary for financial resources dedicated to sustainable women-focused livelihood initiatives. It centered on funding from philanthropists that are flexible, holistic, and enable CSOs to build a narrative towards local solutions and sharing their knowledge and best practices. Strengthening of CSOs ensure women’s contribution to climate action solutions and acknowledges the pivotal role philanthropy and financial institutions can play in catalyzing transformative change for a gender-inclusive and environmentally sustainable future.
Rajiv Prakash from Rainmatter Foundation elaborated on the role philanthropies can play in supporting CSOs, he shared, “Flexible funding empowers individuals to construct their own ventures and enable a focus on meaningful impact. Making knowledge and solutions easily accessible is not just a goal but a necessity in fostering a collaborative and informed community. CSOs should strive to maintain their identity and work guided by principles shaping a more resilient and purpose-driven civil society.”
The common thread that ran through many of the conversations was of dignity and expression and what does it mean for women to step out of their homes, for them to take decisions for themselves, and for them to have a sense of purpose. It is important that funders also look beyond women’s livelihoods beyond just economics and climate benefits, but also from the lens of what it means for the larger question of dignity and equity.
The conclusion of the event highlighted the critical role of cross-sector collaboration among governments, civil society organizations, philanthropy, and industry practitioners to pool resources and knowledge in addressing issues at the intersection of gender equality, climate action, and resilient livelihoods. Moving forward, the alliance commits to continued collaboration, knowledge sharing, advocacy for gender-inclusive policies, capacity building, and supporting innovative approaches to enable women to be active participants in climate action and resilient livelihoods.