Arab women active in mitigation of climate change

16 Apr

Enhanced social justice and environmental preservation are frequently linked in the Middle East, a fact that is only recently being acknowledged, at least in mainstream Western culture. As those who often suffer the most from social injustices and environmental degradation in their nations (research reports from around the world confirm that the majority of those affected by climate-related disasters in developing economies have been women, Arab women have long been involved in social protests and are now raising their voices to promote and work towards climate change mitigation in the Middle East. For the most part, this is being done on small scales. Rafi’a Abdul Hamid, a Bedoiun woman from Jordan, was selected by elders in her village to attend a class at Barefoot College in India to learn about solar engineering so she could bring the knowledge back to her village. “We’ve been taught about solar energy and solar panels and how to generate light,” Hamid said. “Hopefully when we return we will be able to teach others everything we learned here in India to improve our village.”

Barefoot College itself is a slightly larger scale example of women working to promote climate change adaptations while improving their plights. It is a non-governmental organization that helps women from poor rural communities become more sustainable. It launched its solar power course for women in 2005 and already more than 150 grandmothers in the Middle East have been trained and together solar electrified over 10,000 homes in more than 100 villages, ultimately saving 1.5 million liters of kerosene.

Naqa’a, an environmental enterprise set up by a small group of young Muslim women in Saudi Arabia was founded with the intention of spreading the environmentally sustainable messages of Islam to all Muslims. The organization targets especially young Arabians in preserving the planet. “We want to be a living example of how young people can be the drivers of change in a country like Saudi Arabia,” said Norah Magraby, one of the founders of Naqa’a. The group delivers environmental workshops in schools, are helping various companies in Saudi Arabia become more green, organizes environmental events in the city of Jeddeh and has implemented a recycling system at Dar Al-Hekma College. “Many Muslim scholars have addressed many verses from the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet PBUH statements that urge us all to save the earth, preserve our water resources and to reduce our general consumptions,” Norah points out. “We are really proud of our Islamic teachings and spreading it in the best way possible is one of our major goals.”

The number of Arabic women working for larger environmental organizations is also on the rise. Recently, Mashael bint Mohammed Saud Abdurrahman of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia won the United Nations Water for Life Best Practice Award.  Earlier this year, in February, NASA appointed a Saudi woman, Majda Abduras, who has a doctorate degree in environmental studies and biotechnology as its first Arab woman researcher. Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Rashid, president of the NASA affiliate the Gulf American Foundation for Space, Technology and the Environment said that “it was the result of her continues work for the environment to solve its problems” that got Majda Abduras the job.

Devin Riley


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