In the words of Natalia Idrisova: “It is necessary to find ecological options in which women can realize themselves and bring benefit to their communities”
Natalia Idrisova is an environmental, gender and animal rights activist from Dushanbe, Tajikistan and a member of the CAN EECA Climate Network. As the project coordinator of the Little Earth environmental CSO, she trains rural women to use energy-saving equipment to free up their time while strengthening their role in decision-making.
I had a love for nature from early childhood. My parents always encouraged us to save water and electricity, and not to throw away food, pick flowers and leaves, or hurt animals. My older brother was a role model. From his early teens he volunteered at an environmental CSO and studied environmental issues. Later, he founded a small environmental non-profit, Little Earth. In 2014, I started working for this community organization, specializing in environmental education, climate change, clean transportation, waste management and other important issues.
Little Earth implements practical environmental projects in remote mountainous areas of Tajikistan, where people are facing an energy crisis. There is no electricity or enough firewood to cook and heat houses, so local communities have no option but to destroy the vegetation around them.
Local women do hard work collecting firewood, taking care of children and herding cattle. They have no time for self-development and self-care. As part of our project, we started teaching rural women about natural resources and their rational use, and we organized exhibitions of energy-efficient, simple technologies and materials that help rural families in daily life. A group of women were trained and then received energy-saving equipment, solar kitchens, energy-efficient stoves, solar lanterns and pressure cookers. Thanks to this, women were able to free up their time and energy for self-development.
Unfortunately, in our society all decisions on the development of villages and districts are made by men. Since men are often not involved in household chores, they have other needs and a different vision of priority issues and what should be prioritized by development programmes.
In our projects, we focus on strengthening women’s voices, keeping them empowered through employment and participation. We have had some good success stories, where participants of the project, after being provided with knowledge and equipment, found jobs and one participant was able to get into university.
It is necessary to find ecological options in which women can realize themselves and bring benefit to their communities. We need to reduce the human burden on nature; to reduce the destruction of vegetation; to give people alternatives; and to teach them how to restore the natural resources on which they depend.
Central Asia receives very little attention on the world stage compared to other regions. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) triggered interest in remote, isolated, resource-limited regions and communities and it is good that now the international community is gradually supporting eco-projects within the framework of the SDGs.
We hold various peaceful eco-actions. Because of the lack of environmental education and people’s low interest in environmental problems in Tajikistan, it is very difficult to advocate for change and adapt all new policies in our country, and therefore specific eco-decisions and new models are rarely introduced.
In addition to waste-reduction actions, we also try to draw attention to energy efficiency, demonstrating its importance and how to reduce the cost of electricity and water. Also, we support and promote the development of clean transportation. I like riding a bike, so for me this topic is close and clear. However, because of gender prejudices in society, many women in Tajikistan still do not dare to ride a bicycle.
In my opinion, everything starts with upbringing and education, so already in kindergarten and elementary school it is necessary to instill a respectful attitude towards the environment. It is important to create a new eco-sensitive educational curriculum, to study and adopt the successful experiences of other countries, to make the right decisions, and to implement the necessary projects and programmes. To plan long-term actions, we need to use more modern technologies. We need open access to statistics and the latest figures. Research and a scientific approach can also be a significant impetus to effective solutions.”