Majandra Rodriguez Acha is one of six advisors to our Next Generation Climate Board, a group of twenty something climate leaders that recommend grants to youth-led climate initiatives all around the world. Majandra, native to Peru, is also a Global Greengrants grantee.
A grant in 2015 helped kick-start her organization, TierrActiva Perú. The collective fosters Peru’s next generation of climate leaders by helping them network and supporting them to be strong advocates for climate justice. She is also a Young Feminist Fellow for Climate Justice at the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and FRIDA.
We had the chance to sit down with Majandra to discuss the impacts of climate change on youth and women around the world, and how these groups are taking on the climate crisis.
Young people on the front lines of climate change are severely impacted by problems they didn’t create. What impacts have you seen climate change have on youth in Peru?
In the Andes, young people in rural areas are being forced to migrate into urban areas, to exploitative jobs, and to live on the outskirts of cities because, among other factors, work in the agricultural sector [for example] is facing increasing challenges due to climate change. The fact is that increasingly people have less of an option to continue to live in the place they grew up in, because the climate is changing. This migration leads to a loss of traditions, and a loss of knowledge around living on that land and around agriculture.
In the Amazon, a crisis in recent years is actually the high rate of suicide among indigenous youth. In particular, young indigenous women. This has a lot to do with inequality, and contradictory ideas of traditional notions of well-being and the aspirational development lifestyle that they gain access to because of mass media. In terms of mental health it’s a crisis, and in that context, climate change increases uncertainties and poverty.
What would it look like for the world to meaningfully address climate change?
I think that there are several elements to that. At TierrActiva, we see climate change as a systemic problem that has its roots in economic systems and political systems. I think we need to modify our economic systems in a way that doesn’t center profit, but centers the sustainability of life in all its forms. For that to happen, you need a political reform to make sure business-as-usual isn’t dominating. I think that’s key. I also think that politicians do to some extent reflect the broader population, so politicians won’t change if people don’t change too. Education, and not waiting for others to change before we do, is really key. Amplifying the voices and lived experiences of those who are most impacted, who are making these connections and talking about climate justice is important, because otherwise politicians and broader society won’t act and see climate justice as a priority.
Why are young feminists concerned about climate change?
I think that young feminists see that the same system that is exploitative towards women is also exploitative against the planet. The planet, the nature, is feminized for exploitation, as well. We are seeing that gender and inequality and the exploitation of the planet and natural resources are all linked, and are interdependent. Women are most affected because climate impacts don’t affect everyone equally. Those who are already in a more marginalized position, especially women who are lower class, indigenous or live in rural areas, are even more impacted by climate change.
How does gender responsiveness strengthen the fight against climate change?
Without having a gender perspective, you are just replicating existing gender inequalities. For example, women who traditionally don’t participate in decision-making continue to be excluded and their perspectives aren’t taken into account. However, they’re the ones who traditionally know the household economy the best and they’re the ones who are taking care of families and know more about health in terms of adaptation. You are leaving out a very valuable perspective if you don’t have a gender perspective.
What do you think small grants can accomplish, in terms of gender equality, that is really unique to philanthropy?
I think small grants can give women the ability to amplify their voices in ways that without those resources would be more difficult. When small grants are in the hands of women who have different forms of knowledge and priorities, that in itself empowers them and allows them to reverse the balance, or invert the scales.