#HerstoryOfChange – Mamta Borgoyary

Article by Arianna Paterino

As an ecofeminist network, we want to provide space for the stories of inspiring champions in the fields of gender equality and the fight against climate change and environmental pollution. We believe that a sustainable future and environment need feminist solutions reflecting the lives of people on the ground. That is why we work on transformative gender equality and women’s human rights in interconnection with sustainable development and climate justice. 

One of these champions is Mamta Borgoyary 

Mamta is an energetic and passionate advocate with a varied background, going from livelihoods to health to education, protection, and safety. In university she studied economics, but following her graduation she went into environmental research and started working on climate change. After her research, she was encouraged by her professors to join the non-profit sector. So, Mamta got involved in action research on the area of forest conservation. “I realized how climate change is an emergency, which has pervaded every single domain that exists in the world”, she tells us. She became passionate about grassroots work with women and children, focusing on issues like the empowerment and rights of women and children, and she started working with women groups living in the forest, trying to gain insight into their struggles for rights and livelihoods. 

In her 14 years of grassroots work, the links between climate change, poverty and gender and human rights issues have become extremely clear to her. During a relief operation following a flood in India, for example, she witnessed the struggles that women and children go through – not just during, but also after natural disasters, as poverty intensified by these disasters led to increases in child marriages and human trafficking cases.

Mamta strongly believes that leadership needs to be about serving others. If you ask me who I am, I am someone who very strongly believes in the strengths that lie in sisterhood. I also believe that the earth and human beings are very, very well connected. And if there is discordance in that connection, the onslaught is too much for everybody.”

She believes that her experience in frontline work will help her in her contributions to bringing often unheard voices – especially from the Global South –  to the forefront of climate negotiation. This is why she is very excited to start working in the non-profit organization She Changes Climate (SSC). This organization advocates for equal representation of women in climate negotiations and focuses on intersectional approaches to environmental issues, particularly in terms of on gender justice and the empowerment of women in the Global South. SSC’s work can be divided into four focus areas:

  • ‘Influence’ – working with policymakers to advocate for women’s rights and participation;
  • ‘Campaign’ – building campaigns to influence public opinion and discourse on women’s rights and participation, and amplifying local and grassroots organizations working on the gender dimensions of environmental issues;
  • ‘Collaboration’ – building collaboration between other gender and environment groups;
  • ‘Amplify’ – working with women to strengthen their capacity and helping them finding a platform to express themselves on gender issues.

Mamta: “In the climate change narrative, there is a huge divide in terms of voices of the North and the South.” But it is those living in the Global South, who are at the forefront of the world’s climate and environmental emergencies, who have an instrumental role to play in our global responses to these issues, she argues. “How do you really amplify the southern voices? And how do you support indigenous women and all these grassroots workers, who often have ideas that can be very transformative in terms of climate justice? This is something that She Changes Climate is really focusing on, and I have to say that I am very proud to join this organization.”

When asked which of SSC’s programmes stand out for her, two come to mind. “Through our Ambassadors Programme,” she tells us, “we identify young people from different countries and diverse cultural backgrounds, who believe in the importance of women leadership for climate justice and are willing to forward this campaign in their own countries. So far there are 15 leaders from Africa, from UAE, and Asia. We intend to have such ambassadors in every single country.” Secondly, she mentions SCC’s mentoring programme, which is aimed at at supporting young women who want to take up a profession focusing on climate change, but lack direction in terms of their specific focus and where to gain the required skills. “Therefore,” she tells us, “we have mentors providing different types of mentorships, from technical to psychological.”

There are three final lessons and recommendations Mamta wants to share. Firstly, she emphasises the importance if centering women in decision-making processes around climate change. Secondly, she advocates for involving youth into the climate negotiation process. This, Mamta argues, should go much further than merely creating awareness among young people about climate issues. Rather, they should be facilitated to take an active role in organizing and decision-making processes. Lastly, she recommends including men in the fight for women’s empowerment as well. Many men still view feminism as an attempt to reverse existing hierarchies.  According to Mamta, it therefore has to be made clear that this is about the wellbeing of all, rather than a fight to promote the domination of one gender over another. Any effort to involve men in feminist struggles should therefore start with providing education from an early age about feminism and gender issues, she concludes.