International Women’s Day: friendship in the climate space

2024’s International Women’s Day theme is #InspireInclusion. As the organisers aptly say: “when we inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion, we forge a better world”. This year, we’re spotlighting women’s friendship and its crucial role in achieving a gender-just climate space.

07 Mar 2024

In 2023, a report by the UN reminded us that the climate crisis isn’t “gender neutral”. Climate change disproportionately affects women in multiple ways. For example, rising temperatures are linked to poor maternal health, including complications during pregnancy and, tragically, an increase in stillbirths.

Considering the many challenges women still face today because of their gender, one purpose of International Women’s Day is to highlight these struggles. But it’s also a chance to celebrate women’s achievements and their steps towards true gender justice: equality for all genders.

Creating a supportive environment

The Friends of the Earth network is filled with many amazing women at the forefront of local action in the climate and environmental space. Two of these women are Chayley from Huddersfield Friends of the Earth and her friend Kiran, leader of  Huddersfield Hindu Temple. They formed a strong friendship over their shared passion for fighting climate and ecological breakdown.

Inspired by Kiran’s international work on the intersection of climate and interfaith, Chayley contacted Kiran to speak at one of her events at Huddersfield Friends of the Earth. Since then, they’ve formed a 10-year strong friendship, working together on various issues from rallies and events to supporting climate strikers and lobbying the local council on climate action.

A group of people protesting - they're wearing colourful earth masks and holding a banner which reads "End UK support for fossil fuels"
© Huddersfield Friends of the Earth

Their friendship has been instrumental in their work, leaning on each other’s strengths to drive action. Chayley tell us that “Kiran’s a brilliant speaker, which I’m not, so it is a big help to have her speaking at events”. Meanwhile Kiran speaks warmly about Chayley’s “endless energy and ability to drive an agenda forward”.

It’s incredibly heartening to see the mutually supportive friendship, drawing strength from one another all while taking action to protect the planet. We all have skills we can use to help create a world free from the worst impacts of climate change. Creating an environment in which we feel secure enough to draw on each other’s strengths is fundamental in bringing about an inclusive environmental movement. As Chayley says, “you really need to find your tribe, your people, to lift you up”.

Finding joy and purpose in action

It’s not just about driving action towards a cause we care about, but also finding joy in it too. Loving what you do drives a sustainable movement. 

Amidst all the work Kiran and Chayley do, they find time for laughter and fun. And part of that is forming connection. Kiran tells us: “the more we’re willing to work together as one community, without division, is the key to moving forward.” An example of this is inviting members of Huddersfield Friends of the Earth to the temple Kiran leads. There, Huddersfield Friends of the Earth group members describe the experience as “very, very joyful,” enjoying the dancing, fun and community feel. 

“We all have a common issue to deal with and that’s climate change. I try to utilise these events, like visiting the temple, as a platform for Chayley to tell community members what we can do in everyday life to make a difference and really get people on board.”

Encouraging experimentation

As well as doing what you love, you can also find unexpected joy in stepping outside your comfort zone. 
Kiran set up a women’s cricket team to encourage women, especially from faith backgrounds, to feel empowered and gain leadership skills. She explained cricket is the second most popular sport, so it allowed her to reach a new audience and bring climate awareness themes to them. She said she uses the opportunity to promote how things can be done differently when it comes to our natural environment, particularly as we rely on green space for the sport.

A group of people in a sports gym, one has a cricket bat
© Huddersfield Friends of the Earth

Kiran got Chayley involved too, who enjoyed the game and even brought along pom-poms to encourage the team, emphasising Kiran’s vision for the game to be about teamwork and encouraging an active lifestyle, and not competitiveness.

This is a lovely example of trying something new to empower a community of women and create climate conversations in an unconventional setting.

Find a local action group near you

Communities are powerful sources of strength and joy. Our local action groups are full of people who care about similar issues: protecting our world from climate and ecological breakdown. 

Want to connect with people like Chayley and Kiran? Find a local action group near you.

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