nitya-rao

THE ACTIVIST
NITYA RAO

Equality & Diversity Champion

Professor of Gender & Development, School of International Development
Research Group Member, Gender
Research Group Member, Global Environmental Justice
Research Group Member, Life Course, Migration and Wellbeing
Research Group Member, Literacy and Development Group
Founding Member, UNESCO Chair on Literacy and Social Transformation

 

Nitya champions gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate change hotspots throughout Africa and Asia - areas where climate change exacerbates gender inequality.

A researcher, teacher, trainer and social activist, Nitya’s gender analysis has a strong focus on households and intra-household dynamics. It takes an intersectional lens to understand the multiple disadvantages that particular groups of women, or indeed men, confront. This could relate to ethnicity, race, caste, marital status or even age hierarchies.

Nitya’s recent projects have improved our understanding of gendered vulnerabilities to climate change and different strategies to cope with the impact. They have also helped to identify emergent issues in gender and climate change for research, policy and practice.

“My commitment to gender equality and social justice has opened the space for working and researching with communities (poor women in particular) to co-produce both knowledge and longer-term change.”

My Story

“I started my career as a grassroots activist. I organised women to tackle key challenges they confronted in their lives, often related to poverty and the lack of secure jobs or assets. We tried to enable them to bargain for fair wages, have decent working conditions and secure fair rights to natural resources, especially land and forests.

In rural areas, the harsh reality was that women bore the brunt of the work in terms of agricultural production and domestic reproduction. Yet they had few entitlements, little support and the precarity of their work was compounded by climatic variability, both in rainfall and temperatures. Unseasonal rains, droughts and floods lead to frequent crop losses that take a toll on women’s lives and threaten the food and nutrition security of their households.

In my research and practice, I’m passionate about improving the wellbeing of rural women and their households. Support through infrastructure, services, information and technologies can open up adaptation options and strengthen their resilience to uncertainty. This includes agroecological approaches to sustain their farming and a range of climate-resilient strategies.”

 

Key Projects

  • Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) - co-ordinated thematic gender analysis focusing on changing household dynamics and supported the larger CARIAA gender and equity programme.
  • Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) – responsible for mainstreaming a gender perspective in research linking agriculture and nutrition, with climate change a key factor.
  • Tigr2ess – transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable Food Supplies. A collaboration between UK and Indian scientists, Tigr2ess addresses food security in India, taking account of the realities of urbanisation and technological change, amongst others, to support smallholder farmers, particularly women, to both sustain crop yields, and improve health and nutrition outcomes.
  • Meeting the SDGs – responsible for the ‘Sustainable food systems’ component of this Global Research Translation Award led by UEA.

 

Thinking Without Borders

“Climate research involves gaining a better understanding of the interconnections between physical, material and social change. So, its very nature is interdisciplinary.

As a social scientist with a deep interest in gender and wider social inequalities, I believe it’s very important to work together with climate scientists and the predictions of change they model to reconcile people’s perceptions and knowledge. Bringing different perspectives into conversations with each other is central to moving towards effective and sustainable adaptation.”

 

Discover More

UEA Profile

Key publications

Nature Climate Change: A qualitative comparative analysis of women’s agency and adaptive capacity in climate change hotspots in Asia and Africa

Nature Food: The achievement of food and nutrition security in South Asia is deeply gendered

The Conversation: Climate crisis could reverse progress in achieving gender equality

Time: How climate change exacerbates gender inequality across the globe

Wired Online: Climate change is brutal for everyone, but worse for women

ABC Australia: Women in climate change hotspots face greater burdens when under environmental stress

Science Direct: Assets, agency and legitimacy: Towards a relational understanding of gender equality policy and practice

Thinking Without Borders: Gender equality