A just transition seeks to ensure that the costs and benefits of a green economic transition are shared equally in society. This means support for those segments of the society who stand to lose both economically as well as those who are disproportionately impacted by climate change. This includes women, particularly from marginalised circumstances, workers and communities that are already the most vulnerable and exploited in the current economic model.
Research shows that rapid increase in the speed and scale of actions required to reduce the risks of climate change will create new economic opportunities. Yet the ground realities point to the fact that without social transformation a huge section of our society will neither benefit from the transformation nor are they able to engage in the rapidly evolving pace of technological and structural changes currently affecting labour markets.
In the present context of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, it is extremely crucial to explore and implement a roadmap for a green economy transition.
The existing economy is largely sustained by under paid or unpaid work taken up by women. After agriculture, handloom and handicrafts sector is the largest employer and a mainstay of the economy of India’s semi urban and rural areas. Yet this sector is not included in any properly evaluable map or framework of the existing policy structure which leads to its neglect. The resulting continuance of informality ensures that there is no proper grounding or systemic structurisation, each of which might have ensured not just sustainability for the stakeholders, but also a formal, regularised revenue stream for the national economy.
A key narrative revolves around the need to leverage new opportunities, innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital economy.
In the Indian context, policy leaders are excited about the significance and projected ability of India to address existing development challenges using the Industry 4.0. Their optimism is also based on the possibility of increased involvement of the younger generation in STEM fields to advance India’s prospects of harnessing the technological revolution of the present times.
However, the discourse around women and their engagement with the tech advancements is split between the hope that the emerging technology will push the impetus towards equalising opportunities and the threat that it might just exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and inequities. Surely, platform economy creates more options for women to access the market directly. However, it is also reproducing the gendered division of labour and tends towards creating a double burden for women unless existing socio- cultural challenges are addressed first. Considering that there is already a significant gender gap in labour force participation, women could be particularly vulnerable in the Future of Work scenario.
The economic and socio-cultural barriers that ensures lower levels of education and skilling, puts women in a disadvantaged position in terms of both access and capability of using the perceived advantages of the new digital economy.
A vital tool - the storycrafting approach has proved to be useful in creating narratives for just transition favouring women ecopreneurs. The participatory and narrative storycrafting method has its origins as a Finnish social innovation, which has been used and been in development for more than 30 years. It promotes equal possibilities for the participants in a dialog (Riihelä 1991). The storycrafting method can instil an outcome focussed innovative culture aimed towards visioning the growth of the green business that women ecopreneurs are engaged in.
The stories thus crafted also facilitate dialogue building with their extant ecology whether that ecology perceives their activities as positive or negative, in a non-threatening way. The women themselves, albeit their stages of socio-ecological maturity can express their challenges and thoughts as well as connect with their audiences better. The utilisation of shared resources which is followed by women’s cooperatives drive lot of trust and support network building which has proved very effective in tackling the challenge. The storycrafting methodology builds stronger networks and resilience to drive the needed change because more than figures it talks the language of empathy and multiple perspectives to build broad alliances.
SDRC has taken up a research study in this context, titled “Post COVID Roadmap for Women Focussed Green Livelihoods”.SDRC and FES India will be organising webinars on “storycrafting for just transition” in the month of October and November 2021. Further details will be provided on our Facebook page.
Reference: Monika Riihelä, Doctoral dissertation in the University of Helsinki, Department of Social Psychology. Printed in National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES), Finland, 1996, ISBN 951-33-1068-X.
Sanjukta Mukherjee is a gender and sustainability evangelist and social entrepreneur. She is the founder trustee of a think and do tank, the Sustainable Design Research Consortium (SDRC). SDRC works towards alliance building and transformational change focussing on sustainability, climate change, gender and just transitions.