We are an all-female and interdisciplinary team looking for help funding our documentary and research project on women’s experiences of climate change in Cuba.
Supported by the Royal Geographical Society, our research project seeks to share the unheard stories of Cuban women who face sea-level rise, coastal erosion and extreme weather events, while also highlighting the contributions they make to the "Life Task" of climate change faced by the global community at large. We seek to challenge conventional understandings of climate change governance and provide insights into the gendered experiences of climate change in the under-researched context of Cuba, a socialist small island developing nation (SIDN).
As much as climate change is accelerated by human behaviours, the impact of weather and climate events is influenced by societal structures. Disasters do not affect all people equally and research shows that women are amongst the most vulnerable groups to climate change. Additionally, whilst climate change is undeniably a pressing event for all of us, not every country is affected in the same way. As a small island developing nation (SIDN), Cuba is at the forefront of climate change, experiencing increasing frequencies of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and a high vulnerability to natural disasters because of its weak infrastructure. At the same time, it is an island nation with a remarkable history on gender equality and the only country in the world whose national climate governance plan carries the name “Tarea Vida” (Spanish: “Life Task”).
Cuba provides a unique socio-political research context that sets it apart from any other island nation in the Caribbean.
The country is constitutionally defined as a socialist state guided by the political ideas of Marx, setting itself apart from the political frameworks most climate change research is based on. According to the United Nations’ 2016 Human Development Report, Cuba is also one of just a handful of countries that have managed to improve the health and wellbeing of its citizens whilst developing sustainably. In the Environmental Performance Index compiled by Yale and Harvard Universities, Cuba ranked 45 out of 180 countries – the highest ranking for a non-OECD, non-European state.
Historical and political factors have endowed Cuba with a unique approach to climate change policy, natural hazards and disaster risk reduction (DRR) which are immersed in its Tarea Vida (“Life Task”) plan. Tarea Vida is Cuba’s ambitious plan to address climate change that includes five strategic actions and 11 tasks to reduce the island nation’s vulnerability to climate change. On several occasions, the United Nations have pointed to Cuba as a model for developing countries preparing for hurricanes and other natural disasters. Fewer lives are lost in Cuba following extreme weather events than in any other Caribbean SIDN, indicating that successful approaches to natural hazards might not necessarily be based on the income level of countries, nor on the degree of investment in disaster risk management.
As such, Cuba presents a unique case and complex mixture of different, often contradicting factors and influences – geographically, politically and socially. It is a very important site for research, particularly now that the Castro era has come to an end and has the potential to change rapidly. Yet due to logistical, political and economic restrictions, Cuba remains an under-researched country.
In most Small Island Developing Nations women are disproportionately affected by climate change due to social, economic and political barriers that limit their coping capacity, access to resources and mobility. At the same time, women are often also the first ones to take the lead and respond to climate disasters, mobilizing their families and their towns to lead rebuilding efforts and engage in new economic activity. In many small island developing nations (SIDNs) the factors rendering women vulnerable to climate events also prevent them from having access to political decision-making spheres vital for effective climate governance. Cuban women, however, represent a very particular case as they have played an integral role in the formation of government in the state-building years following the Revolution and are still at the forefront of environmental governance in Cuba today. The advancement toward women's equality in Cuba has been referred to as the "revolution within a revolution” (Fidel Castro). Cuba presents a social-political framework that empowers Cuban women to contribute to climate resilience in their communities. However, there is a major gap exploring this approach to climate change and to date no research has examined how these women help Cuba achieve its “Life Task” of adapting to and mitigating climate change.
Mujeres Tarea Vida (“Women of the Life Task”) is a research project specifically designed to research the complex socio-political factors that determine Cuban women’s resilience to natural disasters and their involvement in climate action.
Our research aims are:
1. Examine the impact of climate change on Cuban women;
2. Analyse how and why Cuban women are contributing to the “Tarea Vida" plan;
3. Determine how their involvement is linked to and rooted in Cuban history and politics.
We will generate the answers to these previously under-explored questions by engaging directly with Cuban women who have experienced and worked to mitigate the impacts of climate change. This includes women who have been involved in climate-change environmental projects, civil society organisations and women living in coastal communities at the forefront of severe climate change impacts. Only by truly immersing in the communities in both Havana and Santiago de Cuba can we fully seek to understand the vital contributions these women make to achieving "Tarea Vida".
Our expedition is supported by the Royal Geographical Society. As three London-based students facing the difficulties and particulars of attempting to carry out research in a country facing severe economic sanctions from the United States and rationing of food due to the crisis in Venezuela, we find ourselves in a position of needing to ask for help. That’s where we would like you to come in.
To make the most effective research, we are planning on staying in Cuba for 33 days, divided between the cities of Havana in the North and Santiago de Cuba in the South. We will be leaving London on August 7th and returning on September 9th. Our crowdfunding budget of £4000 will allow us to pay the remaining costs for:
- In country-travel to our research sites
- An in-country fixer to help us reach as many women as possible
- Field equipment
- Film gear
- Accommodation and food
We will be documenting our expedition, keeping a blog up to date, taking photos and filming where possible. Our research will result in an academic report, a paper and a short documentary as well as a photo exhibition. We will also be publishing our results in multimedia outlets both in Spanish and English.
Every pound will make a tremendous difference to us, allowing us to fill an important gap in research intersecting the topical fields of international relations, climate change policy and gender equality.
MEET THE TEAM
Arzucan Askin is a BA Geography graduate and ambassador of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG). Her work as a political ecologist focuses on environmental justice issues, disaster risk and resilience. As an undergraduate research fellow in the LSE Department of Geography and Environment, she has been investigating new approaches to gender issues in development policy with a focus on climate change and long-term participatory feminist disaster management strategies. She currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of the jfa human rights journal and writes on climate change refugees and human rights issues embedded in the securitisation of the environment. Having led many research projects around the globe, she is our project leader and the force behind this expedition.
Caitlan Read is a BSc International Relations graduate. Much of her research has been focussed on Cuba's relations with the international system, culminating in her dissertation on the role of Cuban lobby groups in US policy-making. She investigates the nuances in US-Cuban relations that often go unseen. With this project, she seeks to reveal what the international system can learn from cooperation with Cuba, especially in the field of climate policy and disaster risk reduction. Cait is our Cuban policy expert and provides extremely needed expertise in the country’s political history.
Marta Santiváñez is a journalist currently pursuing an MSc in International Social and Public Policy with a concentration on migration. She is passionate about why people move, and what pushes restrictions upon this movement, and is convinced that we need to look at climate change in order to understand the migrations that we will be experiencing in the next decades. Her work breaking news for Agencia EFE, the world’s largest multimedia news agency in Spanish, has been published in multiple international outlets. She is also a native Spanish speaker, which comes in handy whilst on the island.
If you want to learn more about our project, please visit our website (www.mujeres-tarea-vida.com) or contact us directly. We will update you on our blog about news, our next steps and our experiences in the field whenever we have internet - do follow!
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit our fundraising page.Climate change adaptation and mitigation is a life task we all face. Even if you cannot afford to support us financially, spreading the word or any form of encouragement means the world to us and motivates us to keep going with this important project.