Iraqi Marshland Women: The True Guardians of the Marshes

The Marshlands of Southern Iraq, often described as the ‘Garden of Eden,’ are under serious threat from the effects of climate change. This unique ecosystem serves as a crucial source of essential services (e.g., food, clean water, and climate control) for the local community and the broader Iraqi population.

Previously drained at the hands of dictator Saddam Hussein, the Marshes are now jeopardized by severe droughts, increased upstream damming, and increasing water salinity levels. Therefore, the Marshes’ survival severely depends on the execution of well-informed policy decisions and interventions that strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change.

This snapshot argues that Iraqi Marshland women ought to be one of the key stakeholders involved in the decision-making processes that directly affect their livelihoods. These indigenous women possess significant traditional ecological knowledge of the area while also playing an active role as local water managers. This grants them the ability to advise adaptive (water) policies that avoid putting the ecosystem and cultural heritage at further risk.

However, to ensure their meaningful inclusion, inclusive dialogue processes must be formalized to guarantee the preservation and uninterrupted use of traditional knowledge. Moreover, the Iraqi government and international community should focus on improving access to education for women and girls, further ensuring their effective participation in the decision-making processes of the Marshes.

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Kendra Kock and Irina Patrahau

Climate Change, Gender