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Women as researchers as well as the vital subject
Household-level combustion accounts for a significant percentage of air pollution in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. Sociocultural norms that dictate women’s household responsibilities place women at the frontline of smoke exposure, primarily from cooking indoors using solid biomass, thereby exacerbating physical vulnerabilities. Rapid increases in air pollution in the HKH have far-reaching and hazardous consequences on environmental and human health and the livelihoods of the poorest. ICIMOD has responded to this situation by generating highly technical air pollution-related data in a historically data-scare region. ICIMOD’s Atmosphere Initiative prioritizes women’s engagement in this critical process on both sides of the spectrum – as researchers as well as the vital subject – to produce unique knowledge pertinent to air pollution research in general and indoor air pollution and its impacts on women and children in particular. Relevant stakeholders can use this vital knowledge to develop mitigation actions that can impact the health of millions.
Indoor air pollution comes together as outdoor haze in villages, gradually affecting entire regions (Photo: Arnico Panday)
Generating evidence of air pollution’s impacts on health
To ensure the respondents of the indoor air pollution studies were at ease during the very frequent sample collection process and at their homes, the team mobilized nine women medical professionals (four doctors and five community nurses) and six students. This follows ICIMOD’s efforts in promoting women’s engagement in the highly technical air pollution taskforce, including training seven women from government partners in Nepal and Bhutan in instrument calibration, and the maintenance of air pollution observatories. The lead researcher of the study is a woman – a Phd candidate who won the “Best Paper” award at the International Conference on Public Health 2018 where she presented her research output titled “Cardiovascular Health Effects of Biomass Smoke in Rural Villages of Lumbini, Nepal.”
Open agriculture burning is harmful for humans and the ecosystem: focus group discussions with women in the study households (Photo: ICIMOD)Women at the helm of putting air pollution research into use
ICIMOD fosters the generation of young scientists and provides opportunities for women and men to produce highly technical data relevant to decision-making processes in the HKH. Young postgraduate or PhD students in the fields of atmospheric and cryospheric sciences are gradually establishing local expertise and responding to key research questions in broad areas of national and regional development.
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