Climate change is a planetary phenomenon that will impact all people in all countries with heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme storms. 

But the effects of this climate crisis will be felt the most by women. 

That’s because women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less access to basic human rights like the ability to freely move and acquire land, and face systematic violence that escalates during periods of instability.

But these are the same women whose voices are muffled by the widespread inaction on the climate crisis by wealthier nations (who, by and large, have contributed far more to global warming than others).

We met with Salma Zulfiqar, the director who is trying to change that. Her short animated film The Migration Blanket was created to show the true impact of global warming on marginalized women around the world.

Hey Salma, who are you?

I am the Founder/Director of ARTconnects, an artist and activist passionate about giving the voiceless a voice and educating young people on climate change and gender equality through my creative work.

What is ARTconnects?

It’s a workshop-based project that empowers refugee and migrant girls and women across the globe through art.

Why did you get into the business of telling women’s climate stories?

Climate change is one of the biggest killers on our planet today in terms of health and natural disasters. Many women I work with and many forgotten underprivileged communities don't know what climate change is and how it will impact them in the future.

Many women said they thought the changes in weather patterns were "an act of God". Through the creative learning in ARTconnects, I am opening their minds to the climate crisis and encouraging them to take action to help save lives and save our planet.

What’s the title of the film ‘The Migration Blanket - Climate Solidarity’ all about?

Many people have been uprooted due to climate change. In fact, weather-related incidents left almost 25 million people homeless in 140 countries in 2019, according to UNHCR. I've personally witnessed many people from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East displaced by climate change. For many of those people who are displaced and homeless, I've seen how the blanket is a source of comfort. Hence, The Migration Blanket.

I am a participatory artist, which means I work with marginalized, refugee, and migrant women and LGBTQ+ people, many of whom are isolated and vulnerable, and teach them about global issues. Climate solidarity refers to these women and myself showing our solidarity with climate activism in order to better protect women who are on the front line of the climate crisis.

How did it start?

The Migration Blanket is my main ongoing artwork, which I started as a canvas artwork in 2017 and turned it into a digital art film during the lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic through ARTconnects workshops. 

The film is animated with around 400 pieces of artwork. Why art?

I am a multi-disciplinary artist. I paint, draw, and make films and chose to combine the two, as art is a powerful medium together with film. We had young women from four continents participating in The Migration Blanket film project. Art crosses cultures and boundaries and doesn't need translating. It's up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions from their powerful authentic drawings. Watch the trailer below. 

Climate change means more young girls are marrying before they’re ready. What’s the connection?

There are many reasons why girls get married off early. I know from my South Asian heritage that girls get married off early due to poverty. Girls are seen as a burden as they are not breadwinners. Parents can't afford the upkeep of girls and marry them off in exchange for a "dowry" which involves a financial payoff, which has been a terrible cultural practice for generations.

But climate change is increasing the number of child marriages in other parts of the world too. I read recently that in Malawi up to 40% of child marriages are due to flooding and droughts caused by climate change, and many of the women who joined the online ARTconnects workshops spoke about how girls were getting married off in villages in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, and Tanzania, among other places, as weather patterns have a devastating impact on their land and lives.

What’s one thing you wish people knew about climate change and women?

That climate change is hampering women's rights right now and this should not be ignored. Women and children are always more vulnerable and they are bearing the brunt of climate change.

One word answer only. What’s the number one thing that gives you hope right now?


About Salma Zulfiqar 
Salma Zulfiqar is an international artist and activist working on migration. Her current creative projects, such as ARTconnects and The Migration Blanket, focus on empowering refugee and migrant women by promoting integration, and working towards educating and raising awareness about climate change with the main objective of how climate change is affecting women. You can watch her film at our event this Wednesday by booking here

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