Meet Farida Razaqi, Climate and Society Class of 2024
Farida Razaqi grew up in Afghanistan and saw how the climate crisis is deeply entangled with gender disparities. This led her to work on exploring the connections between climate change, gender and security.
Razaci has received a full scholarship to join Master’s Program in Climate and Society exist Colombia Climate School this fall. Previously, she studied environmental law at the University at Buffalo. She is also active in climate research and organizing. Her research shows that countries most vulnerable to climate change tend to underestimate or ignore the relationship between climate change and social and political dilemmas in their policy and legislative processes, and therefore fail to take practical action to combat climate change. She also believes climate change has played a crucial role in strengthening the Taliban.
Below, Razak shares some of her experiences growing up in a country most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and how it has shaped the focus of her career.
Congratulations on winning the Climate School scholarship! How did you react when you heard the news? What does this award mean to you?
Receiving the Climate and Society Fellowship is a moment of pure excitement and gratitude. This award means a lot to me, not only does it give me the opportunity to pursue a second master’s degree, but it also marks a key milestone in my academic and professional career. It reaffirmed the value of my work, ignited a deep sense of purpose, and inspired me to make a tangible difference in fighting the climate crisis. With this scholarship, I am empowered to engage in rigorous research, bridge disciplines, and advocate for evidence-based solutions that prioritize sustainability, social equity, and resilience.
Tell us about your background and how you got into climate.
I was born and raised in Afghanistan, one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. My strongest memories from childhood are of conflicts between farmers over irrigation water when water was scarce due to long droughts, or of us walking miles to a water pump and waiting for hours in the hot sun or freezing cold. Growing up, I witnessed how the climate crisis was deeply entangled with issues of gender difference and security, which led me to dedicate my academic journey and career to the climate change, gender, and security nexus.
I pursued my first master’s degree in Environmental and Natural Resources Law at the University at Buffalo School of Law. At Buffalo Law School, in addition to enriching my knowledge by taking advanced environmental law courses, I served as a student attorney in the Environmental Advocacy Clinic, where after graduation I had the opportunity to work with practical Clients engage on cases involving climate justice, environmental resilience and transboundary wetlands. I also served as a researcher at Niagara University, leading a new environmental justice initiative.Last fall, I organized a simulation in which students played the role of diplomats. COP 27. Student representatives participated in discussions on climate change and related issues such as gender differences in climate change, loss and damage, adaptation and the net zero target.
Why did you decide to apply for the Climate and Society Program? What do you hope to gain from this program?
My career goal is to work with the United Nations or other international organizations in areas such as climate change, gender and security. My previous research has focused on the legal and social aspects of the climate crisis, but making a difference in this interdisciplinary area also requires expertise in climate science. The Climate and Society program stands out for its extraordinary breadth and strong multidisciplinary foundation, complementing my current expertise and providing opportunities that are perfectly aligned with my research interests and career ambitions. In addition, the strength and diversity of the Climate and Society program has been enhanced by the addition of students from the social and natural sciences. This dynamic blend of expertise creates a dynamic, collaborative learning environment where individuals contribute their unique perspectives and challenge each other to grow.
Through studying at the Columbia Climate Institute, I hope to expand my regional climate knowledge to gain a global perspective and develop the ability to combine climate science and public policy to develop solutions to regional and global climate problems.
Which courses are you most looking forward to and why?
In 2020, severe flash floods occurred in Parwan Province, Afghanistan. The flood occurred at night when people were asleep. Unfortunately, many people died or went missing. Most victims are women and children who cannot swim and are otherwise vulnerable. It later emerged that the flooding had been predicted hours earlier. However, the government failed to take action to evacuate people or warn them of the impending disaster. Although the houses destroyed in the floods were built on the beach and therefore vulnerable to flooding, the government never informed people of this fact. This incident broke my heart. It also helped me see that people are falling victim to natural disasters every day due to inaccurate climate predictions and failures in assessment, communication and risk management. So one of the core courses I’m most excited to complete is climate change adaptation. This course has been extremely valuable in many ways, including improving my skills in climate risk assessment, risk communication and risk management.
I also aim to improve my ability to handle complex climate data sets and develop quantitative models that include variables that measure the social impacts of climate change. Therefore, another core course that I am eagerly looking forward to enrolling in is Quantitative Methods for Climate Applications.
What role do you think you will play in solving the climate crisis in the future?
From a climate justice perspective and embracing intersectionality, I envision a future where I will address the climate crisis by developing climate policy for developing countries that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. By advocating for inclusive and equitable climate policies, I aim to empower and amplify the voices of marginalized communities, especially women, and promote peace through environmental peacebuilding efforts. As a practical step towards realizing this vision, I plan to work with like-minded advocates and researchers to establish a global research and advocacy network to conduct a comprehensive assessment of women’s global vulnerability to the threats of climate change in the short term. The network will propose and advocate for specific revisions to current international legal/policy frameworks such as the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will add a gender perspective to climate action and require all countries to update accordingly Domestic laws/policies.
What are you doing this summer?
This summer I continue working at the University at Buffalo School of Law and the Vincent Justice Center at Niagara University. In addition, we are working with the Afghan Climate Advocates Group to organize the first local youth conference under the leadership of YOUNGO (the official youth constituency of UNFCCC Afghanistan). Additionally, I launched an initiative to guide Afghan students, especially girls who were unable to receive an education in Afghanistan, in applying to foreign universities.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunities afforded me by the Climate and Society Fellowship. It is a privilege to be part of this project and I am very eager to dive in, learn, collaborate, and make a positive impact in creating a sustainable, resilient future for all.