How to advocate for gender equality in the response to climate change

8 March 2022 – The momentum to address gender inequality in response to climate change is greater than ever as shown in the commitments made at COP26 and in countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). Ninety-four percent of developing countries’ NDCs as of July 2021 recognize gender inequality as a climate-related risk (FAO) and ninety-six percent of NAP documents reference gender issues (UNDP). 

This recognition is critical and as we work towards implementing national adaptation and mitigation goals in agriculture and land use (as well as other areas), we must recognize the important role women play in this sector.  Across low-income countries globally, women make up 48 percent of the agricultural workforce, as farmers and farm workers, horticulturists and market sellers, entrepreneurs and community leaders. However, the gender gap in food and agriculture remains extensive. As producers, rural women face even greater constraints than their male counterparts in accessing essential productive resources and services, technology, market information and financial assets. 

In addition, misconceptions about why and how to address gender issues in national climate policies continue to exist. On International Women’s Day 2022, which is dedicated to recognizing the important contribution of women and girls in adapting to climate change, let’s look at two common challenges we have heard and suggestions for how to overcome them to promote gender equality in national climate responses. 

“We don’t have time or resources to address gender issues.”

Addressing gender and other social equity issues requires specific expertise and dedicated resources. Although perceived as saving resources now, leaving inequality unaddressed will cost more time and resources to rectify in the future. This is because, by overlooking women’s roles and underlying equity issues, we risk designing climate plans and projects that do not match people’s needs and potentially amplify their current vulnerabilities. 

The latest IPCC report provides evidence regarding action now versus later, as well as the risks of maladaptation when gender and social issues are overlooked. Researchers have documented different adaptation interventions that are preferable for promoting gender equality. This includes water harvesting, crop diversification, cash transfer programs, and food subsidies which enhance gender equality because they allow women to obtain economic and health benefits. On the other hand, drip irrigation, the adoption of more labour-intensive crops, and livelihood diversification through male out-migration may further increase women’s labor burden. 

Addressing gender issues can be seen as an approach that improves the process of implementing climate actions, because it helps us have a better understanding of the underlying causes of vulnerability as well as sources of knowledge and skills.

Fortunately, there are many resources available to support us in these efforts to address gender issues through gender analysis, stakeholder mapping, gender-responsive budgeting, and gender-responsive monitoring. These resources range from  gender analyses that document the key gender issues, to case studies and training guidesvideos to toolkits and other supportive materials.

Gender is a sensitive topic, and we cannot push for it to be addressed.”

Gender issues, gender-based discrimination and the public discourse around them may vary from country to country, however, ignoring the gender unequal power dynamics which perpetuate marginalization will only increase women’s climate vulnerability in the long run.  

While addressing gender issues in climate responses may be a newer area in some contexts, addressing gender inequality more broadly at the national level has been in progress for some time. In fact, signatories to the Paris Agreement already acknowledged in 2015 that ‘Parties should respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights... as well as gender equality and empowerment of women when taking action to address climate change.’ Furthermore, most countries have gender equality policies, laws and/or government entities responsible for addressing gender issues in place. 

Many have agreed on actions to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women through conclusions and resolutions at sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Crucially, at the sixty-sixth session of CSW this year, participants will focus on gender equality in the context of climate change, the environment and disaster risk reduction. 

We can learn from the examples of other efforts to identify ways to pursue synergies between gender equality, women’s empowerment, and climate goals. For example, recently at COP26, Bolivia committed to promote the leadership of women and girls, especially indigenous, Afro-Bolivian, community and rural women while Nigeria expanded on its Implementation Strategy for their National Gender and Climate Action Plan. Countries including Germany, Canada, Sweden, the UK, and the USA pledged financial resources and related measures to achieve gender equality outcomes at the COP26. 

Within the donor community, Germany’s International Climate Initiative (IKI) released its gender strategy at COP26, which promotes gender-transformative approaches within international climate and biodiversity co-operation while embedding gender-responsive processes as a minimum standard at project level.

Other initiatives have worked with national gender experts as partners for identifying which gender issues should be addressed in climate responses, as well as advising on how to advocate for them in the national context. Through the NAP-Ag Programme, FAO and UNDP have worked with national gender experts in Uganda, Zambia, Uruguay, and other countries to integrate gender into national adaptation planning in agriculture. The UNFCCC has set up a network of national Gender Focal Points who can be an additional resource.

***

The SCALA programme is supporting the integration of gender into countries’ responses to climate change. Within its broad aim to support transformative climate action in the land use and agriculture sectors in developing countries, it has adopted a strong emphasis on gender.  SCALA countries are translating their NDCs and NAPs priorities for land use and agriculture into actionable, transformative climate solutions by focusing on three areas. First, by working with national stakeholders to use socially inclusive consultative processes and gender-responsive data and information in the appraisal of climate solutions. Second, by identifying needs and priorities of vulnerable/marginalized women and men to inform sectoral planning, budgeting, and monitoring. And lastly, by strengthening public-private partnerships and related financing to improve gender-equitable and socially-inclusive participation and benefits for smallholder farmers. 

Last Updated: 8 Mar 2022