An inside view: A Climate Change Gender Action Plan for a Caribbean Island

An inside view: A Climate Change Gender Action Plan for a Caribbean Island

By Christine Lacayo

December 19, 2016

For the past few months, I’ve been working remotely with the DC-based International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Global Gender Office (GGO), supporting several different projects related to climate change and gender issues.

Christine

Christine Lacayo, IUCN GGO intern

One of the main projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on has been the background research and analysis for development of a national Climate Change Gender Action Plan (ccGAP) for the Dominican Republic. This project, led by Lorena Aguilar, Global Senior Gender Adviser and head of the IUCN GGO, has given me the amazing chance to learn how to help prepare such a cross-sectoral national-level policy and planning document alongside our local contact, Graciela Morales, gender expert and local lead on the project. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the auspices of the GECCO initiative, is the supporting partner on this effort.

A ccGAP helps developing countries identify cross-cutting and priority gender considerations across adaptation and mitigation sectors, as well as position women and women’s organizations as agents of change and vital partners toward sustainability and resilience at all levels. The development of a national climate change policy responsive to gender issues represents the growing global recognition for a gender dimension in climate change decision-making. Other countries that have done a ccGAP with IUCN include, for example, Peru, Tanzania, Mozambique, Bangladesh, Nepal, Liberia, Jordan, Haiti, Egypt, Cuba and Panama.

A ccGAP process commences at the specific invitation of a host country government, in close consultation with the supporting and technical partners—in this case IUCN and USAID. IUCN GGO and local counterparts prepare the research, legal framework analysis and sector-specific context sections to lead up to the action plan, focusing on those sectors the country decides are its priorities. For the Dominican Republic, these priority sectors are: Energy, Transportation and Infrastructure, Agriculture and Food Security, Waste, Forestry, Water, Health, Coastal Areas, Tourism and Risk Management.

After going through the preparatory process of the context and analytical section, the next step is to hold workshops with the women active in each sector to empower them to engage in climate change planning at all levels, including by ensuring their own innovative activities are included in national frameworks for action. A second-step workshop then brings together the women’s representatives with stakeholders from across sectoral ministries, agencies and NGOs—building a shared understanding of gender-climate links and then forging an innovative, multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral action plan. These ccGAPs will then become national planning documents to complement climate policy after many meetings, drafts and conversations. To learn more about the process check out the USAID and IUCN Gender Equality for Climate Change Opportunities publication.

With our global environment changing drastically from year to year due to climate change, putting together ccGAPs with developing nations is very important for the future of our environment. Action plans, such as ccGAPs, give developing countries the chance to advance in an equitable and environmentally friendly direction. For many countries, this is the first time in history that heads of ministries have come together to discuss gender roles related to climate change.

Climate change poses a serious stress on the poverty conditions and gender inequalities in a country. Although both men and women may be involved in productive roles, the responsibilities they carry out are often distinct and marked by social and cultural roles. During my research, one of the things that I found interesting was the information gaps. Not all resources have both climate change and gender information in the same context. I looked at various resources that provided a wealth of information from different organizations such United States Agency for International Development-Dominican Republic (USAID-DR), Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (OXFAM), UN resources such as United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Women (UNWOMEN), Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO) and other IUCN materials. Sometimes there was still information missing, so picking up patterns and important points while doing your research helps in connecting the dots while writing out the ccGAP.

I started my research process by looking for general information on the Dominican Republic. According to the German Watch Global Climate Risk Index, from 1994-2013 the Dominican Republic was ranked as the eighth most vulnerable country in the world to climate change.[1] Haiti, which shares the island with the DR, is one of the three countries most affected by climate change in the world. Small island nations, such as Hispaniola, are common victims of natural disasters such as hurricanes, tropical storms, drought, and sea level rise, which have been augmented recently due to changing weather patterns, frequently occur there.[2]

Data reveals that Dominican women, especially in rural areas, mainly occupy themselves with housework and make a salary considerably less than men.[3] These women also have restricted access to resources, such as land rights, information, participation in areas of decisions and technology, etc., all of which limit their capabilities of confronting climate change disaster and adaptation. It is essential to bridge this gender gap in order to combat climate change impacts.

I then began looking for any gender-responsive information on each sector, for example the health sector. There was plenty of information about maternal health issues, sexual and reproductive health and rights, diseases like malaria, dengue, etc. It has been confirmed that the increase in diseases such as dengue, zika, chikungunya, etc. transmitted through the mosquito vector aedes aegypti; is directly correlated with the increase in floods, droughts, hurricanes, and tropical storms, among other phenomena such as “El Niño” and “La Niña”.

Many people might ask, “what does this have to do with gender issues?” Women are especially vulnerable to natural disasters, which may affect their access to reproductive health services, leading to an increase in gender-based violence. Emergency preparedness plans, humanitarian response efforts, and measures to adapt to climate change must insure that women have access to sexual and reproductive health services preventing gender-based violence.

During the multi-stakeholder workshops after the writing phase, the representatives from every sector meet to turn these action steps listed into reality. The ccGAP must then be validated with the government and then must be finalized and internalized into to track the course for putting these actions into motion. This research by used by the Global Gender Office to look at similarities and correlations with other small Caribbean islands that may partake in a ccGAP in the future.

There are various other examples and correlations I found linking climate change and gender issues in the Dominican Republic which I didn’t think much into before doing this research. I found it very interesting to read about the problem of tourism and how that correlates to climate change and gender problems in the DR. In the article Tropical Blues: Tourism and Social Exclusion in the Dominican Republic, the author talks about how tourism in the Dominican not only points to ecological deterioration but also social tensions and fiscal problems. Tourism in the Dominican Republic has been linked to the demand for foreign-made goods, trafficking in women and children, prostitution, and the disruption and corruption of traditional values and behaviors. The study indicates that it has deskilled and devalued Dominican workers, marginalizing them from tourist development and leaving them with the only option to sexualize their labor.[4] This issue is very complex and one very important to address when you think about how vulnerable this island is to climate change and on the other hand, how much it relies on tourists for their economy.

Overall I had a great experience learning about these complex issues that have become a severe reality on this beautiful island nation in the face of climate change and gender equality. For more information on Climate Change Gender Action Plans visit the IUCN GGO website.

 

[1] Kreft, S., D. E., L. J., & U. H. (2014). GLOBAL CLIMATE RISK INDEX 2015: Who Suffers Most From Extreme Weather Events? Weather-related Loss Events in 2013 and 1994 to 2013. German Watch. Retrieved from https://germanwatch.org/en/download/10333.pdf.

[2] Ottenwalder, J. (n.d.). Hispaniola: a joint heritage. UNESCO: Environment and development in coastal regions and in small islands. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/csi/pub/papers/papers29.htm

[3] Cabezas, A. (20068). Tropical Blues: Tourism and Social Exclusion in the Dominican Republic. Sage, 21-36. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.stedwards.edu/stable/pdf/27648095.pdf.

[4] Cabezas, A. (20068). Tropical Blues: Tourism and Social Exclusion in the Dominican Republic. Sage, 21-36. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.stedwards.edu/stable/pdf/27648095.pdf.