This blog was originally published on June 15th, 2018 on Climatelinks.
Work is underway to identify areas where climate vulnerability, fragility and gender inequality overlap. Using desk research and technical mapping of these points of overlap around the world, the USAID-funded program Advancing Gender in the Environment (AGENT), is identifying countries most affected by this triple nexus.
At the May Adaptation Community Meeting, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Global Senior Gender Advisor, Lorena Aguilar, shared her team’s work to increase understanding of gender issues in climate adaptation strategies through its research under AGENT. She also shared its approach to integrating gender throughout environmental sectors in the national Climate Change Gender Action Plans (ccGAPs) that IUCN develops with governments around the world.
Implemented by IUCN and led by Aguilar, who also serves as IUCN’s Director of the Governance and Rights Programmer, the project is developing recommendations for USAID missions and other key partners on how to integrate gender into adaptation and reduce associated negative impacts.
The project is also seeking to integrate gender into environmental initiatives—including programs that directly address climate related risks—by AGENT generates knowledge, provides technical support, builds evidence, fills critical information gaps and develops targeted resources and tools for Agency programs, training and communications.
Climate adaptation or resilience mean different things to different people. To increase effectiveness and avoid unintended negative impacts, development programming should include an understanding of women’s and men’s diverse roles, responsibilities and knowledge—as well as the different ways in which they might be affected by climate variability and extreme weather events. Such insight enables stakeholders to develop gender-responsive adaptation strategies that promote gender equality and build a country’s overall resilience.
According to Aguilar, better understanding these linkages can assist integration of critical gender and climate considerations into project design, while also increasing learning on these themes among decision and policymakers, program staff and practitioners—as well as funders—working in different sectors.
The development of a ccGAP involves a cross-sectoral process facilitated by IUCN and hosted by a country’s government ministry(s), through which a wide range of stakeholders, including women’s organizations, governments, civil society and researchers, come together to identify where and how gender and climate change issues can jointly be addressed.
First, IUCN reviews available data on local gender issues, climate risks and relevant sector specific information, for example on key sectors such as water, forests, health and transport. Next, it builds the capacity of national and subnational women’s organizations by increasing their technical knowledge on climate change so they can meaningfully participate in the ccGAP workshop.
The multi-stakeholder national ccGAP workshop brings together climate decision-makers with women and gender experts to determine gender gaps that undermine climate resilience. Gender-responsive actions to fill these gaps are identified and prioritized, and action plans per sector are created to complement a country’s existing national climate policy or plan. To date, the IUCN Global Gender Office has applied this methodology 23 times; three have been supported by USAID in Zambia, Peru and the Dominican Republic (forthcoming).
In Peru, for example, the development of a national ccGAP brought together more than 20 women’s organizations and 100 stakeholders working on climate change-related issues and programs from multiple ministries, agencies and networks. Together, they identified eight priority sectors as having the most potential for impact. Eighteen gender-related activities across four sectors are currently being implemented, and USAID/Peru has already used the ccGAP to frame gender equality mandates in the USAID-funded Green Infrastructure for Water Security program.
All activities within ccGAPs are designed to be inclusive, improve quality of life, increase sustainability and propel transformative change. ccGAP activities often take a fresh approach—moving away, for example, from only involving women at the household level and viewing women as victims of climate-related impacts and instead moving toward recognizing women as powerful agents of change who can influence climate activities at all levels, across sectors.
Examples of innovative programs developed under ccGAPs include:
- Female-run early warning systems in Liberia: To help rebuild the country’s meteorological system after several years of civil war, groups of women were trained and given cellphones to share local weather conditions and receive alerts in advance of storms and other extreme weather events. This program has been a win-win activity for both the government and the women involved by combining capacity building, data collection and an early warning system.
- Water taxi network in Egypt: Women in Egypt are exposed to high levels of pollution as they move around the city for their daily errands. To reduce exposure and overall emissions, the Ministry of Transport introduced a water taxi system on the Nile with stops at the locations most visited by women (markets, school, mosques etc.).
- Backpacks for life in Dominican Republic: When researchers analyzed why more women were dying in severe weather events than men, they discovered that women took longer to decide what essentials to pack before leaving the house. To remedy this, an initiative to have a backpack packed and ready to go in the event of an emergency was introduced.
According to Aguilar, being gender-responsive is more than just ensuring women’s participation; it involves identifying, reflecting and implementing interventions to address gender gaps and overcome gender biases in policies and interventions, and contributes to the advancement of gender equality. In turn, this is a fundamental part of equitably and effectively adapting to climate-related risks.