OPINION: Gender equality’s a ‘must’ for climate compatible development to succeed
Virginie Le Masson of CDKN assesses progress on gender issues at COP20 in Lima and argues that gender equality must be a cornerstone of climate compatible development.
The recent climate negotiations in Lima struggled to make great strides and have left a worrying amount to do in 2015.
However there were some bright spots – one of which was the Lima Work Programme on Gender which aims to promote a greater awareness and consideration of gender issues within climate policy. CDKN see this as yet another indication of the increasing momentum for gender issues to be integrated within action to tackle climate change.
Both before and at the climate negotiations, a number of organisations played a key role in increasing this momentum, including:
- CARE’s new report on the injustice of climate change highlighted that we cannot tackle climate change without tackling the root causes of poverty one of which is gender inequality.
- Members of the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) published numerous articles during the two weeks of COP20, focusing on the inter-linkages between gender and climate change.
- The UNFCCC’s Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) further urged political leaders to foster more democratised actions on climate change with an emphasis on rights and justice.
At CDKN, we think that we are now making progress on acknowledging the gender dimension as an integral part of climate policy at international, national and local levels around the world – however there is still a long way to go to promote gender equality in the climate negotiations.
For example, the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) stresses that the UNFCCC still lacks an overarching mandate on gender. Similarly, the WGC noted that ‘climate talks have again failed to reflect the daily realities of peoples and communities around the world’.
Recognising and exploring the gender dimension of climate change enables responses to be more grounded in these daily realities. Through highlighting societal factors that influence people’s vulnerability to environmental shocks and stresses, a gender perspective helps uncovering for instance, how men are distressed to the point of suicide in India due to agricultural losses leading to an inability to repay loans[i]; and the way in which women are more likely to die from floods because they have not learned to swim[ii] and cannot leave their houses without being accompanied by a male relative[iii].
A gender analysis in climate research allows understanding of socially constructed gender roles, relations and discrimination that shape the way climate change is perceived by men and women, how it will affect them differently and how they might organise different responses to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to longer-term impacts. This recognition has influenced the climate change and development communities to adopt various mainstreaming approaches to integrate gender into projects and programmes.
However, there is only limited evidence on potential gains of a gender-sensitive approach, as well as on challenges to implement it. Non-governmental organisations tend to highlight success stories where interventions targeting women have created new opportunities for people to address the impacts of environmental changes. However, it remains unclear how effective approaches to integrate gender into projects have been in generating equal benefit form women and men and fostering greater gender equality.
Further knowledge gaps persist in how aware climate change mitigation and adaptation are of gender considerations and the potential negative impacts of a gender-blind approach. Finally, there is urgent need to enhance our understanding on the role of gender in areas such as green growth, transport and urban infrastructure.
Recognising these knowledge gaps, CDKN has initiated a collaboration with Practical Action, to undertake a comparative study of gender-sensitive climate-related interventions in urban settings. With the aim to document practices in three cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, respectively, this research project will strengthen the evidence base on the processes and outcomes of mainstreaming gender sensitivity and equality in responses to climate change.
We hope that through this, we can help play our part in ensuring that attention to gender equality make it over the line and into the mainstream climate debate in 2015.
Image: Nepali women, courtesy World Bank image library.
[i] Kennedy, J. King, L. (2014) The political economy of farmers’ suicides in India: indebted cash-crop farmers with marginal landholdings explain state-level variation in suicide rates. Globalisation and Health. 10(16).
[ii] Alam, E. Collins, A. (2010). Cyclone disaster vulnerability and response experiences in coastal Bangladesh. Disasters, 34(4): 931-954.
[iii] Bradshaw, S., & Fordham, M. (2013). Women, Girls, and Disasters: A Review for DFID. London: Department for International Development (DFID).