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NEWS: Leading roles for women – Secret to effective climate action after Paris summit

CDKN launched its new report today on the role for gender equality in achieving climate goals – based on original research by Practical Action Consulting, with IDS and ODI, in India, Kenya and Peru. An event was held at the Overseas Development Institute to launch the reports and present the findings, you can watch the recording here.

London, 4 May 2016 – Lip service is often paid to “gender perspectives” when it comes to climate and development issues, as this term has simply become part of the debate. Following the Paris climate agreement, a new report shows how including women’s views and needs in climate change responses and development initiatives is not only more just, but also more likely to get results.

“While climate change and poverty are gradually understood as interdependent, responses often focus only on their scientific and economic dimensions. However, integrating a social dimension, particularly gender equality, can be the key for success” says Dr. Virginie Le Masson, Research Fellow at ODI and Gender Advisor for CDKN.

When it comes to tackling climate change, women are generally perceived as “victims”. The report provides evidence to show, by contrast, the reality that women make vital contributions to mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Comparing three case studies in Gorakhpur (India), Ancash and Cajamarca (Peru), and Kisumu (Kenya), The report 10 things to know: Gender equality and achieving climate goals documents the experiences of men and women living in cities affected by climate change. It is based on 89 individual interviews and 33 focus group discussions to reflect on people’s adaptation strategies and whether gender differences are recognised in climate-related interventions.

The report is produced by CDKN and is based on research (see below) that it commissioned from Practical Action Consulting, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

The potential to combat climate change is lost when women lack a say in climate programmes. Women and men do not have the same priorities. For example, the India report shows that in families where women play a role in deciding what to do with their income, the money is spent on education, health and food. On the other hand, in all focus group discussions, participants agreed that men typically spend money on alcohol and food.

In northern India, women’s role in planning a climate change project in a flood-prone area (rather than simply being service recipients) is credited with achieving greater project sustainability —they improved access to potable water, more efficient public services and the uptake of climate resilient agricultural techniques. Furthermore, women often prioritised low-income, marginalised groups as beneficiaries for project interventions.

The dangers of not integrating approaches early on in planning are explored as well in the report.

“The authors heard, for example, how women of Mahewa, in the Indian Gorakhpur district, fast during the monsoon time, endangering their health, in order to avoid dangerous outings to defecate” says Dr. Le Masson. “Women said they are scared while squatting as big worms stick to their feet”.

Women have to participate in decision-making and planning of community facilities from the beginning so their needs are taken into account.

In fact, women in planning can be crucial. In Peru, for example, women’s participation in decision-making contributed to the sustainability of a climate change adaptation project, including more effective committee functioning, access to potable water and the uptake of community-based adaptation techniques.

The study found a complex reality for women living in cities. For instance, women in Kisumu, Kenya, reported having more community support mechanisms to access income, compared to rural areas. Meanwhile, there were fewer social networks and more class segregation in urban areas than in rural areas, according to Reetu Sogani, author of the Indian study.

“This report challenges CDKN and others working on climate change to consider carefully whether we are simply perpetuating the status quo in gender and other inequalities – says Sam Bickersteth, Chief Executive of CDKN. “Gender sensitive projects, plans and policies are more likely to be transformative and achieve the change we want see in climate action.”

Obstacles for gender integration include a general lack of political will; the fact that the implementation of policy by different branches of the government often is disjointed; and that civil servants display low competency relating to gender and environment issues. There is a general lack of awareness when it comes to the available tools for mainstreaming gender into development in a practical and coherent manner.

With mounting pressure on designing and implementing effective climate action following the signature of the Paris Agreement on April 22nd, the authors call for more involvement by those who are primarily affected by the impacts of climate change. Tackling gender inequalities is crucial to ensuring the relevance and sustainability of climate action.


To interview the author Dr. Virginie Le Masson, please contact Mairi Dupar on  Alternatively: Miren Gutierrez at or Rebecca Clements, at


Read the synthesis report in full:

10 things to know: Gender equality and achieving climate goals

Read the reports on how gender-based approaches enhanced people’s equality and overall results for climate compatible development:

How do gender approaches improve climate compatible development? Lessons from India

How do gender approaches improve climate compatible development? Lessons from Kenya

How do gender approaches improve climate compatible development? Lessons from Peru 

¿De qué manera los enfoques de género fortalecen el desarrollo compatible con el clima? Lecciones desde Perú



Image: Women of Gorakhpur, India, participate in climate-resilient planning; courtesy Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group

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