OPINION: How gender-inclusive approaches can improve the ‘bankability’ of climate projects
In a second blog, Virginie Fayolle and Serena Odianose of Acclimatise and Virginie Le Masson of CDKN interview Sohel Ahmed, Chief Operating Officer at Grameen Bank, Bangladesh, Tesfaye Hailu, Project Manager for CDKN Ethiopia and Alberto Paniagua, Executive Director at Profonanpe, Peru about the benefits of taking gender-inclusive approaches to climate projects. Read Part 1 here.
How can gender mainstreaming strengthen the bankability of climate projects?
A bankable climate project is a project that meets the fund requirements. Many climate funds have recognised the importance of promoting gender equality throughout their requirements in order to ensure that opportunities arising from mitigation and adaptation and that development activities provide equal benefit to different social groups. As such, a proposal that integrates gender considerations is more attractive to a climate fund because the project is more likely to be implemented in an inclusive manner and in turn, deliver transformative change. Additionally, climate funds are looking for innovative projects as “the gender angle brings innovation” – said Tesfaye Hailu, CDKN Ethiopia.
How have you integrated gender into your projects’ design?
Integrating gender into a project’s design requires collecting baseline data, for instance through baseline and pre-feasibility studies and consultations with key stakeholders. Tesfaye Hailu, reporting on a project he developed for the GCF in Ethiopia, said: “For the baseline, consultations involved men and women from targeted communities, separately and then mixed. The baseline studies were designed to understand the ground scenario on targeted beneficiaries vis-à-vis the population with data disaggregated by sex and age, means of income, access to finance, economic status, etc. All data captured are disaggregated by gender. This helps to understand how to pitch your project at the design stage, which pretty much defines the sustainability of the project results.”
What worked well in integrating gender in projects’ design?
The successful integration of gender aspects within project proposals relied on two key factors: (1) consultation with local stakeholders and beneficiaries (including women) and (2) innovation. In most cases, having a gender angle brought different thoughts into the proposal and enabled the team to improve the designed interventions accordingly. Tesfaye Hailu described his experience with developming bikeways in cities aimed at benefitting both men and women. Consultations with the local population showed that women wanted a shorter distance between the different bike stops than men:“Gender considerations in project design brought about the need to consider placing bike parkings at shorter distance intervals, which underlines the practicality of the proposed interventions”.
Innovation is also crucial: gender integration within a project can be facilitated by thinking innovatively about how women can get involved. Such was the case for Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh. Sohel Ahmed described how the organisation developed a project to install 1.8 million solar home systems throughout Bangladesh. They created the Grameen Technology Center (GTC) for repairing an electronic device required for solar home systems. “While women could hardly be involved in the installation of solar home systems, as they would not feel comfortable climbing a roof, working outdoor and in strangers’ houses, they can be actively involved in the repairing works for the solar home systems,” said Sohel. “As such, the Grameen Technology Center is completely managed by women – even the technicians are women. They trained other women in the villages, so that these can go and repair the solar home systems on site. This activity empowered women in the villages by giving them the opportunity to gain new skills and to have a village-based job which well suits their work-family life balance. GTC supported the implementation of these trainings as well as the dissemination of knowledge and practices, to allow women to learn and get involved in the market of the solar home systems.”
What were the main challenges you faced in integrating gender in your project’s design?
All three practitioners mentioned as a main challenge the lack of gender-disaggregated data, which makes it difficult to understand critical differences in the needs of men versus women.
Stakeholder consultations on the ground with men and women is fundamental. Alberto Paniagua said: “When developing proposals for the Adaptation Fund and GCF, we conducted thorough research on the context and the dynamic of gender participation in the local activities or in the activities that are going to be included in the project.”
According to Alberto, often women are not traditionally involved in communities’ decision-making processes and may not voice openly their opinions to outsiders. Using a cultural lens is required, for instance to hear the views and perspectives of women, separate consultations with men and women may be needed. Tesfaye Hailu from CDKN remarked: “The pre-feasibility study focused on the preferred modality of the intervention by the community. Men and women had different preferences on how the project should intervene and transform their lives. The proposal preparation process disaggregated the needs of men and women and integrated these into more transformative interventions.”
How can project developers and country governments overcome these challenges?
“The inclusion of gender at policy level is the key to overcome these challenges. In order to achieve the empowerment of women, gender inclusion should be integrated as a key priority of any policy and should also be key requirement for the development of any project,” said Sohel of Grameen Shakti.
In a nutshell, practitioners highlighted that the lack of gender-disaggregated data for designing climate-related projects can be overcome through consultations with local stakeholders, including women. Effective integration of gender within a climate-related project proposal requires a deep understanding of the cultural context, which should in turn inform the design of the project and its funded activities. In some cases, the inclusion of gender can lead to innovative solutions, hence improving the bankability or attractiveness of the project to potential climate funds. Indeed, gender mainstreaming into climate-related project proposals is critical to maximise the response to climate change and the potential use of climate finance, hence avoiding sub-optimal results.
At the project design, and then monitoring and evaluation stage, there is a need to come up with clear indicators to measure the impacts of projects on gender. Whilst quantitative indicators, e.g. number of women, are a starting point more qualitative indicators have to be explored and tested. These might help probe into changes on power dynamics and unequal decision-making.
Participants commented that a national vision on gender is a key element for developing these qualitative indicators further. Making gender equality an explicit goal at the project level is only one of many actions, some of which may be more systemic, long-term and iterative in nature.
Picture: Andrea Moroni.