Gender and climate change
This article is the second in a series of articles related to Wikiprogress.
Both climate change and Gender have been central to debates surrounding sustainable development. Climate change is represented by MDG7 “Ensure environmental sustainability” and gender by MDG3 “Promote gender equality and empower women”. However, none of the Millennium Development Goalss can be looked at separately, rather, a holistic approach is needed, as there are many linkages between the MDGs themselves. Similarly, gender and climate change should be examined together, if progress in this area is to be made. This article argues for the need of a gender perspective when addressing responses to climate change.
Table of Contents
- 1 Overview
- 2 Case-study: KenyaPromoting Gender Equality in Responses to Climate Change: the case of Kenya, by Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, Discussion Paper, May 2011, German Development Institute
- 3 First international francophone workshop on gender and climate change
- 4 References
- 5 See also
- 6 Other progress-related articles
- 7 External links
OverviewMuch has been written on the negative effects of climate change in developing countries: it not only represents a threat to food security and freshwater availability, it can also affect human health. Tackling climate change is therefore key to ensure the progress and well-being of societies.
The effects of climate change from a gender perspective, however, need to be examined further. Climate change impacts differently on men and women, and both men and women can act as active agents of change with different capacities in responding to climate change. In the rural areas of developing countries, it is often women’s role to gather water, provide energy for the household, and perform activities related to subsistence farming. Women are the main producers of food. Consequently, when climate uncertainty hits, women can see their responsibilities increase significantly.
Numerous studies back up the argument that both issues are closely intertwined: “countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change tend to be poorer with a wider gender gap. In contrast, countries that rank high in environmental performance and gender equality are among the richest nations of the world.” Women and climate change: an opportunity to address gender inequality, by Kevin Samy, Yale Yournal of International Affairs, Winter 2011
Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change, and it is essential that both men and women’s capacities are harnessed effectively in order to tackle this problem. The case study below is based on a Discussion Paper by the German Development Institute; it shows how gender equality is promoted in responses to climate variability and climate change in the rural areas of Kenya and identifies options for improving gender equality in climate change-related interventions. The second part of the article outlines the main findings and directions coming out of an international francophone workshop on gender and climate change that was held in January 2011.
Case-study: KenyaPromoting Gender Equality in Responses to Climate Change: the case of Kenya, by Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, Discussion Paper, May 2011, German Development Institute
Like most African countries, Kenya is a country that is exposed to high climate variability, including floods and droughts. Studies have shown that it is primarily the poor who suffer the most from the negative consequences of climate change, and women make up the majority of the poor. This means that where gender inequality exists, climate change is likely to further the inequality gap. Consequently, there needs to be gender sensitive responses to climate change.
This video was posted on YouTube by DFID: ordinary people tell the stories of their lives – and the video looks at how DFID is helping them cope with the changing climate.
Inequalities within societies
It is important to understand the social relations between men and men in order to understand the linkages between gender and climate change. Women and men have different access to resources and capital, and are therefore “armed” differently in order to cope with the effects of climate change. Women, in particular, have limited access to resources such as land and large livestock, and therefore suffer more from those climatic impacts than men. In addition to limited access, women see their workload increase in such times of crisis due to men’s need to migrate to urban areas in search of employment. Women not only have lower legal and social status and fewer ownerhsip rights than men, they also have limited decision-making power and are seldom given the opportunity to exercise their voice, mainly because of established social norms.
Because women and men experience climate change differently and with different resources at their disposal, bringing together these experiences is crucial to find appropriate and adapted solutions. It is therefore important to see society as a whole, with its inherent inequalities, if we are to address the challenge of climate change effectively. Climate change affects society as a whole, not just individuals, and it has repercussions on the level of development of a society (weighed by GDP per capita, but also by achievement of the MDGs, poverty reduction or infant/maternal mortality reduction, etc.).
Some Kenyan statistics
- 2009 census indicates that the Kenyan population is made of 50.3% of men and 49.7% of women
- 80% of Kenya is covered by the Arid and Semi-Arid lands, 20% is humid and sub-humid
- Agriculture represents 24% of the GDP, employs about 18% of total formal employment in the country, and 75% of the national labour force
- Water is scarce in Kenya: renewable fresh water per capita stands at 647 cubic meters, while the UN recommends a minimum of 1000 cubic meter. The water supply, if not in line with population increase, is projected to fall at 235 cubic meters by 2025.
This video was posted on YouTube by Gender CC and explains, through an interview, how Kenyan women perceive and experience climate change.
Gender roles in Kenya
In Kenya men are the heads of households and they have the responsibility for feeding their families. When climate change impacts on the production of crops or livestock loss, they are forced to diversify their sources of income in order to cope with the food shortage. Women also contribute to the duty of feeding their families, but perform a wide array of additional duties such as cooking, fetching water, caring for their children and the elderly. In times of climate variability and change, women and girls’ responsibilities increase: for example, they have to walk longer distances to collect water and firewood, etc. In addition, when men migrate to urban areas to find an alternative source of income in such difficult times, women are basically becoming heads of households. However this is not helpful in a country where women still need their husband’s approval to perform activities such as asset liquidation, accessing credit, choice of crops, etc.
Gendered access to resources
Patriarchy rules in Kenyan societies, which means that men inherit property while women only have their relative’s properties – including farmland. Women’s access to land is therefore defined through men. Traditional laws and social norms are an obstacle to women accessing land, even if there are de jure specifications of equal access. This means that women cannot decide on land management issues or on the crops to plant without their husbands’ approval.
Climate change also requires that women and men have access to new technologies, such as seeds, livestock breeds, equipment, etc. However, women tend to continue using traditional methods of production, and when there are meetings on the subject ofnew technologies, they are often unable to attend due to their competing responsibilities at home. Such lack of access to information perpetuates gender inequality and a accentuates vulnerability to environmental shocks.
Promoting gender equality in climate change-related responses: solutions and ways forward
- Gender equality needs to be fully acknowledged as a policy instrument (still too often seen as “a women affair”)
- Gender and climate change need to be combined in Kenyan policy making: organisations working on climate change issues and organisations working on gender issues need to be brought together, and all ministries need to coordinate their work
- Both policy makers and communities need to be sensitised on gender and climate change; development cooperation could support this process more by helping to sensitise the general public and training gender officers in climate change issues; the Kenyan government could establish climate desk officers in all departments, in the same way it has done with gender officers; mainstreaming climate change could profit from the experience of gender mainstreaming
- A bottom-up approach is needed to take into account both women and men’s experiences and views
- Distributional issues of access and control need to be addressed; adaptation also has a distributive dimension and addresses issues of improving resource use efficiency
- The tension between traditional and modern rules and institutions needs to be addressed. Socio-cultural values and norms are a key challenge: if these norms continue to perpetuate gender inequality, effective responses to climate change will only be achieved half-way
- More studies and data needed on the interplay between gender equality and climate change responses. More specifically, there is no gender differentiated data on the impacts of climate change.
First international francophone workshop on gender and climate changeThe International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) and its subsidiary body on energy and environment, l’Institut pour l’Energie et l’Environnement (IEPF) based in Montreal ( Canada ), organised on 27 and 28 January 2011 the first international francophone workshop on Gender and Climate Change in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MAEE) of France, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) and the International Union for the Conservation of the Nature (IUCN).
The workshop discussed the linkages on gender and climate change and its statutes in the national and multilateral processes. It highlighted the need for more actions to make the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopt a gender plan of action, and also highlighted the need to integrate gender issues into the core topics of the three Rio Conventions: climate change, biodiversity and desertification and land degradation issues. Experiences from the ground were shared from both developed and developing countries: Senegal , Ghana , Canada , Cameroon , Bulgaria Democratic Gender Equality in the Republic of Congo.
One of the sessions focused on Mediaterre, which is a network in French providing comprehensive information on sustainable development issues. The gender portal of Mediaterre is best placed to disseminate information on gender and climate change.
Key recommendations and next steps
The main outcome of the workshop resulted in the creation of a francophone network on gender and climate change, under the administration of the Institut pour l’Energie et l’Environnement de la Francophonie to assist francophone governments in their efforts to integrate gender into policies implemented under the three Rio Conventions: climate change (UNFCCC), biodiversity (UNCBD) and combating desertification (UNCCD).
The network will aim to improve government understanding of linkages between gender and the conventions. Through this network participants will exchange best practices, provide training, help disseminate information, raise awareness, and improve and share knowledge in those areas.
- OIF will further support the convening of national workshops and support initiatives related to gender and climate change (e.g. through the insertion of a module on gender and climate change/gender mainstreaming into courses in their annual summer school)
- OIF will encourage donors to introduce gender criteria into project financing, promote greater sharing of information on gender and climate change between national, regional and international levels, and support the collection and sharing of sex disaggregated data in francophone countries
- A key outcome will be the adoption of a draft action plan that includes all of the elements of the workshop.
- Gender Equality and the Environment
- 2009 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index
- Gender inequality, social institutions and the Millennium Development Goalss
- Rural Women and Development
- Farmers in a changing climate: does gender matter? (FAO publication)
Other progress-related articles
- See [Wikigender_Progress_Series|Wikigender Progress Series]
- Gender and climate change forum: same sky, different impacts by Gender CC
- Promoting Gender Equality in Responses to Climate Change: the case of Kenya, by Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, Discussion Paper, May 2011, German Development Institute
- Gender equality and climate change: why consider gender equality when taking action on climate change? by CIDA
- Women and climate change: an opportunity to address gender inequality, by Kevin Samy, Yale Yournal of International Affairs, Winter 2011, pp. 99-101
- Portal genre de Médiaterre