Gender and Climate Change: gender relations and adaptation policies in urban areas
Gender and Climate Change: gender relations and adaptation policies in urban areas
This article was written by Semhar HAILE
This paper aims to conduct a brief analysis on how gender relations in cities and urban areas shape women’s and men’s vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities to climate disasters. It will highlight the gendered experiences of urban areas and climate vulnerabilities through the lenses of: gender division of labour, social norms around gender, access to resources and labour market for urban men and women. It is argued that climate disasters are not inherently discriminatory; however underlying unbalanced gender relations and power imbalances function as underlying structures for the gendered vulnerabilities. Thus gender sensitive climate policies ought to target gender relations for a long term transformative outcome. Cities are impacted by climate change in variety of ways. They are prone to natural disasters such as floods, draughts, heat waves, landslides and sea level rise (particularly for coastal cities). In addition, the particular socio-cultural, physical, economic and political features of cities as well as urbanisation process overall means that the cities and climate change nexus significantly differs from other areas. Cities characteristics of high population density, high built up surface, high dependency on infrastructure, and high congestion and pollution renders urban dwellers particularly vulnerable to climate related disasters (Wamsler et al 2013;8). As it will be highlighted in the next sections, the vulnerabilities of urban residents to climate hazards are shaped by their socio economic conditions, such as income, gender, age, ethnicity and class. And adaptive capacities are dependent on the level of exposure to climate hazards, and the level of income, capital or assets, social networks, education and norms around gender and other identities (Aber 2011;7). Despite the wide opportunities, urban women are still disproportionally vulnerable to climate hazards, and generally tend to be over represented among the most marginalised urban dwellers due to gender related inequalities and norms (Satterwaite et al 2007;45).
The different vulnerabilities among urban men and women is related to gender division of labour, accessibility to resources and social norms around gender and other intersecting identities such as age, class, ethnicity etc. In most societies, women tend to conduct triple roles both within households and communities. The roles include: reproductive, productive and community management and politics roles (Moser 1993). Reproductive roles entail tasks such as care taking of children and elderlies and domestic tasks for the maintainance of the household. Reproductive roles are undertaken by women and are often unpaid as they are assumed to be natural roles for women and considered to be an extension of their child bearing roles (Moser 1993). Women’s reproductive responsibilities expose them to disproportionate vulnerability to climate disasters that may destroy or damage their home. Further, their care taking role limits their access to early warning information and their mobility as they are unable to move fast in cases of flooding (Satterwaite 2007). Additionally, women are more dependent on water and sanitation services, in order to fulfil household tasks. Therefore, lack of access to appropriate water and sanitation infrastructure, or disruptions to sanitation services due to disasters, not only adds to women’s reproductive work burden, they also become susceptible to violence, as they spend more time have to travel further to search for water and sanitation facilities (Alber 2011). In addition, urban women face the multiple dimensions of poverty: both income and non-income elements. In addition to their reptoductive roles, urban women tend to also face additional burden to their productive role in the economy (Tacoli 2012). Productive roles entail tasks performed in exchange for cash or kind. They are part of market production and can be conducted both in the market or household in exchange for value. Productive roles are performed by both men and women, however women are often in productive roles at subordinate position to men. They are also often over represented in informal markets, low skilled jobs, with lower pay than their male counterpart and in sectors with high vulnerability to economic downturns or crisis (Moser 1993). As urban living requires high dependency on cash income due to higher living costs, women’s subordinate and lower paid positions in labour market and their over representation in the informal labour market leaves them with lower adaptive capacity. Furthermore, often women utilise their homes as their place of work for productive work, income generating livelihoods. Therefore they are particularly vulnerable to climate hazards as both their productive and reproductive roles are susceptible to flooding or other disasters. The over representation of women in low paid labour, impact their abilities to build appropriate adaptive capacities. It also negatively impacts their ability to recover from disasters, as they have less assets to depend on.
An additional element of gendered urban living experiences is the social norms around gender and power relations. Social norms around men and women’s mobility, access to resources such as land rights, or decision making process highly impacts women and men’s ability to build effective adaptive capacities. Established norms around power relations are important in establishing decision making power for men and women, and their ability to make personal choices (Jabeen 2014). The OECD’s Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), conducts a cross country measurement of discrimination against women, by formal laws and informal practices and institutions. SIGI demonstrates the detrimental impacts of discrimination against women, which impacts their socioeconomic conditions as well as their climate adaptive capacities. In many cases, gender norms heighten women’s vulnerabilities to climate hazards and their ability to respond. For example, in Bangladesh, norms around women’s mobility impact their ability to escape disasters. Girls are less likely to learn to swim, climb and women are less likely to leave their homes during disasters (Cannon 2009). During the Asian tsunami in 2004, women and children were the highest casualties of the disaster, as many women didn’t leave their homes during the floods or could not swim to their safety. Furthermore, stigma around women’s presence in public spaces and male and female interactions means that after disasters women tend to seek refuge later (Cannon 2009). Social norms around gender can also have unfavourable impact on men. Expectations and norms around masculinities can harm men during disasters and impact their capacity to respond climate disasters. For example expectations of heroism for men in Latin America, can lead men to engage in high risk behaviour. Further, men can be left feeling powerless due to social and economic subordination. Therefore social implication of climate change should not be solemnly focused on women in isolation, but also understand how power dynamics shape men and women’s vulnerabilities (Demetriades et al 2008).
As highlighted above, long established social and gender relations have a large implication on adaptive capacities of urban reidents. Therefore, policies that aim to lead for a long term solution and building of adaptive capacities ought to tackle the structural relations and unbalanced power dynamics for a long term transformative outcome. Vulnerability to climate change are outcomes of long standing unbalanced social and gender relations which can impact men and women based on their gender but also other identities such as class, ethnicity or sexuality (Demetriades et al 2008). Generally, gender sensitive policies that aim to reduce women’s and men’s climate vulnerabilities have focused on providing Practical Gender Needs (PGN). Policies that adhere to PGN often address women’s and men’s needs that stem from their social position. Thus for women, it means meeting their needs in their subordinate or ‘engendered position’ of their household division of labour. PGN facilitate their traditional roles or aim to respond to immediate needs (Moser 1989). On the other hand, policies that take Strategic Gender Needs (SGN) approach aim to address roots causes of unbalanced power relations for a long term transformative outcome in gender relations. For example policies with SGN approach may lead to better access to resources, land ownership, change institutional discrimination and putting women in position of decision making across all sectors (Moser 1993). The table below demonstrates aspects of interventions and policies that are practical needs and key elements for a long term transformative outcome.
|Practical Needs Approach||Strategic Needs/ Tranformative Approach|
|Framing of Gender and Climate Change links||· The link between gender and climate change is framed in their dichotomies of women as vulnerable or virtuous. · The analysis assesses women exclusively and does not consider the relational aspect of their vulnerabilities. Established gender and power relations are not assessed in line with access to resources and vulnerabilities to climate change. · The intervention or policy, conducts a gender analysis through a binary approach of women and men. Other intersecting identities and their implication for climate vulnerabilities are not taken into consideration.||· The intervention gives a contextual analysis of gender relations, gender division of labour and its implications for women’s and men’s vulnerabilities to climate change hazards. · The intervention conduct an analysis of established gender and power relations, and their implications for women’s and men’s vulnerabilities. Power dynamics and social norms are analysed in line with men and women’s access to resources and their adaptive capacities. · The intervention conducts a comprehensive gender analysis, through a nuanced approach, and considers gender along a continuum set of identities of men and women. Thus other intersecting identities such as age, class, ethnicity and race are taken into consideration.|
|Proposed Intervention Solutions||· The analysis for intervention provides disaggregated data · The solutions proposed are targeted uniquely to women; men are excluded from the possible contribution to solutions proposed. · The solutions complement or facilitates women’s prexisting role in their subordinate position of gender division of labour. For example the intervention may provide cooking stoves, given most women take the responsibility to cook for the household. · Gender roles are instrumentalised for greater ‘efficient’ outcome. For example women are encouraged to engage in environmental management because they are assumed to be more efficient due to their reproductive roles.||· The analysis for intervention provides disaggregated data · The solutions proposed engage both men and women. · The solutions challenge existing unbalanced power relations. They challenge social norms around gender, or other marginalised people. · They facilitate access to resources for the most marginalised women and men. · The solutions take a holistic approach: analysis of multiple sectors, and the prevailing gender norms. Such as women’s access to formal and informal labour, gender wage gap, and women’s right to access and control over land.|
|Intervention Implementation Processes||· Focus group discussions are held without considering women’s workload, and inconvenient hours. · Presence of women in project committee but at lower or subordinate position to men, or conducting traditionally female roles. · Women are not represented in key decision making positions||· Focus groups facilitate a mix of men and women groups, as well as separate focus groups for men and women only · Focus groups are held at convenient time for women, and participants are compensated for their contribution. · Project implementation committee has a balanced representation of men and women · Women are encouraged to fill positions that are traditionally reserved for men · Women are represented in key decision making positions|
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