This paper argues that the economic empowerment of women through climate mitigation and adaptation fosters economic growth and socioeconomic development, reduces poverty, keeps environmental problems in check and increases the potential for adaptation. It requires an integrated approach and institutional and political measures to create the structural conditions necessary for broad-based and sustainable economic empowerment.
The gender dimension in climate change includes women’s greater vulnerability than men to the consequences of climate change; and the different roles of women and men in dealing with climate change. Regarding the latter, women are major actors and agents of change in several areas of mitigation and adaptation. Areas in which women are traditionally engaged and which are closely tied to the availability of natural resources (such as food security, domestic energy and water) will be hit particularly hard by the consequences of climate change and require greater adaptation.
However, discussion of climate change does not pay adequate attention to women, either at the local project level or in international negotiations:
- Women are unable to voice their specific requirements, even though the impact of climate change affects women and men differently.
- In rural areas of the South, women’s access to natural resources, (such as land, wood and water), is limited, although they are responsible for feeding their families and are therefore more dependent on natural resources.
- Women are denied full access to loans, education and information.
- Women’s potential as agents of change for climate mitigation and adaptation remains untapped.
- Their extensive theoretical and practical knowledge of the environment and resource conservation is not given due consideration.
- In terms of economic participation, they are not paid for the environmental services that they already provide, such as reforestation.
- Their potential contribution to climate mitigation by being part of the economic cycle is not sufficiently exploited.
Adaptation measures should enable women to secure or expand their livelihood options. Regarding agricultural production, in which most women work to ensure food security for the family, this involves the use of cultivation and irrigation methods that allow for crop security. In irrigation, it is important to adapt type, time, and use. Women can also develop and disseminate innovative cultivation methods that are adapted to climate change. For example, they could select hardy crops or those with a short growth cycle; grow different crops on the same field; and use locally produced organic fertiliser. However, women need access to complementary training and agricultural extension services. Further:
- It is important to conserve soil and water sources as the basis of agricultural production. Soil degradation and the unused water runoff could, for instance, be reduced by planting the area or by constructing infiltration ditches.
- Women’s involvement in the rehabilitation of ecosystems (such as traditional and mangrove forests) could be paid for within the framework of payments for environmental services programmes.
- A prerequisite for productivity is the availability of energy and its sustainable and efficient production. The promotion of renewable energies would create jobs for women. Regarding solar energy, domestic solar power systems could be installed, and the use of solar-powered lamps could extend the productive time available to street vendors.
- It is important for women to be involved in disaster prevention measures and related decisions.
- For women to play an economic role, an institutional, legal and political framework is required that enables and/or makes it easier for women to hold their own in the market.