What is gender equality in the context of climate change? How can adaptation and mitigation measures help to reduce gender inequality? This paper discusses links between climate change and gender inequality and identifies gaps in current research on gender and the environment. It finds that involving women fully in adaptation and mitigation processes will help to redress gender inequality and ensure that the human impacts of climate change are more effectively addressed. Removing obstacles to women’s participation requires support for grassroots awareness-raising, confidence building, advocacy and leadership training programmes.
Women lack control over land, money, credit, health, mobility, food security, secure housing and freedom from violence. These constraints hamper their capacity to adapt to existing and predicted impacts of climate change and make a gendered approach to climate change imperative.
Rural women who participated in recent participatory research on climate change adaptation in Asia understand the types of interventions they need to ensure their future in their agricultural environment. They need safe houses and shelter for their animals, better access to climate change information, medical and veterinary services, credit and insurance and other livelihood options.
However, women are constrained from full participation in climate change processes by official under-representation at all levels and by community-level social and cultural barriers to their moving beyond traditional female roles.
- The United Nations (UN) International Strategy for Disaster Reduction has issued a global call for good practices that link disaster risk reduction with gender analysis. More such advocacy needs to occur to institutionalise gender-sensitive mitigation.
- It is in the remit of all governments who are part of international negotiations on climate change to include gender concerns in climate change programmes. Ignoring this remit results in decisions that do not reflect the needs, capabilities, priorities and concerns of all stakeholders.
- Enabling factors for women’s participation in decision making include: awareness of their rights; access to information about laws, policies and institutions; the desire to challenge existing power structures; and the ability to network.
- Constraining factors include: economic dependency; illiteracy; cultural and social discrimination; home responsibilities; and intimidation, harassment and violence.
- Because access to climate change adaptation technologies is typically restricted to men, women often do not have the opportunities to benefit from technological innovation.
More research should remove the gaps that exist in current information about the impact of climate change on women and their lack of participation in adaptation and mitigation processes. Research should:
- Quantify current levels of female participation in climate change decision making at all governmental levels and the quality of that participation.
- Involve women and men, girls and boys who are already developing coping strategies and adaptation priorities in their communities – including in urban contexts.
- Identify climate change impacts on gender roles and relations at the household level and how gender affects people’s consumption and lifestyles. In particular, research is needed on the impacts of natural resource depletion on intra-household conflict.
- Highlight models of gender-sensitive responses to climate change-related disasters, conflict and displacement that currently exist in communities in disaster-prone areas.