Getting serious about women’s role in tackling climate change

11 September 2013 | Article

A water taxi network operated by women on the Nile that reduces emissions and provides fast, reliable public transport in gridlocked Cairo; a recycling project that empowers women as green entrepreneurs in Kathmandu; women on the coast of Liberia who help collect meteorological data to act as an early-warning system for storms, and poetry singers in temples in Jordan and Nepal who communicate climate change messages. These are just some of the examples of how women are addressing climate change and adapting to its impacts.

Recognising the critical role of women and gender equality in tackling climate change, several countries, with the help of IUCN, have drawn up Climate Change Gender Action Plans (ccGAPs) and more are following suit.

Lorena Aguilar, IUCN’s Senior Gender Advisor explains how these Action Plans are being developed and what impact they are having.

Why did you decide to work with governments to create ccGAPs?

Ministries of Environment are often members of IUCN and as such, are partners in a lot of work that we do. In the course of developing the capacity of Parties in relation to the UN global climate change negotiations (UNFCCC), some of these ministries are already part of our constituency.

After the UNFCCC session in Copenhagen in 2009 when it was realized that the negotiations were not moving as fast as the world needed, countries themselves started to look at their own processes. And they requested the support of the IUCN Global Gender Office in developing policies at the national level to integrate gender considerations into their climate change work. So the Action Plans are a culmination of our work with governments around the world over many years and a natural evolution of our collaboration with them.

How are the ccGAPs created?

We have designed a process for developing the ccGAPs that involves four steps. The first is to ‘take stock’ of the country’s current situation, by analyzing the legislative and policy frameworks, initiatives and stakeholders, and assessing the technical capacity of the country to address gender and climate change.

Once we are able to understand what is happening at the national level, the second step is usually a need to ‘level the playing field’ by building the capacity of certain stakeholders to be able to engage in a meaningful way. For most countries, this has meant training on climate change for women and women’s organizations. And for those working on development and climate change, this has meant building their understanding of the links between gender and climate change.

The third step is to create a national workshop, in which we bring together stakeholders such as governments, civil society, international organizations, academia and donors to develop measures that will be included in the action plan. We have tried in these workshops to capture the diversity of voices and to be inclusive as possible, which is unique in a lot of these countries. In other cases, climate change planning has only been done within the environmental sector with a selected group of experts.

The fourth step is to prioritize and put into action what emerges from these first workshops at the national level. The workshop designates a national team to develop an action plan. In some countries it also requires a validation process with government staff, and with representatives of regions and provinces that weren’t able to attend the national workshop.

Then the Action Plan is ready to be made official – by the Cabinet or the Ministry. In some cases elements of the Action Plan have been included in the country’s National Communications to the UNFCCC or in project proposals, such as Mozambique which used its ccGAP to influence its Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) under the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds.

Each country has its own context that requires a targeted approach. However, some of the elements of the methodology are universal: understanding the political and environmental circumstances in each country, capacity building on targeted themes, strong engagement and ownership by the country, especially from women and women’s organizations, for whom climate change is a new topic, and meaningful participation from all the stakeholders involved.

Have the ccGAPs had visible impacts on policy or practice in these countries?

The ccGAPs are already starting to have a national and an international impact. At national level we have the example of Jordan. The Jordan ccGAP required the involvement of gender experts in the national climate change committee and processes. Once the government produced its National Communication to the UNFCCC, the ccGAP framed the gender section of the government’s new climate change strategy. We’ve seen this also in Liberia and Mozambique. The ccGAPs provide the country with enough elements to incorporate gender within its climate change work, both mitigation and adaptation.

Rather than mentioning gender as an ‘add-on’, these countries now fully integrate gender into their climate change process. Since the ccGAPs are undertaken within the country’s existing climate change planning process, it becomes easier for the government to incorporate the ccGAPs into national planning such as National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs for Least Developed Countries, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) as well as projects and financing mechanisms.

What are the next steps for the ccGAPs?

The next step for the ccGAPs is implementation. We have these great strategies; the challenge now is to transform them into projects that will have an impact on the livelihoods of women and men in these countries. We are working with some of the poorest countries of the world — Mozambique, Bangladesh, Haiti, Nepal, for example — and we need to make sure that these policies are translated into real action for women and men who are already feeling the impacts of climate change.

The ccGAPs are often very innovative. The Mozambique strategy, which we are now updating, included the idea of creating climate change kits. In Mozambique people have very limited access to medical services. In response, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment are promoting pharmacies based on traditional medicine. It was decided that the climate change kits would include traditional medicines that could help individuals and communities cope with some of the health impacts of climate change. For example, citronella to help control mosquitos and vectors that cause water-borne diseases, or moringa to help purify water when it is contaminated, or plants that can be used as a natural sunscreen.

Another idea that has emerged from the ccGAPs is to create seed banks managed by women with ‘smart seeds’ that will make it easier for communities to adapt to climate change. There are also many ideas on the climate change mitigation side that make the ccGAPs set to have a real impact on climate change planning in these countries.

For more information about the ccGAPs, see the IUCN publication The Art of Implementation—Gender Strategies Transforming National and Regional Climate Change Decision Making