Scaling-out gender transformation for climate change

Source(s): Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

By Sophia Huyer (CCAFS) and Heidi Braun (IDRC)

Development approaches must address structural barriers and power imbalances for women and other marginalized groups to adapt to climate change. 

Climate change has enormous implications for women in the developing world through increased workloads, food insecurity, threats to health, and more responsibilities due to male out-migration.

Effective and sustainable interventions to address climate change must include gender transformation, or the transformation of gendered roles, opportunities, relationships and agency, in the context of wider societal and environmental change. We need to recognize that women are not vulnerable victims of climate change, but have the capacity and knowledge to become active agents of adaptation and mitigation.

What does this mean for climate change action? Gender-responsive actions analyze and address gendered differences in opportunities, resources, and information to adapt to and recover from the effects of climate change and redress constraining gender and social inequalities.

Gender transformation addresses the different aspects of inequality. As formulated by CARE, the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), gender transformative agricultural adaptation approaches address norms, resources, and power in the context of climate change and agriculture (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Summary of good practices for gender transformation in agricultural adaptation (IFAD, 2018)

Actions promoting societal gender transformation enable deeper change at both the individual and societal levels, through policy change supported by implementation mechanisms, such as budgeting or programming. Social and individual attitude changes are spread through social media platforms, the active engagement and leadership of women’s organizations and collectives, strong women-led leadership at local or national levels, and the integration of women’s and indigenous knowledge as a platform for adaptation.

CCAFS’ Gender and Social Inclusion (GSI) program supports the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and its partners in understanding how to achieve gender transformative change through gender and climate programming. Through its Climate Change Program, IDRC supports demand-driven, policy-relevant research in six countries, including on-the-ground action to enable women, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, the poor, and youth to contribute to climate resilience and become positive agents of transformation. Researchers from these projects, in Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria and Nepal, met in Nairobi on 26-28 November 2019 to learn from each other’s approaches.

The workshop, planned and facilitated by Gender at Work, stimulated important reflections. This transformation framework was used to encourage participants to assess the transformative potential of their research. For example, in Argentina, researchers are working to strengthen women climate migrant networks, foster policy dialogue, provide education and training, and initiate a public broadcast campaign. These activities enable women to act as active agents and leaders in sustainable change, prompting wider community change through media and policy platforms. These activities have the potential to enable women to become active agents and leaders in promoting sustainable change and to prompt wider societal or community change.

Another project, in the Niger Delta, strengthens the ability of women and girls to make informed decisions and manage climate change-driven pressures on their livelihoods, allowing for transformative potential by scaling-out community-based initiatives for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and promoting active collaboration between researchers, policymakers, and women leaders.

Based on project analysis, participants revisited their plans and envisioned a reorientation of their projects for more transformative outcomes.

Each group considered how to strengthen their projects’ effectiveness. They envisioned their research enhancing women’s adaptive capacity by improving access to resources and building capacity to strengthen women’s self-confidence, solidarity, and leadership. New strategies include improving collaboration with women’s rights organizations, supporting women’s participation in policy spaces, and engaging both women and men to reconsider women’s priorities and barriers to adaptation.

The workshop is an example of the necessity for a continued process of interaction and exchange when developing and implementing policy-relevant research—both of which are needed in order to implement gender transformative climate change adaptation research and strategies. Considering the barriers and constraints to adapting to and mitigating climate change experienced by women and the economically disadvantaged, development approaches must go beyond the status quo and act as a conduit for addressing embedded structural and power inequalities. Later in 2020, workshop participants will regroup to compare experiences, successes, and challenges in advancing gender transformative agendas in very different geographic and sociocultural settings. Participants likened gender transformative climate change adaptation research to a seed, which requires the right circumstances and nourishment to mature. Opportunities for reflection and peer learning and partnerships, like those between CCAFS and IDRC, help provide the environment for that seed to grow!  

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