Time to move towards gender equality in climate action

25 May 2018

“It is difficult to have impact in politics, but it has been possible to have impact at the social level.” This was one of the findings made by Dr Parvin Sultana, project lead of Community Based Adaptive Learning in the management of Conflicts and Natural Resources (CALCNR), one of seven projects of the DFID/NWO-WOTRO-funded Conflict and Cooperation in the Management of Climate Change programme (CCMCC) which gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal to discuss the impacts of conflict and climate change on women.

While each of the projects shared examples of improved cooperation and an enhanced inclusion of women, the projects also shared research on the challenges faced by women, finding that there is little attention to how gender is experienced and understood at an organisational level. Women’s representation has been emphasised as a requirement in projects and policies, but without change in power and decision-making, progress is limited.

During the two-day workshop, the projects found that women’s roles in decision-making and the relevance of masculinities and femininities in the climate sectors. The purpose of the workshop was to share lessons and recommendations relating to gender, conflict, cooperation and climate management that could be used by fellow researchers, policy-makers and by donors in designing and implementing future programmes, ensuring that gender is more than just an add-on to climate policy and projects.

“Building capacity of women is necessary, and has brought some benefits in terms of greater equity in cooperation, but mostly at local level. Transformational change is limited,” said Dr Deepa Joshi, who has worked on both the Hydropower  Development and the Peri-Urban  Water Security projects. “Little attention has been paid to enabling women’s leadership role, especially at higher decision making levels. Structural conditions and attitudes constrain change.”

More than 39 partners have contributed to the seven projects, which have worked over the past five years across 12 countries, covering seven research themes. While each project has had a different research focus, the impact on the most vulnerable people has been a core component on each. Because of pre-existing gender-inequalities women in particular are disproportionately affected by climate change and relating conflicts, and while there is a great development drive to empower women and ensure we leave no one behind, empowering women is not enough. “Men should be engaged and recognise women’s participation and encourage women to participate; women should also recognise their own empowerment,” said Gyanu Maskey of the Conflict and Cooperation over REDD+ project. Dr Poshendra Satyal of the same project mentioned that REDD+ does not challenge the status quo, and that conflict can be generated or exacerbated by unequal access to policy interventions.

The projects shared their successes and challenges in enhancing women’s participation and gender equality. This included the use of adaptation and mitigation tools, forums and community meetings, which various social groups have benefitted from. The projects found that change is possible and is happening, but at different speeds and at different levels with tokenism often taking the place of meaningful progress. While CCMCC project findings regarding gender are often diverse and contextual, and emerging issues tend to be specific to projects and countries, the findings provide knowledge upon which future research can be built.

The research from the DFID / NWO-WOTRO funded CCMCC programme found that while climate change was not necessarily the main driver behind conflict, it often is a trigger and therefore should be an essential part of policy, planning and natural resource management. Each of the projects found that gender inequalities contributed to issues of conflict, linked to adaptation, mitigation or climate change.

The following recommendations were made by the consortia to enhance conflict-sensitiveness of natural resource policies and climate initiatives around gender:

  • Gender and other forms of social differentiation should be considered more critically and centrally at all stages of projects and policies relate to natural resources and climate change.
  • Programme design must view women not as isolated beneficiary group but as co-actors operating within the larger frameworks. During beneficiary selection, categories of women need to be considered, particularly marginalised groups.
  • Leadership capacity needs to be developed for women and structural changes adopted to give opportunities for these women in decision making.
  • Long term investment and commitment is needed to empower the marginalised groups.
  • At organisational level, it is necessary to change the culture, structure, behaviour, attitude to ensure that it achieves the set goals on equity, equality and empowerment. Gender sensitiveness should have a specific focus in technical curricula.
  • There is a need to develop champions for ensuring voices of women are expressed and heard  by exposing stories of marginalised women in wider forums.
  • Donors need to put more pressure on governments, to ensure that participation quotas in decision-making forums on climate change are effective and meaningful.
  • Donors should collaborate and coordinate with each other before formulating projects to avoid duplication of similar unsuccessful type of projects, and build on successful ones that have mainstreamed gender considerations effectively.

Source: NWO