3.2 Gender issues and gender strategies for climate change

A number of overviews are readily available for those in the climate change community who require information or further justification for paying attention to gender in climate change projects or components. These are listed in part 4.A. of the Bibliography in References and in the Gender Resources listed by institutional author in Section 11.[4]
 In sum, these documents highlight the following gender-climate linkages:

  • Men and women are often impacted differently by climate change because there are differences among women and men, depending on their household assets, social status, resilience, and the like. Men and women also have different reasons and options for migrating in response to economic pressures, disasters, and conflicts (Box 1).

    Box 1. Key areas of gender-based inequalities relevant to CCA projects

    • Land rights
    • Division of labor
    • Existing knowledge systems and skills regarding CCA
    • Power and decision-making
    • Embedded inequalities in policies and institutions, both formal and informal
    • Perceptions of risk and resilience.

    Source: Adapted from Nelson, V. 2011. Gender, generations, social protection & climate change: A Thematic review. Overseas Development Institute, London. http://www.odi.org.uk/publications/5940-gender-generations-social-protection-climate-climate-change

  • Women as a group are often more vulnerable to climate change impacts due to gender norms and discrimination that result in greater drudgery and a skewed division of labor, lower income and livelihood opportunities, less access and control of land and property, fewer legal rights, and less political representation. Within the Asia-Pacific region, gender relations and women’s assets vary across subregions and within countries. For example, South Asian women generally have far lower rates of land ownership and may be less resilient to the impacts of climate change than women in several Southeast Asia countries where women at times have more secure access to land due to gender-sensitive land reforms (e.g., Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam).
  • However, women are not just climate victims. Women are also key actors in CCA efforts at the household and community levels and are already practicing CCA skills every day, through farming practices or disaster mitigation, preparedness, or recovery. Their knowledge and skills can be harnessed to help design and implement CCA strategies, policies, and projects. For CCA program planning and implementation, women have been knowledgeable and active contributors at local levels;at national and international levels, gender advocates are promoting gender-sensitive CCA policies and programs and building their capacities for climate advocacy and leadership. In areas of the Asia-Pacific region where women are restricted from public life and decision-making, women’s involvement in community decision-making may be happening indirectly via household-level discussions.
  • By tailoring adaptation actions at the local level to account for culturally specific gender differences, barriers, and opportunities, projects can more effectively reduce risk or decrease vulnerability of households.
  • Planning processes—locally, nationally, or internationally—are often a central dimension of CCA projects and include climate-focused planning which spans multiple sectors and/or climate-relevant sectoral planning, such as watershed councils. Gender-sensitive approaches to planning include equal rights of women and men stakeholders, equitable sharing of the costs and benefits of CCA investments, and balanced data collection from men and women in order to ensure that planning data captures the differences in needs and interests among men and among women stakeholders. Additional process elements entail establishing fair processes and mechanisms for hearing men’s and women’s perspectives, setting action priorities, and resolving grievances.

Very few gender reports and toolkits organize gender issues under a framework of specific types of climate changes. One notable exception is a 2011 United Nations (UNEP) document,
Women at the frontline of climate change: gender risks and hopes. A rapid response assessment,[5]
which focuses on the mountainous regions of Asia. It addresses gender-related issues and impacts in scenarios of too much or too little water (i.e., flooding and drought). Both scenarios increase women’s workloads, particularly with respect to water collection and purification, hygiene, health, and safety, more than for men but also the increased demand for women’s labor for agricultural production. Flooding poses particular problems for women in situations where their roles in household decision-making are quite limited;cultural norms may limit their ability to make their own decisions about when to evacuate. Modesty and clothing norms for women, as well as skills in swimming and tree climbing, have made the difference between life and death.

For those interested in reading more about gender issues in the Asia-Pacific region, there is an abundance of material available that addresses the status of women, gender relations, and various sectors (Box 2 and Bibliography). There are some gender and climate change materials written for an Asia-Pacific audience, but much of the content overlaps with discussions of global gender and climate issues. A 2013 gender and climate change toolkit for the Pacific Islands offers a useful summary of key gender–climate issues and impacts in various countries.[6]
 Country-specific gender analyses and place-based studies of gender and climate issues are available online, but these were not reviewed for our Sourcebook.

Box 2. Further reading about Asia-Pacific gender issues

Regional Summaries

Sub-Regional Summaries