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From Gender Responsive to Gender Transformative: Combating Climate Change with Gender Strategies

Fifty percent of the labour force in Sub-Saharan Africa are women, facing high risks when it comes to the burdens of climate change. Case studies from around the world show that both climate resilience and rural development benefit when women take in a stronger role. A side event at CFS45 on October 2018 gave examples why it is important to strengthen the role of women to increase resilience to climate change.

(copyright FAO)

The side event was hosted by an impressive coalition of key players and stakeholders: The Commonwealth Secretariat, the Kingdom of Tonga, CARE International, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), FAO, ICRAF/CCAFS of the CGIAR system, African Union and the Consulate of Samoa in Italy.

It was commonly agreed, that there is clear evidence of climate change having gender-differentiated impacts. In many cases, climate change intensifies the constraints that rural women already face, especially those that rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Women remain the most vulnerable.

While climate change can exacerbate existing gender inequalities in agriculture, it can also tap into women’s potential and resilience building, if their important role in adaptation and mitigation is fully recognized. This is possible if women are provided with equal access to productive assets, markets, climate information services, technology and training.

Including gender in policy-making

"Gender responsive climate policies are urgently needed! We are not going to make the 1.5 degrees unless we reach gender equality!” emphasized Fleur Newman, Lead Gender Officer in the UNFCCC Secretariat.

A number of countries have developed Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans and National Agricultural Investment Plans. These plans have in common that they align agricultural policies and sector strategies and help consolidate or increase investment that is a prerequisite for growth, transformation and poverty reduction. If one intends to address policy, programmatic and investment gaps for gender equality and women’s empowerment in agriculture, the leverage point lies in these policies. As stated in the session, 75 percent of NDCs in Sub-Saharan Africa have done so and included “gender” or “women” as part of their sustainable development priorities in the context of climate change.

A video, released by the UNDP-FAO supported programme "Integrating agriculture in national adaptation plans (NAP-Ag), focused on three of the NAP-Ag supported countries - Colombia, Uganda and Viet Nam - and illustrates how gender considerations are integrated into policies covering the agriculture sectors.

On global scale, it is the Gender Action Plan of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that takes up this approach. The Gender Action Plan, adopted at COP23 in November 2017 in Bonn, seeks to mainstream gender perspectives in all mandated areas of its interventions. The requirement of gender-sensitive development impact has also become an integral condition for funding under the climate finance mechanisms under the Convention, such as the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility.

"She feeds the world."

Karl Deering (copyright FAO)

Karl Deering, Care International, introduced CARE’s Progammatic Framework for Food and Nutrition Security. The integrated approach of improving food and nutrition security is based on the experience that change is needed across many connected areas, for impact to be sustainable and equitable. However, this can only be realized if women have access to water, land, seeds, information, finance and markets – and if they are actively bound in decision-making. “Financial inclusion is key for economic empowerment! Access to savings is one of three proven ways to empower women," Deering said. Moreover, he substantiated this statement by quoting a study, according to which 40.000 female food producers achieved a medium yield increase of 56 percent over five years. Concurrently, 25 percent of women experienced increased participation in household decision-making.

As Zitouni Ould Dada, Deputy Director, Climate Change Division, FAO, summarized: “Harnessing women’s knowledge and potential will significantly enhance the resilience of households and communities.” If they have access to education, finance and decision-making, they have all chances to be proactive and take ownership.


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