How gender-blind development can worsen existing inequality
By Rose Mwbeaza and Solange Bandiaky-Badji
In many communities in Africa women will be disproportionately affected by climate change. This is because women generally are poorer, receive less education, have unsecured forest and land tenure rights and are excluded from political and household decision-making processes that affect their lives. Additionally, women tend to possess fewer assets and depend more on natural resources for their livelihoods.
According to the best available data, women own only 1 per cent of the world’s property. Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours yet receive only 10 per cent of global income. Women predominate in world food production but own less than 10 per cent of land. Only 8 per cent of cabinet members are women. Of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults, 75 per cent are women. Approximately 60 per cent of those who live on less than a dollar a day are women.
All of these factors increase women’s vulnerability to climate change. Moreover, the environmental degradation and deterioration emerging from climate change also contributes to deepening social, cultural, political and ecological gender inequalities. As was aptly noted by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, the ability of human systems to adapt to and cope with change depends on factors such as wealth, technology, education, information, skills, infrastructure, access to resources and management capabilities. The adaptive capacity of men and women in Africa to climate change will depend largely on the differing extents to which they can draw on these variables.
Women as climate change adaptation champions
Although women generally lack decision making power in social and political institutions and are excluded or given secondary roles in leadership positions, it is important to note women are not simply climate victims; they are also key agents, leaders and champions of adaptation. This is due to their often deep understanding of their direct environment, their experience in managing natural resources such as water, forests, biodiversity and soil, and their active role in climate-sensitive activities such as farming, forestry and fisheries.
Women’s inclusion in climate change adaptation programmes is therefore essential not only because of their specific vulnerabilities, which need to be addressed, but also because of their ability to be invaluable contributors to adaptation work. Including women in climate change adaption programmes ensures their unique knowledge and skills are incorporated in adaptation efforts.
Gender mainstreaming in AAP
Gender-blind and gender-neutral adaptation programmes are potentially harmful to development as they tend to exacerbate existing inequality. UNDP, in its Inter-Regional Project Document for Africa and Arab States, recognizes the need to consider gender perspectives in managing climate change risks and opportunities as women are particularly vulnerable to climate change. At the same time, it also recognizes the particular difficulties countries face in integrating gender concerns into climate change adaptation policies and measures, namely: ‘limited gender-disaggregated, quality and quantitative data to show vulnerabilities specific to women in the face of climate change; limited research and tools on intersections of climate change finance and gender equality, such as gender budgeting and gender auditing; and lack of women’s voices in policy dialogue and decision-making processes.’
The AAP is working to address gender equality and indigenous knowledge, strengthen women’s leadership and mainstream pro-poor and gender sensitive climate change adaptation into national and sub-national development processes in the 20 countries of operation. The AAP is using several interventions to help do this, including undertaking a gender analysis of national adaptation plans of actions (NAPAs), developing a guide book on gender mainstreaming in climate change adaptation, developing guidelines for gender indicators in climate change adaptation, documenting cases of best practice in mainstreaming gender, arranging training on gender and climate change finance and providing training to UNDP country office staff and AAP national coordinators on gender and climate change.
Solange Bandiaky-Badji (PhD) is the AAP’s gender specialist. Rose Mwbeaza (PhD) was also a gender specialist with the AAP but is now working with UNDP’s Boots on the Ground initiative.