Why is gender important in climate change adaptation?
Adapting to climate change is about reducing vulnerability to current and projected climate risks. Vulnerability to climate change is determined in large part by people’s adaptive capacity. A particular climate hazard, such as a drought, does not affect all people within a community or even the same household equally because some people have greater capacity than others to manage the crisis. The inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power as well as repressive cultural rules and norms constrains many people’s ability to take action on climate change. This is especially true for women. Therefore, gender is a critical factor in understanding vulnerability to climate change. CARE’s approach to adaptation begins with comprehensive analysis that includes an examination of differential vulnerability due to social, political and economic inequalities. This assessment helps us tailor adaptation strategies to the specific needs, capacities and priorities of impact groups.
We work to empower the most vulnerable women and men to achieve climate resilient livelihoods and reduce disaster risks. We partner with local organisations to develop their capacity for supporting household, community and government adaptation efforts. We aim to tackle the underlying causes of vulnerability to climate change, including gender inequality. CARE’s 2008 Gender Policy defines gender as “social differences between females and males throughout the life cycle that are learned, and though deeply rooted in every culture, are changeable over time, and have wide variations both within and between cultures.” Gender along with class, race and age contribute to shaping the roles, power and resources available to women and men in any culture.
The inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power as well as repressive cultural rules and norms constrain the ability of many women to take action on climate change. However, poor and marginalised men often contend with similar constraints. Therefore, CARE’s approach to adaptation includes “empowering” both women and men to challenge and change deeply rooted inequalities. As such, our strategic approach to adaptation explicitly incorporates activities contributing towards gender equality. Whether addressing agency, relations or structures, we characterise these activities as “gender-transformative.”
How do we incorporate gender-transformative activities in adaptation strategies?
By incorporating gender-transformative activities in adaptation strategies at all levels, we actively strive to examine, question and change rigid gender norms and imbalances of power in order to increase people’s resilience. Gender transformative activities encourage critical awareness among men and women of gender roles and norms; promote the position of women; challenge the distribution of resources and allocation of duties between men and women; and/or address power relationships between women and others in the community, such as service providers or traditional leaders. For CARE, adaptation that incorporates gender transformative activities:
- Is based on a comprehensive, participatory and gender-sensitive analysis of vulnerability to climate change (including the social, economic and political determinants of vulnerability);
- Recognises differential vulnerability within countries, communities and households; and it targets adaptation strategies accordingly;
- Builds on the existing knowledge and capacities of men, women, boys and girls;
- Aims to empower vulnerable women and girls to build their adaptive capacity;
- Is planned and implemented with the participation of both women and men, including the most vulnerable groups in the community;
- Promotes adaptation policies and programmes at local, national and international levels that meet the specific needs of poor women and men;
- Supports men and women to access the resources, rights and opportunities they need to adapt to their changing environment; and
- Promotes gender equality as a long-term goal.
Read more: CARE International Climate Change Brief