Mainstreaming gender in climate change adaptation planning

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A mother and daughter tilling the land in Assam. Photo: Action on Climate Today

The adverse impacts of climate change have disproportionate bearing on men and women. It is therefore important to consider gender specific concerns and subsequent solutions in climate change adaptation planning processes. Women are not only differently vulnerable to climate change but they are also crucial in implementing adaptation solutions and building resilience. Similar to mainstreaming climate change adaptation development activities, gender integration in climate change can be internalised through systematic integration in policies, programmes, projects and activities.

The ACT[1] programme attempts to ingrate gender at the first level of policy making and directly influences the second level of implementation. It is not directly operating at the level of community based adaptation interventions; however, it is driven by the vulnerabilities faced by women at local level. It intends to use these concerns at practice level to integrate gender specific solutions in the policy and planning processes.

The programme has identified concerns for mainstreaming climate change in sectoral plans and actions, livelihood strategies and disaster management responses. In Maharashtra, ACT is including gender concerns in climate smart village planning. In Kerala, the programme is identifying gender specific solutions for building coastal resilience of communities. In Odisha, ACT has considered gender specific concerns in designing a flood early warning system for the Mahanadi.

Using gender specific vulnerability assessments in the initial stages of programmes, ACT has used a series of systematic steps for integrating sensitive solutions in its work streams. Building on ACT’s experiences, here are the key steps for mainstreaming gender in climate change adaptation and planning processes:

  1. Understanding gender specific vulnerabilities: It is extremely crucial to understand how women are differentially vulnerable to climate change. Unequal access to resources, limited engagement in decision making and other social, economic and political barriers often lead to poor adaptive capacity of the women[2]. For e.g. drought in states such as Maharashtra and Bihar increases the burden on women responsible for fetching natural resources, food, water, firewood, etc. Socio-economic vulnerability assessments can help to identify gender specific vulnerabilities to climate change.
  2. Addressing adaptation needs of women: Based on the elevated vulnerabilities faced by women in vulnerable conditions, gender specific solutions need to be identified. For e.g. gender sensitive adaptation measures in flood disaster preparedness and management responses and adaptation options for drought induced climate migration.
  3. Women’s contribution to climate proofing sectors: It has been observed that women act as critical partners in driving and delivering adaptation solutions needed to increase the resilience of communities[3].

    It is also crucial to understand that women critically contribute to specific sectors, and their absence exacerbated due to climate change can lead to sectoral economic losses. For e.g. vulnerability to climate change can affect engagement of women labour in Assam’s tea sector, having economic implications for the tea industry.

  4. Framing cross sectoral solutions for gender and climate change: Both gender inclusion and climate change adaptation are cross cutting concerns and therefore need to be mainstreamed in the sectoral development initiatives of different departments. In Nepal, ACT is supporting the National Adaptation Plan through the cross cutting working group for integrating gender and social inclusion in NAP. The cross cutting working group is actively engaging with the focal points in different sectoral working groups for integrating gender sectoral issues such as agriculture, water, health etc. The cross cutting gender and social inclusion working group has currently conducted a stocktake of gender related concerns to be addressed through different sectors.
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  6. Gender analysis: An analysis of how women are differently affected by climate change and identification of gender specific responses during the planning stage can help make policies, programmes, activities and programme outputs gender sensitive. Socio-economic vulnerability assessments, assessing the project activities to address woman’s access to resources (e.g. finance, information) etc. can help to set up gender specific programme objectives at an initial stage of the planned programme. For e.g. in Assam, ACT is integrating gender in climate resilient agriculture value chain assessments.
  7. Effectively communicating the relevance of gender mainstreaming in adaptation: It is crucial to tailor explanations of gender inclusion strategies based on the local context and aligned to the priority of government partners. For e.g. in Assam, ACT’s is continuously engaging with the government and sensitising them over a period of time to mainstream gender in urban flood management and climate resilient agriculture strategies. These issues are linked to the direct vulnerabilities of women and show a clear need for mainstreaming gender in Assam’s context.
  8. Gender inclusion in government policies/programmes: National and provincial plans such as the National Adaptation Plan and State Action Plans on Climate Change[4] provide a good entry point for including gender in the adaptation strategies. For e.g. in India, SAPCCs of states such as Chhattisgarh and Bihar have specific chapters on gender and climate change which can be used as a good starting point for implementation of recommendations.
  9. Gender inclusion in development programmes: Furthermore, simplifying the concept of gender mainstreaming and building it in other development activities/programmes of the government can be useful. For e.g. in Afghanistan, ACT has helped the government to mainstream gender and climate change in country’s Natural Resource Management Strategy.
  10. Gender budgeting: Gender budgeting can be used as an important tool to allocate resources for implementing gender specific adaptation actions. For e.g. in 2008-09, Bihar government introduced a gender sensitive budget in 10 departments, with special focus on the socio-economic development of women. 15% of the total budgetary allocations for 10 departments was earmarked. In 2011-12, the number of Departments reflecting budgetary allocation for women has increased to 16[5].
  11. Monitoring and evaluating gender related outcomes: Tracking and evaluating outcomes against gender specific indicators using gender disaggregated data, qualitative and systematic perception collections. This M&E process could start with the creation of gender specific goals, followed up with monitoring and evaluation of either sets of indicators developed for different “families” of activity (i.e. Climate Smart Water Management), or through location-by-location qualitative reports on gender mainstreaming efforts and results.
[1] Action on Climate Today, a DFID funded climate change adaptation programme in South Asia managed by OPM
[3] ‘Engendering the Climate for Change: Policies and Practices for Gender-just Adaptation’  by Aditi Kapoor, Alternative Futures, New Delhi, 2011
[4] A Gender Policy Framework for State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs), CDKN, 2012
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