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While climate change threatens livelihoods and security across the board, the different roles and responsibilities of women and men means they are impacted differently by the various climate change interventions. Women in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and therefore gender inequalities widen as women face loss of land, livelihoods and security as climate change impacts increase. This vulnerability partly stems from women’s limited capacity to respond to natural hazards and their unequal participation in climate-related planning, decision-making, and project implementation.
At the same time, women are powerful agents of change. They play important roles in core sectors affected by climate change, making them well-placed to identify and adopt appropriate strategies to address climate change at the household and community level. For instance, in agriculture, women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural work force in developing countries. In livestock management, they make up two thirds of the world’s 600 million small livestock managers. In energy, women in Africa are responsible for managing 90 percent of all household water and fuel-wood needs. Due to the cross-cutting nature of climate change and gender equality, any progress made on these fronts will also directly contribute to other Sustainable Development Goals.
Effective climate action therefore requires advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment so that women’s needs, and contributions are considered throughout the policy and planning cycle.
An integration of gender issues in national climate actions can only be achieved through good data for targeted solutions. At the early stages, a gender analysis for climate change can serve as a diagnostic tool to assess the current situation at the national, state or local level. It identifies linkages between climate change and gender equality to better inform policy making processes, while shedding light on the multi-dimensionality of development challenges. These indicators and data can bolster commonly held narratives about gender disparities by grounding them in quantitative evidence.
The analysis can also reveal the differences between women and men’s status in society more concretely, providing a more tangible understanding of gendered access to resources, participation in decision-making - one of the variables related to gender power dynamics - and the crucial ways women contribute to climate-related sectors. This information, in turn, can help make the benefits of gender-responsive climate action more evident and strengthen organizational capacities for future responses.
While the development of gender indicators and collection of the data is a good start, key findings must be embedded into national policies. However, it is critical for practitioners to understand which development dimensions need more attention when devising policies, the data can inform this. For instance, when looking at the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) at the national level you can see what the priority dimensions are for a given country. If a country is highly deprived in access to clean water, this reveals the need of more data on how women and men participate in the collection of water, in order to design an appropriate intervention. Without this assessment we would not know today that in 80 percent of households with water shortages, women and girls do the majority of the collection, leading to time poverty for education and productive activities.
Countries like Peru, Yemen and Vietnam could not have implemented projects to incorporate women participation in irrigation management, without such multi-dimensional data. Peru’s Sierra Irrigation Project found that 75 percent of water managers were men, land titles were mostly in men’s names and participation in the Water User Organization (WUO) was linked to land ownership and meetings were held at times that women were unavailable. The available data informed policy changes that removed land title requirements for WUO membership to improve women’s access. Through this data driven action, all the WUOs had at least one woman leader and 30 percent of participants at WUO meetings were women, helping women also benefit from the economic opportunities of water management.
UNDP’s NDC Support Programme is currently piloting the integration of gender equality considerations into countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and climate action plans for the Paris Agreement. Countries’ reviews of their climate plans is an on-going process and provides a valuable entry point for integrating gender equality considerations, specifically through identifying gender data gaps, improving data collection and developing gender indicators.
Through the collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data, government representatives can be better informed about gender inequality and situational context which will lead to more comprehensive visions within NDCs and more targeted climate change solutions, which will ultimately help countries achieve more inclusive and sustainable development outcomes.
 Distefano, F., “Understanding and integrating gender issues into livestock projects and programmes: A checklist for practitioners” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, 2013).
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