Women’s empowerment and reducing climate change impact: the rationality for inclusiveness and equality in the new global climate actions

February 13, 2015 | By
Vera Monteiro

The issue of gender equality in climate change adaptation is as much about efficiency and effectiveness of limited resources, as it is about equality and equity. Poor women face many gender-specific barriers that limit their ability to cope with and adapt to a changing climate; these must be removed in the interests of both gender equity and adaptation efficiency.

Given that many women are primarily responsible for ensuring their families have water, food and fuel, all natural resources likely to be impacted by climate change, they clearly have a unique contribution to make to adapt their communities to a changing climate.

The impacts of climate change, drought, floods, extreme weather, and reduced food and water security, severely affect the most vulnerable groups, particularly women who are often dependent on natural resources threatened by environmental change.

Climate change and environmental degradation undermine people’s ability to quit poverty and endanger their full enjoyment of human rights. This has a direct impact on health, food and nutrition security of millions of people – especially women and children. Climate change has a disproportionate impact on poor women and children as socially vulnerable members of society.

Many of the world’s poorest people are rural women in developing countries who depend on subsistence agriculture to feed their families. There are a number of key issues related to women’s rights and gender equality that must be addressed to reduce vulnerability and increase adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change impacts on the conditions of subsistence.

It is necessary to promote equal access for women to resources such as capital, technical assistance, technology, tools, equipment, so that they have a social and more effective economic participation, and this goes also for gender equality in energy, agriculture and other programs extension in order to support and strengthen their resilience to climate change.  The participation of women in decision-making and adaptation to the climate for food security and nutrition is essential, with its vital contribution to create sound policies and strategies to adapt to climate change, taking into account their skills, unique experience and knowledge for the management of natural resources.

To promote the participation of women in decision-making on climate change, governments must demand respect for gender equality in local, regional and national government. Women’s participation can be increased at different levels and in different sectors by promoting inclusive processes of planning, decision making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of measures and initiatives on climate change.

Governments should be committed to gender mainstreaming in all policies and programs, and that should include policy-making processes relating to climate change.

Gender mainstreaming refers to the art and science of interpreting gender data and creating tailored policy, program, or project strategies that are culturally appropriate, minimizing negative social impacts, that’s why empowering women can be transformative for households, communities, and the economy of the world.

6 thoughts on “Women’s empowerment and reducing climate change impact: the rationality for inclusiveness and equality in the new global climate actions


    Several gender discussions end up highlighting the women situations/positions without recourse to the men and children who also constitute the gender class. Thus, the aggregate influence of the latter are either misrepresented or deemphasized. Example, several studies in Africa have shown that the farm family(man, woman and children) maintain a single farm operational schedule which makes difficult if not impossible to discriminate resources or validate the argument of lack of access to resources credited to women.

    1. Monica Maduekwe

      A brilliant observation. Indeed, climate change is not “gender specified”. The impacts are universal – felt by men, women and children. The essence of this article, and the argument it puts forward, is that women have to brought into the matrix TOO, where they are empowered to contribute to the discourse on ‘what to do’ and given the assistance to do it.
      It is true that the farm family may constitute the entire household (men, women and children) but in many, other cases (as widely documented) women are more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, as opposed to men. Thus, a decision-making process, and solution strategy, that does not encourage the active participation of women, particularly those in the second category is not comprehensive and may not be effective. Now, going even further, and thanks to your comment, I would rephrase it as : one that does not encourage the active participation of men, women and the youth is not comprehensive and may not be effective. Merci beaucoup.

      1. Sire A. Diallo

        When it comes to climate change the effects are felt by all (men, women, youth, old,etc). So the debate should focus on inclusiveness rather than equality. I agree that in decision-making instances, regarding adaption or mitigation policies/programmes, women are under-represented so are youth. I find it strange that many countries have female Designated National Authorities (DNA) representing the UNFCCC and taking part in all climate negotiations. However, there is very little attempt to bring more women to the decision-making instances. So I am not sure if more women in instances will actually change anything if they do not fit the bill (technical know-how and willingness to challenge). A good decision regarding climate change affects both men and women equally. Right or wrong?

        1. Monica Maduekwe

          Equality is an integral path of inclusiveness. When those concerned are given equal opportunities to participate in the decision-making processes to address issues that affect them all, when they are all given equal consideration in the solution strategy, when no voice is louder than the other or the interest of one gender group more represented then we achieve inclusiveness. Equality is not about numbers, it is about representation – tangible representation. And this is the right of the individuals who make up a society (as you mentioned: women and men -young or old).
          Of course, representation must come with content. Otherwise it cannot be effective or lead to tangible results. So I agree with you that women (or the youth -who are also underrepresented, as you noted) need to be given the support (training, etc) to get up to the level where they can contribute substantially to the decision making processes. This is where equality, comes in again, creating a level playing field for all.
          Indeed limiting global warming to 2 degrees would benefit all. However, how do you want to address climate change, considering the African socioeconomic context, without fixing women (rural women, etc) at the center of your plan?

  2. Vera Monteiro Post author

    Thanks for your comments. Let’s go further on this .What are the gender dimensions of climate change? What are the gender implications of poverty, unemployment and the absence of basic infrastructure in the face of climate change? Increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and changing rain cycles are some of the changes that all of us are facing.We know that women and men do not experience climate change equally. Gender inequalities in the distribution of assets and opportunities mean that their choices are severely constrained in the face of climate change.
    Because women and girls are often responsible for most of the unpaid tasks around the household, their lives are directly affected by climate change impacts. For example, they often have to walk further to find increasingly scarce food, fuel and water, which leave them with less time for education, income-generating activities or participation in community decision-making processes, further entrenching unequal gender relations. Yet it is not only at the micro level that women are left out of decision-making – policy planning and international agreements processes have a long way to go before reaching gender parity, which means women’s voices and gender issues – remain muted or invisible.Women are systematically by-passed in decision-making during the post conflict or conflict prevention phase.
    Despite international acknowledgement that women are disproportionately affected by climate change, it has been recognized the importance of women’s role in climate change issues.
    The ways women adapt to and mitigate climate change differ from those of men, and that’s why when we refer to gender equality our intention is to have women’s rights guaranteed in every negotiation on this matter, this is why we are pushing for gender equality, instead of gender balance.

  3. Vera Monteiro Post author

    Thanks for your comment and the compliments. The achievement of gender equality and sustainable development in the energy sector is our goal.
    We are paving the way for social equality and inclusion to improve economic wellbeing as well as environmental sustainability for all.
    We will encourage you to get involved and be part of this great project. Join us!


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