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Document Abstract
Published: 2016

Gendered vulnerabilities to climate change: insights from the semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia

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Vulnerabilities to impacts of climate change are gendered. Still, policy approaches aimed at strengthening local communities’ adaptive capacity largely fail to recognise the gendered nature of everyday realities and experiences.

Key points and recommendations:

  • gender is not just about women, but the arrangement of roles, responsibilities and relations between men and women of different social groups, ages, educational and marital statuses. Both perceptions of risks and actual vulnerabilities are shaped by these roles, responsibilities and relations, and hence may vary across place, time and social position/location
  • policies still largely fail to acknowledge the intersection of social relations and identities, which could provide a more exact understanding of adaptive behaviour in semi-arid contexts. To facilitate the inclusion of gender in policies, practices and extension services, gender should form an early focus in dialogue spaces, decision making processes and policy discussions
  • adaptive strategies need to pay attention to the divisions of work between men and women to ensure that women’s everyday lives are not overburdened, and that suitable technologies are put in place to support their performance of everyday tasks (e.g., ensuring water for domestic use in the context of scarcity)
  • adaptive strategies also need to work with social norms (that shape what kind of activities are appropriate for men and women to engage in) which might be restrictive but are not inflexible. Such social norms must be taken into consideration, and sometimes challenged, to promote gender equality and improve or increase women’s rights
  • attention needs to be paid to the growing resource conflicts around the use and management of water and land, and the underlying causes ? particularly with the monetisation and commoditisation of these resources posing a threat to the already-precarious survival of some semi-arid communities
  • new forms of diversification and collective action are emerging, especially by women, and trade-offs between short-term coping strategies and longer-term adaptation adaptation are becoming more apparent. All of these changes need to be better understood in terms of how gender works, is arranged and rearranged over time and place. At the same time, by building the capacity of local community ? especially women ? to access resources and ensure their voices are heard, their adaptive capacity can be increased and their dependency on state welfare can be reduced
  • studies on climate change vulnerability and impacts and identification of adaptation strategies should be done from a gender-sensitive perspective. Further research is needed to understand the potential impacts of the reorganisation of domestic groups and the rise in numbers of female-headed households on their adaptive and coping strategies, particularly in the semi-arid regions in Africa
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