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Gender and climate change


2015 was a crucial year for setting the scene for Sustainable Development Goals for the decades ahead; UN Women ( 2014, p.11) highlighted that “the twin challenges of gender and sustainable development have never been more pressing”. Increasing trends of social inequality, not only in the Global South, but all over the world, and the worldwide persistence of gender inequality are being recognised, alongside an accelerating environmental and climatic crisis that threatens to reverse all progress on human development. These challenges: inequality and poverty on the one hand and climate change on the other, were long seen as separate, but there is growing recognition that they share common roots and, therefore, solutions.

Making the case for people-centred climate policies

For years, civil society organisations and researchers have highlighted that, as weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable and extreme events such as floods, heat-waves or storms become more common, the way in which people are affected depends strongly on their position in society and, therefore, also on gender norms and expectations. A lot of this work was captured and presented by the BRIDGE Cutting Edge Programme on Gender and Climate Change.

Tension between two key approaches

The momentum for gender equality in climate change policy, research and practice has been growing. The case for gender equality in the climate change context (and beyond) is being built along a continuum from a more instrumentalist to more rights based approach, and while several actors (for example the Dutch government) have taken to both, there is tension between the two. Instrumentalism, on the one hand, promotes gender equality for the sake of an ulterior purpose, such as social, financial, or environmental benefits. It describes women and girls as an “untapped resource” in the global response to climate change. The rights based approach, on the other hand, describes instrumentalism as exploitative and insists on the importance of pursuing women’s rights and gender equality as a goal in its own right - no matter the cost or co-benefits of doing so (see, for example Oxfam’s briefing on the inequality of risk, and CARE’s Double Injustice report]. Feminist advocates for gender and climate justice call for deeper, systemic changes, fundamentally critiquing the development and societal model the instrumentalist approach is based on.

What does this Key Issues Guide contain?

This is a guide to key issues and trends around the linkages between gender and climate change made in policy and action on climate change. It introduces the ongoing debates and key resources especially with regard to i) climate change impacts and responses, ii) climate policy and finance and iii) women’s leadership and empowerment - a key element of bringing gender equality into the global response to climate change.

Key Resource: Gender and climate change overview report
Women's hands
T. Bolstad / Panos Pictures
BRIDGE’s two year Gender and Climate Change Programme, which was run in collaboration with partners based in Paraguay, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Colombia and Germany – and a global community of practice.

The programme and its key output, the BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Climate Change advocates for an approach in which: women and men have an equal voice in decision-making on climate change and broader governance processes with an equal voice: where both women’s and men’s needs and knowledge are taken into account amond institutions and processes; and where the broad social constraints that limit women’s access to strategic and practical resources no longer exist.

Gender dimensions of climate change impacts and responses

small - Female and male farmer - Fintrac Inc, USAIDClimate vulnerability and risk depend not only on how serious a climatic hazard is but very strongly on the livelihood assets, social networks, skills, knowledge, and position in society, of the people affected by the hazard. More . . .

Progress on gender in climate change policies and financing mechanisms

Small - Shubert CienciaThe international climate change architecture is complex and constantly shifting as new agreements and mechanisms come into being, or existing ones are amended. The UNFCCC is the overarching international framework for addressing climate change. More . . .


Women's leadership and empowerment: reinforcing or challenging inequality?

Small-Fintrac-Inc,-USAIDSince the earliest efforts to take on a gender perspective in policies and action addressing climate change, the trend has been to draw on generalisations of women’s and girls’ victimhood. More . . .



Image credits: European Union 2015, European Parliament | Flickr / Fintrac Inc, USAID | Flickr / Shubert-Ciencia | Flickr / Fintrac Inc, USAID | Flickr 

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South Asian women speak out on climate change adaptation
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Women will suffer most from climate change, because they are poorer. They have less access to financial resources, land, education, health and other basic rights than men, and are seldom involved in decision making processes. Women ar...
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