Gender and climate change: reflections from the last gender breakfast

By Nicoletta Boi 

The November session of IFAD’s Gender Breakfast Series offered an opportunity to talk about women and climate change. 

Just imagine being a woman having to face hard drought in rural Africa,  trying to make a living from agriculture. Your daily routine would be tougher and busier than men’s, with long and strenuous walks to collect water,  hard manual labour in the field and never-ending domestic and family care work in the household. As a woman, you would be responsible for many activities, but with very limited access to resources, assets and opportunities.

Within this context, we asked: how can climate-related interventions address gender disproportionate effects to achieve overall successful results?  Can climate policies be blind when it comes to rural women's conditions? 

The November session of the IFAD Gender Breakfast series tried to answer these questions. Sophia Huyer, Gender and Social Inclusion Leader, CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Program (CCAFS), shared lessons on how to integrate gender into climate change and adaptation projects based on findings from a gender review of the IFAD ASAP programme in partnership with CARE and CCAFS.

A truly gender-transformative programme  is an operation  that seeks to balance its final goals with the promotion of  gender equal social structures.  In order to implement a series of practices to achieve successful  programme results and foster gender improvements it is necessary to address three important domains: agency, power relations and existing social structures.

Good practices should first entail a deep analysis of the existing social structures and gender power relations, concrete actions on equitable access to resources and information, promotion of inclusive decision making processes, integration of participatory processes to monitor and evaluate the project, and constant investment in staff capacity in order to maintain high gender mainstreaming standards. 

Sophia presented two gender-transformative projects as examples: IFAD's Program for the Restoration of Livelihoods in Northern Uganda  (PRELNOR) and the Project to Promote Agricultural Production in Mali  (PAPAM/ASAP).

In Uganda, the IFAD/ASAP PRELNOR Project aims to ensure women’s participation, promoting collaboration with men in decision-making processes.  Working with farmers’ groups and vulnerable households, the program helps women express their aspirations,  finding solutions to address the constraints they usually face in pursuing their livelihoods. Through dialogue and participation, men and women question everyday issues such as workload distribution, benefit sharing, and access to income and resources. During the process of including women in project implementation and community discussion, it emerged that endemic gender-based violence in the community existed, requiring further intervention.

The PAPAM/ASAP program in Mali instead was designed to support small farmers in accessing informational tools and technologies in order to build their resilience to climate change. To assess and report on ASAP investments in climate information, a study was undertaken  involving  focus groups of men and women. Results showed that despite agriculture being the main activity for both men and women, women were more impacted by the lack of equipment, and weather information was less relevant for them. For instance, at community level, ploughing, sowing and weeding on women’s plots were done after the work required on men’s plots, so they needed different agro and weather information than men.

Both cases show that addressing gender inequalities is key to achieve not only satisfactory programme results but also to drive important changes in women’s reality and everyday life. Equal conditions between men and women ensure better and faster project achievements, so when conditions aren't as so, it is fundamental to invest resources and efforts to ensure gender equality.

The Gender Breakfast has been an interesting forum for discussion. Questions about the reliability of measurement tools, of social conditions, and about project staff preparation on gender issues highlighted the main difficulties in project implementation. To address these issues, measurement tools involving women's direct participation (such as surveys) are in use, and training for all staff members is promoted.