Gender Equality: Essential to Climate Change Adaptation in Rural Areas

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©IFAD/David Paqui

In the face of escalating climate change impacts on vulnerable rural populations globally, Alvaro Lario, the President of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) emphasized today that promoting gender equality in rural communities is essential to climate change adaptation, with women acting as powerful catalysts of change.

“We call on the international community to increase investments geared towards building rural women and girls’ skills and capacity to adapt to climate change,” said the President of IFAD, during an event held at the climate change conference in Dubai.
IFAD’s call comes as the latest data has confirmed that the financing gap between mitigation and adaptation is widening. Despite an overall increase of climate funds, finance directed towards adaptation efforts has dropped by as much as 44% during 2019-2020, according to the Climate Policy Index.

Rural women are persistently left out of climate finance activities despite their key role in rural economies, reinforcing existing inequalities. Official climate development assistance dedicated to gender equality as the “principal” objective represented 2.4% of the total during 2018-2019, according to OECD data.

Climate change is not gender neutral

The concept that “climate change is not gender neutral” was a key takeaway at the event; “Untangling the nexus between gender and climate” at COP28 led by the Gender Transformative Mechanism (GTM), one of IFAD’s most innovative initiatives. Panellists recognized the challenge lies in bringing about systemic change. “This requires doing things differently,” said Lario.

Climate change is amplifying gender inequalities and posing unique threats to women’s livelihoods, health, and safety. In rural settings, women often bear the responsibility for fetching food, water and fuel for their families, making them more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Women are also more affected by extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts, because of discriminatory gender norms that hinder or prevent women’s access to extension services, education, finance, land ownership and climate information needed to adapt.

Given the significant role that women play in agriculture, biodiversity conservation and food security, they have the potential to actively participate and implement adaptation measures. However, rural women and gender equality issues are not often a priority for governments. Women are often underrepresented in climate policy decision-making at all levels.

“Investing in the nexus of gender equality and climate change to transform the whole food value chain from farm to fork, is a unique opportunity to unlock women’s potential as drivers of socio-economic change, while we address many interconnected challenges at the same time,” said Alvaro Lario, referring to the mechanism.

New GTM initiatives in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and India

Lario and Fatoumata BAKO/TRAORE, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Economy, Burkina Faso, committedto working together on gender equality in the context of climate change through the GTM partnership. This initiative is currently being implemented in Burkina Faso with a budget of US$5.84 million, Ethiopia (US$4.5 million) and India (US$5.25 million) to support a total of 1 million women across the three countries.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with US$23 million since 2021, GTM is the biggest IFAD facility on gender equality. The mechanism aims to mobilize US$180 million by 2030 to promote investments, skills-building and activities to achieve gender-transformative results at scale in rural areas, and increase women and girls’ capacity and participation in climate change adaptation.

Tefera Tadesse, Natural Resource Management director at the Ministry of Agriculture, Ethiopia; Yvonne Pétronille YAMEOGO, Focal Point on Gender and Climate Change, Ministry of of Environment, Energy, Water and Sanitation, Burkina Faso; and Kehkashan Basu, Founder of Green Hope Foundation, environmental and human rights activist, also attended the event, which explored innovative solutions and powerful stories of resilience worldwide.

As per the Mainstreaming Gender-transformative Approaches at IFAD – Action Plan 2019-2025, gender-transformative approaches are defined as “programmes and interventions that create opportunities for individuals to actively challenge gender norms, promote women’s social and political influence in communities, and address power inequities between persons of different genders.”

The action plan also notes that the meaning of gender-transformative change “depends on context”. Differentiated, context-specific approaches are followed to identify opportunities to bring about transformative changes since the design stage.
This is according to the Press Release No.: IFAD/116/2023 dated, 4 December 2023 from IFAD’s Media and Communication Expert, Alberto Trillo Barca.

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