With women being the majority of the poor in developing countries and communities highly dependent on natural resources, experts participating in the Africa Climate Week (ACW) have argued that practical solutions hinge on women’s participation in all aspects of the climate change debate.

In her presentation at the Africa Consultative Workshop on the sidelines of ACW, Salina Sanou, with the Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), said there is need to continue supporting indigenous women led organisations to empower them as role models.

She added that gender disintegrated data is a good way of identifying and rectifying gaps in monitoring progress in the climate change discussion.

Women and men are experiencing climate change differently, as gender inequalities persist around the world, recognising the important contributions of women as decision makers, stakeholders, and experts across sectors and at all levels can lead to successful, long-term solutions to climate change. Indigenous women are an important part of the REDD+ process and the climate change discussion and cannot be ignored.”

Climate change represents the most complex challenge of our time which requires a concerted, proactive and holistic response.

Gender inequality may dramatically limit the resilience and adaptive capacity of women, families and communities. It may also restrict options for climate change mitigation.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent which could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent.

Evidence shows that women’s empowerment and advancing gender equality can deliver results across sectors, and lead to more environmentally friendly decision making at household and national levels.

Across societies, women are often responsible for gathering and producing food, collecting water and sourcing fuel for heating and cooking. With climate change, these tasks are becoming more difficult. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods have a greater impact on the poor and most vulnerable.

Gender climate week

Despite women being disproportionately affected by climate change, they play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Women have the knowledge and understanding of what is needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to come up with practical solutions. But they are still a largely untapped resource.

Mrs Salina said unleashing the knowledge and capability of women represents an important opportunity to craft effective climate change solutions for the benefit of all.

“Restricted land rights, lack of access to financial resources, training and technology, and limited access to political decision-making spheres often prevent them from playing a full role in tackling climate change and other environmental challenges.”

Betty Maitoyo is a Gender Specialist with the Indigenous organisation, Mainyoto Peoples Integrated Development organisation (MPIDO) which co-hosted the meeting with PACJA.

She observes Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) for instance should move beyond symbolic measures and ensure gender mainstreaming in all its activities (funding and representation).

Countries, according to her, should robustly involve women, CSOs and Indigenous Peoples in development of local and national plans and their monitoring and implementation.

“Budget should be set aside in the existing programme to enhance awareness to end gender-stereotypes and to support project women and women leaders”.

In 2015, women made up on the average 38 percent of United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) national delegation.

Gender climate week

According to records from the Roots for Future, IUCN-GGCA, in same year, participation of women on climate finance mechanism boards was not impressive.

Women accounted for 25 percent in Global Environmental Facility, 15 percent in Green Climate Fund, 26 percent in Climate Investment Fund, 11 percent in Climate Development Mechanism, and 35 percent in Adaptation Fund.

This is a trend that the women groups and other civil society organisations at the meeting expressed as woefully inadequate.

For Mrs Maitoyo, Climate finance should be accessible to both men and women and designed to generate mutual benefits, not exacerbate patterns of inequity.

Meanwhile, global negotiations have increasingly reflected the growing understanding of gender considerations in climate decision making over the last eight years.

For instance women accounted for 29 percent whiles the men 71 percent of National Focal Point of the Global Environmental Facility at the Rio deliberations.

United Nations Climate Change negotiations, void of gender-related texts and discussions until 2008, have more recently reflected an increased understanding of the links between gender equality and responding to climate change.

It has become necessary because women have bore the biggest brunt of climate change, the impact and effect much more than they affect men.

Climate change impacts and responses are not gender-neutral; thus climate financing mechanisms and resource allocations meant to address these differentiated impacts must be gender-responsive.

Meanwhile, during his presentation, Hayford Duodu, of the Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Local Communities Project (DGM-GHANA), added that women’s direct participation in climate change decision making is very critical.

According to him, the indigenous knowledge of the indigenous women since they are directly impacted by the effect of climate change cannot be overlooked and must be tapped.

“Their worth of indigenous knowledge is a crucial aspect to effectively and equitably designing, implementing, and funding climate solutions.”

Gender-responsive climate finance architecture can play a profound role in supporting a comprehensive climate change framework and complementary sustainable development pathway that promotes an equal and resilient economy for women and men.

It is therefore important to ensure equal space and resources for women and men to participate in climate change decision making and action at all levels.