CLIMATE CHANGE, WOMEN AND GENDER EQUALITY Prativa Karki Kathmandu, Nepal

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1 CLIMATE CHANGE, WOMEN AND GENDER EQUALITY Prativa Karki Kathmandu, Nepal Abstract This essay is organized in four distinct parts. The first part of the essay gives a description of the relationship between the environment and women. In this part I have tried to compare the relationship of men and women to the environment, especially regarding the dependency of human beings on natural resources for survival. The second part outlines the effects of climate change on women and the measures to counteract the effects. This section deals particularly with different measures to counteract the effects of environmental changes on women. The third part is called smart plans and proper implementation with women empowerment". This section introduces the topics of women empowerment and mobilization of women in climate change programs. This section puts light on the necessity of women s active participation in every climate related projects to perfectly address the environment and gender issues. Finally, the fourth section covers gender equality and climate policies, it describe how gender issues can be incorporated in policy making, how the gender issue can be mainstreamed in climate change policies. I have summarized the whole essay in this final segment and suggested many ideas to incorporate the gender issues in climate policies. The concluding remarks are also stated here. Unfortunately in the context of my country (Nepal) which is going through political and financial instability these days, addressing gender related issues in context of climate change is a tough job. However, several initiatives can be identified, multidimensional framework can be developed, every person can show sincerity in their jobs and all people, men and women both, concerned authorities and government, should have proper coordination to mitigate the effects of climate change on women and introduce gender equality in climate policies. Women, Environment and their relationship In a single glance, relating environment with women only rather than with the whole human species is somehow bizarre. However, when we look more closely at all the aspects of environmental changes and their consequences, the focus on gender specific relation becomes obvious. Both the causes and the consequences of environmental changes vary abruptly for men and women so a gender-blind analysis is, without any doubt, an inefficient

2 approach. Moreover, the perception towards environment and the interaction with natural resources of women and men are so vastly different that it is logical that the relationship is also unique. Now let us start with a quick narration of men and women's daily lives in rural area of a developing country like Nepal, men generally focus on trading and business, they engage in money making activities and look at natural resources as commercial entities or income generating tools. Men involved in household activities are rare in rural areas. On the other hand every woman starts the day by fetching water sometimes from a distant water source, then gets busy making food for her family - not with the modern LP gas stoves or microwave ovens but by burning the wood they acquire from the forest. The day goes on with the collection of grass and fodder for livestock, then the rest of time is spent doing farmwork. From this daily routine we can figure out that the daily life of women is thoroughly dependent on natural resources, so any change in these resources due to climate change or environmental imbalances will have direct impact and consequences for their life. As a result of climate change, their workload has already drastically increased and their lifestyle has radically changed. This is a common situation for people of rural areas in developing country. On the other hand, the scenario in developed countries is quite different. Women in developed areas do not rely on natural resources and are not as sensitive to the environmental changes. Climate change has a disproportionate effect on people of the underprivileged nations where livelihood depends primarily on agriculture and natural resources. Unfortunately, it is a matter of fact that women are the poorest among poor people and are therefore particularly vulnerable to climate change. The effects vary based on different factors such as financial status, geographical location and living standards. Climate Change Effects on Women and Counteract Measures We have now established that climate change has adverse effects on every organism especially on human beings, and that the effects are highly different for men and women. Therefore, a gender-based climate analysis and genderbased preventive measures are necessary to address the problem and to counteract its effects efficiently. The disproportionate burden of climate change on women can be mitigated by simply involving women directly in climate change control measures, in an approach that mobilizes primarily the people who are most affected by a problem to come up with solutions. The first step is the collection and access to accurate data about the climate change, and its effects on women. For this, proper coordination between different NGOs, INGOs, environmental specialists, etc is necessary. To

3 complement this approach, a community-based group can be formed under the direct supervision of environment specialists to gather exact data in a scientific way and to conduct an expert analysis. A proper GIS system can be developed to relate the databases with the spatial information, geographical terrain. After gathering this information, a gender-based effect analysis is to be conducted to demonstrate the harsh effects of climate change on women. The analysis should compare the effects on men and women to emphasize the differences. Then, dissemination of the results is mandatory, for the local people, especially women, should be aware of the change and its effects. Information, warning about the probable upcoming changes, their causes and effect is to be provided and disseminated among communities. The information should not be addressed only to local people but should also target the political authorities and the concerned sectors and actors. Finally, a draft of the climate change controlling program is to be done with a specific focus on the active participation of the women. The program should focus on the effects of specific climate change due to introduction of any new factor or any change in the ecological balance; monitor the environmental degradation and take into account women's vulnerability. The causes of climate change, such as green house gases emissions which disturb the ecological balance and affect the biodiversity should be mitigated; and the root causes for emission of such gas should be addressed. Furthermore, women should be prepared mentally to face the hazards and the activities and measures should be taken in advance. If the condition is urgent, then a quick assistance, relief, basic subsistence need of the affected people is to be fulfilled. On top of these measures, alternatives for natural resources such as fuels, and drinking water, must be made available in case of natural catastrophes. To sum up, we can say that acting on the causes of climate change, introducing alternatives for materials that are usually obtained from natural resources and are used for household activities, providing relief-aid in case of disasters, preparing women to face climate change effects, making them aware of how climate change affects them, and motivating them to actively participate in prevention programs will be an effective way to counteract the effects of climate change on women.

4 Smart Plans and Proper Implementation with Women Empowerment In the context of developing countries as ours, women cannot own the land, although they spend most of their time working in the farms to feed their children and family members. They spend most of their time in agriculture activities and in the forests; this responsibility leads them to learn more about soil, trees and water resources. Though technically lagging behind, they have a practical knowledge of the effects of climate change on natural resources. Therefore, empowering women in climate change reduction policies and programs is like putting together the technical knowledge, the experience and the legal power. CARE is an organization dedicated to the development of health and education of rural people. They have defined women empowerment as the sum total of changes needed for a woman to realize her full human rights the combined effect of changes in her own aspirations and capabilities, the environment that surrounds and conditions her choices, and the power relations through which she negotiates her path. I totally agree with this definition empowering women is in a sense discouraging the cultural restrictions and limited mobility of women and encouraging them to participate in local as well as global activities to realize their rights and lead a global change. Women empowerment should be adequately tailored to their needs and conditions, and planning, implementation and monitoring should be as participatory as possible. Women empowerment is possible in all sectors but I would like to focus more on women empowerment in policy making and program implementation. Involvement of knowledgeable and intelligent women in policy making activities will lead to women-centered policies which will then bring long lasting solutions and revolutionary changes in women lifestyles and mitigate the effects of climate change. On the other hand, less educated women who are involved in program implementation view the direct benefits that it brings them, and are often very committed to its success. Research indicates that income is more likely to be spent on human development when women have a control over the money. In the Philippines, for example, the greater the share of household income earned by women, the greater consumption of calories and protein of family members. In addition, research has shown that women are more averse to risk than men and are therefore more likely to take decisions that minimize risks. It has also been found that women are more open to advice and more willing to change their strategies in response to new information. Meaningful participation of women in policy making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of climate solution will therefore without any doubt bring radical improvement in the environmental degradation and its effect. The notion found in international agreement that women and other marginalized group of people who are vulnerable to the environmental change should be a central point in worldwide programs to resist environmental

5 changes must be further developed. Existing women's networks such as the Network of the women ministers and Leaders on Environment, Global Gender and the Climate Change Alliance should also be strengthened. Women organizations at all levels from the local level to the international level should be active. Moreover, a focus on women s agency, INGO, NGO and high-quality environmental adaptation projects with active participation of women should integrate climate change and development activities together and contribute to a global environmental "upgrade". Sustainable mitigation and adaptation actions such as renewable household energy systems (solar, biogas, energy saving devices...) should be developed and the related jobs should be provided to women. The role of women in informing and raising the awareness of youth should be considered and supported. Gender Equality and Climate Policies Gender can be defined as the social differences between men and women that are deeply rooted in every culture and experienced throughout life. Gender inequality refers to the inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power between men and women. The cultural norms and rules of every country have shaped a demarcation line between male and female thus creating gender inequalities. The newly made climate policies should be able to address both the men and women issues and climate change. To do that, the legal framework on gender equality should be improved through a constitutional change. Global goals and commitments on gender issues can be derived from existing policies and agreements. Climate policy makers should then focus on participatory approaches that involve different natural resource users taking into account various factors such as gender, socioeconomic conditions, natural resource management, as the core principles in their policies. Gender officers in all ministries and institutions should be appointed to promote, coordinate, monitor and evaluate gender equality, women empowerment, and social development; and incorporate women development as an integral part of national development objectives. Gender desk officers should be appointed for every climate related project. Gender budgeting and gender audits of all funds and programs for adaptation, mitigation are to be introduced. Gender sensitive indicators and communitybased risk screening tools should be incorporated as a basic tool for policy making at national, international and local levels. Besides, gender training in climate-related programs should be provided to men and women associated with the program so that the policies formulated can be implemented properly. The policy makers should be flexible and responsive to the different needs and vulnerabilities of men and women, and include new mechanisms for additional, adequate funding that explicitly addresses the most vulnerable

6 populations and regions. Climate change and gender issues should be a part of the national development plan. The policy makers should ensure that women participate in all decision processes related to climate change, at all levels. To conclude, I would recommend the following: - incorporate gender issue in climate policies, - collect gender disaggregated data and publish it at every level, - conduct gender analysis of climate change policies, programs, and projects is to be conducted and test their viability, - Earmark funds for gender in every project, - Appoint gender officers in every organization to ensure proper implementation of the programs and optimized use of funds, - Build gender-capacity by providing education and gender awareness trainings in public organizations and government agencies in order to create opportunities for the inclusion of gender issues into decision-making and in the public space. In the context of developing countries like Nepal where the majority of the citizens are illiterate, and live below the poverty line, the disproportionate burden of climate change and gender inequality cannot be eradicated at once. No magic wand exists yet to take out these issues, it is a slow process, but as it is said, slow and steady wins the race. I hope we will be successful in addressing these issues and setting a paradigm for gender equality and climate change policies all over the world.

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