FAO Regional Office for Africa

The importance of gender equality in climate change response initiaves: a call to action

Recently published brief highlights the role of women and the importance of inclusiveness in disaster risk reduction and mitigation of climate change effects


9 November 2021, Accra - As the world turns its attention to the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference (COP26) and global stakeholders present plans to reverse the effects of climate change, equality and inclusiveness surface as essential elements in climate action and disaster risk reduction (DRR). Climate and weather-related disasters have disproportionately higher impacts on vulnerable groups with little control over assets and essential resources. Limited access to social security, services and credit make it harder to mitigate, adapt to and recover from climate shocks.

Women, for instance, constitute 80 percent of people displaced by climate change [JZ(1]. Despite being key actors in natural resource management, landscape restoration and biodiversity conservation, women and girls generally have weaker safety nets and protection mechanisms against climate-related disasters.

The Gender and Climate Change teams of the FAO Regional Office for Africa, in collaboration with the Gender Team of the African Risk Capacity, have recently published a policy brief covering the barriers that gender-responsive climate change and DRR policies and programmes must consider and overcome. These include:

  • women’s lack of access to and control over resources, services and technology;
  • poor female participation in decision-making and leadership;
  • low literacy and education levels among women and girls; and
  • lack of institutional capacity and policies that support gender equality in climate action and DRR.

The barriers listed are a global reality, but may be accentuated in Africa, where the incidence and gravity of climate-related disasters has risen exponentially in the last decade, further marginalizing already vulnerable groups. Continental leaders have been developing bold response plans and are now faced with an unprecedented opportunity to build more resilient and equitable economies by investing in inclusive and gender-responsive climate change and DRR programming, plans and policies.

To fulfill this potential, the transformation of discriminatory social and gender norms must be weaved into policy action, which translates into a series of initiatives. Supporting and promoting the engagement of women in climate-related decision-making processes, for instance, contributes to increasing female leadership and influence, facilitating the insertion of gender in related dialogue. Strengthening the capacity of women and girls, as well as institutional stakeholders, to mainstream gender into climate action is also expected to enrich such dialogues. Comprehensive, transformative dialogues will, in turn, facilitate the development of gender-responsive policy frameworks able to address existing inequalities.

It is also recommended that governments and financial institutions allocate - and monitor - dedicated resources to women’s empowerment in climate action. To maximize the potential of gender-sensitive climate finance, it is also necessary to design dedicated funding programmes for the improvement of female resilience and livelihoods, as well as to increase economic support to women-led rights organizations. Women must also receive support in accessing relevant information and technologies by ensuring that language and communications on the topic are understandable to both men and women, helping bridge the gender digital divide, and promoting the use of low-cost, user-friendly technologies.

For the successful development and continuous improvement of the above, a systematic monitoring and evaluation system must be put in place for the collection of relevant data and growth of statistical systems. A strong knowledge base is crucial for the roll-out of evidence-based policy-making. Additionally, it is recommended that leaders capitalize on women’s experience at the ground level and utilize local and traditional knowledge to draft policies and programmes.

When meaningfully engaged, women can contribute significantly to co-creating resilience and adaptation strategies and solutions. Amplifying female voices and recognizing their role in the fight against climate change will not only enrich related global dialogues but also support the design and advancement of efficient, multidisciplinary, inclusive climate response action plans.