Celebrating women’s leadership in climate action
“Empower women and girls. Empowering women is the single most important way to ensure effective climate action. Women not only have the right to participate in decision-making processes that affect everybody’s lives but have their own specific knowledge of biodiversity and indispensable expertise.” These are the inspiring words of Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Actively engaging women in decision-making processes on climate action is as important today as it will be 50 years from now. Building this groundwork started ten years ago, at the UNFCCC COP18, where nations agreed that additional efforts were needed to improve women’s participation in international climate policymaking. Recognizing that climate policy is more effective when it addresses the needs of women and men equally, they set a goal for achieving gender balance in the decision-making structures of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol.
There has been positive progress toward meeting these goals, as shown in a report discussed at the most recent climate conference, COP27, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in November 2022. Since reporting began in 2013, female representation has increased in 11 out of 17 bodies. In 2022, the representation of women stood at 40 percent or more in 7 of the 17 constituted bodies.
Improvement at the international level is complemented by national, regional, and local efforts to enhance women's leadership and participation in the design and implementation of climate policies, particularly in the agriculture and land use sectors. Women are a vital force in agricultural production, making up approximately 43 percent of the global agricultural labour force, and this percentage varies widely by region and country.
However, women often face significant gender-based barriers to accessing the resources necessary for successful agricultural production, such as land, credit, information, and training. Due to institutionalized discrimination, their leadership skills and knowledge often go untapped in the response to climate change in agriculture. On International Women’s Day 2023, we highlight and celebrate three countries that are working to overcome these barriers with concrete activities at their national, district, and farm levels.
In Thailand, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) has been updating the Climate Change Action Plan on Agriculture (CCAPA 2023-2027), which supports and accelerates mitigation and adaptation actions. There has been a concerted effort to integrate gender and social inclusion into the CCSA. In the implementation phase, MoAC departments will develop gender mainstreaming and social inclusion responsiveness plans for climate actions in agriculture and land use sectors at national and local levels. These plans will help improve the inclusion of women’s representatives in climate-smart agriculture initiatives.
In Uganda, efforts are underway to support women's participation and leadership in the response to climate change. The national climate action plans, including the updated NDC, Ag-NAP, and Ag-LTS integrate gender and social inclusion issues. Their implementation plans advance an inclusive and gender-responsive approach. District-level planners have received training to study gender dynamics within vulnerable agriculture households in the cattle corridor and are now developing district-level climate plans and indicators that specifically address the diverse needs and priorities of women and men.
In Costa Rica, efforts are being strengthened to reduce emissions, increase the resilience of family farms and improve women’s leadership in the livestock and coffee sector. One of the key activities is the development of a new certification scheme aimed at empowering family farms to adopt sustainable practices and increase their access to markets. The initiative includes targeted trainings for women ranchers, sensitization programs for men, and other support activities to ensure at least 50 women are able to participate and take on leadership roles in their communities, as well as influencing future initiatives with a gender perspective in these sectors.
Taken together these concrete actions and the advancements within the UNFCCC signal a significant shift away from past gender-blind approaches. It shows there is widespread recognition that meeting our climate change goals is only possible with the full, equal, and meaningful participation and leadership of women and girls at all levels of action.
The FAO-UNDP SCALA programme is contributing to the efforts in Thailand, Uganda, and Costa Rica with gender analysis, workshops on gender-responsive planning, and support for inclusive planning processes. It mainstreams gender and social inclusion throughout the work of all 12 SCALA partner countries, in line with the UNDP Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2021 and FAO's Policy on Gender Equality 2020-2030. It also compiles lessons learned to support gender mainstreaming and women’s leadership at the international level in support of the UNFCCC.