The place of gender fairness among other strategies to tackle climate change
The social, cultural, and power structure around the world has not provided the same privileges to women as compared to men. These persistent differences eventually create more gaps. Gender equality is when both men and women have equal rights, opportunities, accessibility of resources and participation in the decision-making process. In other words, gender equity is essential for gender equality.
When we talk about gender equality, women are in the spotlight, because they have not been given an equal position or equal treatment, putting women often in a more vulnerable position in society, especially in regards to climate change. However, gender equality is not only about women; it includes all of society’s sexes.
In the context of developing countries, livelihood, health, and education are a fundamental part of uplifting communities; hence, if we want development in a complete sense, the majority share of women and their needs cannot be neglected. A gender perspective is essential for the overall development process, particularly for considerations of climate change.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report (2005) suggests that climate change is going to be one of the dominant factors triggering biodiversity loss. Given that humans depend on the biosphere for wellbeing at a fundamental level, climate change impacts will affect everyone. The hardest hit will be the communities most dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.
Women’s roles as home-makers, farmers, and consumers mean they make decisions every day. This decision making process is dependent on numerous things; the household workload, access to past and present education and training, the use of technology, access to energy reducing activities and a general overall outlook.
All of these factors and the level of engagement differ for men and women, hence how men and women make decisions differ. To help combat the adverse impact of climate change, both men’s and women’s opinions and experiences need to be considered for effective planning, management and implementation when planning programs for climate change adaptation and development strategies. If not, the environmental problems will widen the challenges faced by the vulnerable section.
Way ahead for Bangladesh
In Bangladesh half of the population comprises of women, the majority of which are exposed to natural catastrophes. Climate change impacts will further affect the vulnerable section of society to a greater extent.
Recognizing the importance of gender equality, Bangladesh’s Vision for 2021 focuses on bringing women into development activities of the government and includes gender equality as one of the key goals.
Bangladesh is one of the eight countries to have included gender in a wide-ranging manner into the National Adaptation Programmer of Action (NAPA). In the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, Bangladesh emerged as a top performer in South Asia region with a global rank of 47, followed by the Maldives and other countries of the region.
The Gender Action Plan of Bangladesh not only focuses on adaptation, but also on mitigation, as women will potentially contribute to reducing emissions. On this account, focusing on women for mitigation places them in an active role in working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Paris Agreement highlights the need to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; other measures focus on capacity-building to conserve forest carbon stocks. However, it would be more engaging to structure the role of women in the national strategies and policy-making in a way that acknowledges the differences and ensures gender equity in implementation and accountability.
Global means or goal
For governments, gender equality may be a goal, as is evident in the case of Bangladesh, where gender equality is one of the key goals, in line with the government's commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Among other goals, gender equality is not additional; rather it is distinct in both national and international level plans, which are progressive in building gender balance to improve livelihoods.
Hence, gender mainstreaming is a critical methodology in environmental actions by including women in the decision-making process, policy development, expanding knowledge, providing training for capacity building and opportunities for entrepreneurship.
The need to be more gender responsive has emerged from the vulnerability of women, making the section exposed due to development plans and policies not being fair for all the sections. Therefore, stress on the topic of gender is for targeting a more significant issue: Gender equality is interlinked with other goals such as poverty, education, health and wellbeing, environmental conservation.
Similarly, the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) recognizes the role of women in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity at various levels of policy-making and implementation.
For the sustainable use of biodiversity, proponents help local communities, which need to focus on both men and women to help in developing solutions, following traditional practices and compatibility of sustainable and conservation requirements.
We also realize that to address climate change we need to have a multidisciplinary approach. It depends on the issue we are dealing with and the necessary components to attain the set target.
From the climate change front, gender equality may also be a crucial means to develop and progress climate change adaptation and mitigation plans, strategies and implementations. With the ambition of a better world, Sustainable Development Goals 2030 include gender equality among other vital subjects.
The Paris Agreement lays down necessary standards to fight climate change, except article 7 and 11 on adaptation and capacity building that mentions gender aspects. At the national level, we need to disintegrate sections that require focus and consider gender equity with gender equality for a fruitful outcome.
The governments can aptly utilize the Paris Agreement as an instrument in mainstreaming gender equality in the respective national development policies. Not following the words strictly, but the objectives of the agreement to consider and respect the human rights obligations, inclusive with all the affected sections with gender equality and women empowerment.
The questions we then need to address is what is beyond gender vulnerability? What are the tools for mainstreaming gender approach in policies and decision-making to reach the communities based on gender equity? How do we measure implementation outcome and accountability in line with gender fairness?
Gender equality in various countries has different social, cultural influences, which can be constructed through international agreements into national strategies, to have a better prospect in terms of economic and political outcomes to achieve equilibrium.
Whether we place gender equality as a means or aim, the rights of human beings for equality in the distribution of resources, opportunities, and rights stand still.
Ambalika Singh is Visiting Researcher at ICCCAD. Ambalika completed LLM in Global Environment and Climate Change Law from University of Edinburgh.