Engendering the Climate for Change: Policies and practices for gender-just adaptation

This pilot research was carried out to demonstrate that successful adaptation to climate change will require recognition of women as critical partners in both driving and delivering solutions, especially in disaster-prone areas. Changes in policy, practice and adaptation research have been recommended using a gender analysis framework. This research documents some of the gender-differentiated climate change impacts and adaptation interventions in four agro-climatic zones across four States:

  • The Himalayan eco-system in Himachal Pradesh
  • The flood plains of Eastern Uttar Pradesh
  • The Sunderbans coastal area in West Bengal and
  • The drought region of Andhra Pradesh

Specific gender-responsive policy and practice recommendations for the implementation of the four adaptation-focused Missions (on sustainable agriculture, water, forests and the Himalayan eco-system) under India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) are given. Recommendations for the Mission on Strategic Knowledge are also included. The recommendations given are relevant for State-level Action Plans on Climate Change, now under preparation. The research outlines the roles of different actors including national and state-level government agencies, Panchayat Raj Institutions, the scientific community and civil society organizations.

We hope that this research report will help incorporate gender-just adaptation policies and programmes in the forthcoming 12th Five-year Plan through which the NAPCC and the State climate plans are to be resourced and implemented.

Release of Report

A policy research report, ‘Engendering the Climate for Change: Policies and Practices for Gender-just Adaptation,’ was produced by us based on the project carried out on this theme during September 2010-May 2011. A Policy Brief titled ‘Why Women Matter: the gender dimension of climate change adaptation policies,’ has also been produced. These two documents were released by Dr Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission on September 29, 2011, in New Delhi.

Dr. N.C. Saxena, Member, National Advisory Council (NAC), Mr B.M.S. Rathore, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests and Dr Govind Kelkar, Regional Programme coordinator, UN Women, spoke at the release function.

Dr Hameed said the 12th five-year Plan was still being written and this offers an opportunity for the Plan to “reflect some of these very important policy and practices recommendations.” Highlighting specific recommendations, Dr Hameed said it was necessary to use gender-responsive language in climate plans and to encourage the Ministry of Women and Child Development to work closely with the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Ministry of Pachayati Raj. She also agreed that rather than “over-dependence” on self-help groups, the legitimate forum for local action were the Panchayats. Dr Hameed said the Report “reverberates” across South Asia because the issues are very similar.

Dr Saxena agreed with the Report’s assertion on ensuring women own and control productive resources when he said there is a need to review “anti-women” laws and provisions and “not just include them in committees.” As owners of climate-sensitive resources on which their livelihoods are based, women will be in a position to take independent decisions on how to adapt to climate vagaries.

Mr Rathore added that there is a need to “create policy and legal spaces where women can contribute meaningfully.” Drawing the attention to the Report’s title, Mr Rathore said, “The title of the report beautifully captures the essence of the Report. If you do not do this, the chances of getting endangered will be real!” He said that the recommendations from the Report would be considered by the Environment ministry because climate change plans are still in the process of being finalised.

Dr Govind Kelkar, an eminent feminist, said “Women’s work participation is seen as women’s empowerment but not their participation in decision-making. Their voices have to be heard and their ideas have to be incorporated in planning.” This is also emphasised and strongly recommended in the research report. Ms Kelkar also reminded the audience that it was “only in 2008 in Bali” that gender groups started focusing on gender and climate change. She said the issue is critical in India, especially as the latest NSSO data says that 84% of workers in agriculture are women.

“A study that joins the climate change debate with the gender debate is for us very much at the core of how societies should be analysed and how policies should be designed,” said Mr Axel Harneit-Sievers, India Country Director, Heinrich Boll Foundation and co-sponsor of the Report. He said the Report lays out a practical way to deal with gender and climate change adaptation.

Co-sponsor Ms Belinda Bennet, South Asia Head, Christian Aid, said she was “impressed” with the way in which the recommendations have been given because policy-makers, practitioners and others can “mirror” their work with regard to them and assess aspects that are being covering and those that are not being addressed.

This pilot research, carried out over 9 months, brings together empirical evidence and analysis of adaptation-related policies in the context of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and the available drafts of State-level climate change action plans. Case studies specifically focus on four agro-climatic zones across four states – the arid, drought-prone zone in Andhra Pradesh, Coastal Sunderbans in West Bengal, the flood plains in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh and the Himalayan eco-system in district Kangra, Himachal Pradesh.