Gender Mainstreaming in Climate Change Response: A Perspective for Inclusive Response
By- Aditya Bastola
This paper is an attempt to draw the linkages between gender and climate change from adaptive perspectives to address the phenomenon. It brings in the impacts and a strategic action to challenge and implement measures based on studies carried out in the semi-arid regions of India, where distress and devastating conditions of livelihood options are the only alternatives for women in the rural communities.
Today it is a known fact, climate change is no more a technical response, it has moved beyond mitigation to adaptation measures. A triple gains approach within climate response, embraces adaptation as a process of mitigation. It is also found that countries, communities and individual with less adaptive capacities are the most likely to be affected with the impacts of climate change (IDS, 2008). Since Climate Change has a human dimension (Dankelman, 2002), it has moved beyond the issues of green house gases, to issues of survival for half the world’s population that lives in poverty and deprived conditions in the poor countries.
Nonetheless, climate change impacts are not the same, it differs from developed to developing countries, and also from the rich to the poor and from the man to the woman (IPCC, 2007). The ‘development’ efforts so far achieved would be reversed with the impacts of climate change (DFID, 2007).
As argued by Dankelman (2002), unfavourable conditions caused by climate change impacts have socio-political connections but it also extends to a large amount to social factors in South Asia that are driven due to cultural impositions - caste and class factors. The cultural impositions on women and men are so embedded in social lives that women and the poor men coming out of it seems an endless struggle. Due to which climate change not only brings adverse consequences within nations, but also creates destructive situations within communities, families and further between men and women and the unborn.
Despite of which, the gender discrimination and the existing inequalities that prevail within South Asia have often been overlooked in climate change-related discussions and interventions (Skinner, 2011; MacGregor, 2010). Even if they do, gender concerns are often considered as an ‘add-on’ to the existing policies such as the National Action Plan on Climate Change in India. Or the least, a lip service is paid within existing policies such as Water Policy in India (Krishnakumar, 2003). Thus, we find gender concerns are added into policies or projects as an afterthought and only focuses on issues of women.
But women from the most deprived geo-spatial conditions largely due to its differing agro-climatic conditions and the most vulnerable to climate variability (semi-arid region) not only suffer the most, but also are the ones who have the most adaptive capabilities. They are the ones who provide food, fuel and water at times of scarcity and also are the most burdened to substantiate the livelihood options due to recurring droughts and distress from agricultural production. A qualitative study carried out across 25 villages in Maharashtra highlight that with the landless poor and the marginal farmers dependent on the shrinking commons, women having no land tenure in general, and single women headed households in particular suffered the most. Due to climate variability erratic rainfall was the most related phenomena in the region as it brought crop failure.
Today, climate change has brought significant change in food habits and reduce fodder for livestocks. Due to greater demand for cash crops, there has been an increase in women’s workload, change in food habits and increasing burden of debt repayment (related to climate variability - as failure of crops). Women who earlier consumed adequate nutrition, were not able to gain the strength and energy provided from the today’s food intake. Priority given to cash crops, planning for food security from one's own farm was limited and there was a greater dependency on the cereal grain (mainly rice and wheat) of the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The nutritional status in villages showed that both men and women suffer, though the latter is more severe. The situation of pregnant and lactating mothers is particularly grave. Because of cultural customs, women eat last and mainly the remnants, this leaves the next generation starting off life weak and malnourished. But when women are adequately capacitated in areas of their interest and responsibility - the nutrition of the family in this case - they take the necessary means to improve.
Nonetheless, extending the notions of climate change response through policy approach, it can be related with the male prejudices of viewing climate change as a science – domain of the man. When mitigation efforts are prioritised as part of climate change response, science is involved, due to which often women are missed within the national and international policies. Nevertheless, today inclusion of women within climate change response has become a mainstream strategy, yet it is seldom realised. This is because much of the developmental efforts adopt gender development framework, but seldom implemented on its conceptual framework.
The consequence that drive these factors, irrespective of the known phenomena, is the lack of essentializing the gendered differentiated roles and responsibilities that women and men adapt in response to climate change. Gender should not be overlooked as integration of women within climate change response, rather it should be extending the capabilities of the weaker section (rural women and the poor), their knowledge and the methods of adapting to climate variabilities.
As a result, the framework to mainstream gender in climate change should highlight the process, norms and power relations that exist at household and community level. This should be incorporated through gender disaggregated data resulting to measure the outcome indicators within climate change adaptation projects. Such practice will not only delineate the hegemonic masculinities and hegemonic femininities from imposing the dominant set of gender relations, but would focus towards an egalitarian approach to address climate change impacts. Henceforth, women and men that have utilised their skills, knowledge to preserve, protect and conserve the resource-base for livelihood, should be recognised and be integrated within development planning.
In addition, involvement of women in decision-making process as a tool to address climate change has to have an integral platform for the women and men through adequate representation. Similar to the women and the caste presentative within Panchayat Raj Institutions (local self-government), women representation should also be an integral of caste groups. This will further prevent proxy representation within climate change response and ensure adequate information, knowledge and skills are transformed to women and marginalised caste groups. This will not only ensure inclusion of women from a non-hegemonic perspective to reduce the gender gap but also thereby, addressing adaptation at differing levels - both feminine and masculine.