Climate change has different impacts on men and women while they have different abilities to respond to the impacts
Mountain men and women are impacted differently by the effects of climate change and thus have different roles and responsibilities to play in the society.
This was highlighted during a Climate change adaption and gender plenary, at the Bhutan+ 10 summit, “Gender and Sustainable Mountain Development in a Changing World”.
Most of the members of the plenary agreed that gender lens is extremely important because it shows not only the differences between men and women, but also other power relationships in the society at large.
While climate change has different impacts on men and women especially in the mountain context, both women and men need different resources in order to adapt to changes. Many agreed that gender issue should be addressed widely in every climate change negotiation or policy decision.
One of the members of the plenary, Dr. Andrea Nightingale of the University of Edinburg, Scotland, said if people do not see gender being integrated in National Adaptation Plan of Actions (NAPA) and Local Adaptation Plan of Actions (LAPA), it is because UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) fails to address gender issues.
“IPCC, which advises many climate change negotiations, cannot include generic statements and there are few scientific data related to gender impacts of climate change.
Dr. Andrea Nightingale said women should not be projected as vulnerable but must look at their potentials and how they have been coping.
Another member, Ms. Elbegzaya Batjiargal of the Mountain Partnership, Central Asia Hub, said in Central Asia, where 90% of the territory is mountainous it is still not sure to what extent mountain women are affected.
“Gender disaggregated data and good researches are required to support effective policy making,” she said.
A report, released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) earlier this year called “Women at the frontline of Climate Change,” revealed that women are most likely to suffer from Climate Change, but they are also the most capable of creating change and adaption within their communities.
The UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, during the launch of the report said women often play a stronger role than men in the management of ecosystem services and food security.
He said sustainable adaptation must focus on gender and the role of women if it is to become successful.
“Women’s voices, responsibilities and knowledge on the environment and the challenges they face will need to be made a central part of governments’ adaptive responses to a rapidly changing climate,” said Achim Steiner.
Further, the Bhutan National Human Development 2011 also highlighted that women in general will experience a higher level of adverse impacts of climate change but has better ability to adapt to climate change.
The report states that women experience a higher level of impact due to their social, economical and cultural circumstances. It says poor access to resources, limited mobility, education, restricted rights and low level of participation in the decision making process are some factors that could contribute especially to their vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change.
During the Plenary session, Dr. Govind Kelkar of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), India, said even though mountain women have some advantages over women in the plains, they also face mountain specific challenges to adaption.
She said mountain women have more social mobility, less patriarchy, more engagement in outside activities but also face challenges to adaption such as limited exposure to markets, men’s outmigration, and limited access to infrastructure, and greater dependence on natural resources.
The Bhutan National Human Development 2011 also highlighted that gender roles create opportunities for climate adaptation.
It says women are considered to possess valuable knowledge and have comprehension about managing water and forest resources, soil conservation, social networking, and nurturing children.
“Considering the special vulnerabilities and opportunities, it is crucial that adaptation plans and programs consider the different roles, needs, adaptive capacity, knowledge and perspective of men and women,” states the report.
Bhutan’s draft revised National Adaptation Program of Action includes the need to recognize gender balance, especially in the implementation of developmental activities and in the participation of both men and women.