Climate action is incomplete without women’s contributions – a global issue

farming kenya joyce
Women make up 75% of Kenya’s agricultural workforce. Women are increasingly being affected by climate change, and a Commonwealth report shows that without their input, climate action policies can exacerbate inequalities. Credit: Joyce Chimby/IPS
  • by Joyce Chimby (Nairobi, Kenya)
  • International News Service

In a good season, she produces 60 to 80 bags of 90kg potatoes per acre on her two acres in Moro, Kenya’s Rift Valley. Due to the severe and erratic weather patterns, Wangari told IPS that a good season is usually not guaranteed.

“We have two potato growing seasons, and we plant before the rain. Sometimes we plant too early and sometimes too late because we can’t read the weather properly.”


“It rained too early or too late. Two years after I started growing potatoes in 2018, all my potatoes were lost to heavy rains,” she said.

Women make up 75 percent of the agricultural workforce in this East African country.


Overall, women also manage about 40 percent of smallholder farms. As the backbone of food production and largely lacking financial and technical support, women are increasingly vulnerable to climate change and the consequent land degradation.

“We may be in the same storm, but we are definitely not in the same boat. This is truest for women in the face of climate change,” Commonwealth Secretary Patricia Scotland said.

A report titled “Commonwealth” Gender integration in climate action: a review of the Nationally Determined Contributions of Commonwealth Member States (National Data Center), came up with At the recent UN climate summit, COP26, it was shown how the underrepresentation of women in climate policy and planning, poor access to climate finance, technology and the lack of ability to make effective decision-making exacerbate inequalities.


Lack of representation also creates barriers to women’s full participation in climate action, reinforcing cycles and persistent vulnerabilities.

However, the report also shows that countries are increasingly acknowledging the vulnerabilities and inequalities of women in climate action and taking concrete steps to address them.

At the heart of the review is a macro overview of the extent of gender inclusion in Commonwealth member NDCs – the technical term for national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement. The study covers ‘expected’ NDCs, as well as new or revised NDCs submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by 26 July 2021.


Overall, 65% of Commonwealth countries have gender issues as a cross-cutting or mainstream priority in their new or updated NDCs.

“Without women, these promises to limit global warming will not be achieved,” Scotland said, adding that the Commonwealth Secretariat had committed to strengthening gender participation in the respective nationally determined contributions of its 54 member countries.

Countries have also identified challenges, especially in the financial sector, where international support is urgently needed.

“The Kingdom of Swaziland recognizes that gender is a cross-cutting issue that calls for gender mainstreaming in the National Development Strategy and National Development Policy,” said Duduzile Nhlengethwa-Masina, Director of the Swaziland Meteorological Service, Ministry of Tourism and Environment Affairs.

“In developing the NDC, we specifically engaged gender and women’s groups. This included a meeting with women in parliament in October 2020 and a meeting on climate change and gender in November 2020. “

The events encouraged female politicians to plant trees in the country’s capital. They also floated the idea of ​​creating women’s groups to increase women’s participation in climate action and ensure it is gender-sensitive.

In addition, Nhlengethwa-Masina told IPS that a gender assessment of the policy was conducted and baselines and indicators for gender-sensitive mitigation and adaptation were developed.

“Developed a National Gender Policy in 2021 and included climate change through government support. Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Centre,” confirmed Nhlengethwa-Masina.

Likewise, small island nations such as Saint Lucia recognize the important link between climate action, gender and women’s empowerment.

Annette Rattigan-Leo, Chief Sustainability and Environment Officer for Saint Lucia, said that “gender and women are more prominent in climate action interventions and strategies.”

Country-wide policies, including INDCs, NAPs and sectoral strategies, clearly demonstrate the need to consider gender-related factors. At the same time, the Ministry of Gender Equality drafted the National Gender Equality Policy and Strategy to mainstream the issue across sectors.

Saint Lucia is currently implementing a project, with support from Canada and the United Kingdom, to mainstream gender in disaster recovery and climate resilience, while increasing women’s economic autonomy.

The role of women in smart farming practices, including agro-processing, is now recognized nationally. Although not the main economic pillar, agriculture contributes significantly to the country’s income.

“It is noteworthy that women have taken on entrepreneurial roles in women-only farming groups that go beyond conventional farming skills. Thus, as entrepreneurs, women can positively influence the strategic decision-making requirements needed to improve climate resilience in the agricultural sector,” Rattigan -Leo said.

In Namibia, Aina-Maria Iteta, head of the Environmental Investment Fund’s Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, wants to strengthen current efforts to emphasize gender inclusion in the country’s national climate change policy and implementation strategy.

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism of Namibia has appointed a UNFCCC National Focal Point for Gender Issues. However, “from raising awareness, developing action plans and ensuring that budgets are in place to support such initiatives, there is still a lot of work to be done,” she told IPS.

Experts such as Iteta are quick to point out that while the review found considerable progress in gender representation in policies, programmes and strategies, additional financial and technical support is still needed.

“In general, there is a gap in gender budgets for climate action. Gender initiatives or actions are always planned and funded on an ad hoc basis, making it difficult to ensure that the goal of mainstreaming a gender perspective in climate action is met,” Iteta said. “Commonwealth can facilitate access to funding gendered climate action initiatives.”

Rattigan-Leo added that Saint Lucia is seeking to incorporate a “gender budget” into the formulation of the annual national budget/estimation.

“Capacity building for strategic gender budgeting approaches is a Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Centre‘s expertise. Given the country’s existing financial constraints, especially in the face of recovery efforts related to COVID-19, this will help identify the best entry point,” she said.

Nhlengethwa-Masina also welcomes additional technical assistance based on the specific needs of Swatini-related institutions and women’s groups.

Help has not come fast enough for local farmers like Wangari as they continue to struggle to survive and feed their families on the front lines of climate change.

“If we do not tackle climate change with enough urgency and success, those on the edge of inequality, especially women, will bear the heaviest burden,” concluded the Scottish Secretary-General.

“So climate action is incomplete without the contributions of women.”


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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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