Gender is not just about men and women, it’s about correcting the power imbalance and eradicating the factors which lead to one group being more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than the other.
This was a major theme at the recently concluded Exploratory Discussion on the Intersection of Gender and Climate Change, hosted by the Commonwealth Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bridgetown, Barbados (4-6 June).
Civil society organisations from across the Caribbean region came together to discuss and learn about gender issues as it relates to climate change and share knowledge on best practices.
I was extremely pleased to meet a wide array of professionals involved in climate change action. From the media and communication specialists to the technical experts, and representatives, community-based and indigenous organisations, the participants were excited to partake in the discussions as we dived into the topic of gender relations in the Caribbean.
How is Gender linked to Climate Change?
Common opinion was that Caribbean society is not fully aware of the relationship between climate change and gender. According to the representative from the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus), Kimberly Carr-Tobias, the core of the problem is the disproportionate access to the resources available to adapt to climate change impacts. She identified a clear gender gap in the Caribbean, which propagates the vulnerability of women.
‘Gender analysis allows for understanding gender roles and relations, recognition that there are gaps, identification of gaps, and leads to policymakers and practitioners using gender mainstreaming to achieve gender equality goals,’ Carr-Tobias highlighted.
‘The fact that women are traditionally placed at the bottom of the barrel increases their vulnerabilities to climate change.’
Imbalanced power dynamics between men and women determines who has what rights and who has what access to resources; resources needed to address climate change impacts.
The fact that women are traditionally placed at the bottom of the barrel increases their vulnerabilities to climate change. This affects how women are able to respond to climate change as their access to the necessary resources are restricted to their gender roles; roles which lack fluidity in the Caribbean.
Discussing intersections between #Gender and #ClimateChange in the Caribbean and strengthening civic voices. #cwclimate pic.twitter.com/Slh3JymHrQ
— Adelle Thomas (@adelle_SIDS) June 5, 2018
“Gender is not just about men and women, it’s about correcting the power imbalance. ” #CWclimate #climatechange #gender @commonwealthorg pic.twitter.com/2Q4zJBf3VW
— Climate Tracker (@ClimateTracking) June 4, 2018
“Gender power dynamics determines who has what rights and what access to resources to deal with the impacts of climate change.”#CWclimate #climatechange #gender@ClimateTracking @commonwealthorg pic.twitter.com/s0uSPoKr96
— Dizzanne Billy (@DizzyB22) June 4, 2018
Women from developing countries witness the nexus between climate change and gender issues on a first-hand basis. They are oftentimes highly dependent on the land and water resources for survival and are left in insecure positions. Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but links to social justice, equity, and human rights, all of which have gender elements.
Gender roles feed into the existing inequality and therefore the ability to deal with climate change impacts.
Group sessions allowed participants to benefit from in-depth analysis of the challenges which arise in dealing with gender and climate change in the region. A popular one identified – Human Resources. There needs to be the development of a pool of regional resources to deal with the issues at a regional level. Brain drain affects the ability of Caribbean people to address Caribbean issues at a regional level. In addition, due to the newness of gender/climate change as a concept in the Caribbean, many organisations are forced to look outside of their country for the experts to assist.
‘ Group sessions allowed participants to benefit from in-depth analysis of the challenges which arise in dealing with gender and climate change in the region. ‘
Correcting the imbalance
Vijay Krishnarayan, Director General of the Commonwealth Foundation, stated that governments on their own are not equipped to handle the issues related to climate change. Forging partnerships and collaboration is critical.
‘There needs to be dialogue, learning, and listening. The power relationships determine how action on climate change is played out and the success rate of projects to deal with climate change.’
We want to achieve meaningful involvement of vulnerable people in national discussions on climate change. People who are set to feel it the most are not involved.
As such, the Foundation’s goal over the two days was to ensure that less heard voices are put to the fore.
Gender is an all-encompassing subject which affects our society and must be included in the development of policy to boost effectiveness and broaden representation.
Strategic Gender Mainstreaming was also identified as a way forward.
Gender mainstreaming, established as a major strategy for the promotion of gender equality in the Beijing Platform for Action from the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women in 1995, requires stakeholders to bring the perceptions, experience, knowledge and interests of women as well as men to bear on policy-making, planning and decision-making.
Key to addressing the gender and climate change issue therefore, is dealing with the detrimental disparity between men and women’s access to economic resources and the means of production.
As pointed out by David Bynoe, National Coordinator GEF SGP Barbados during the discussions, ‘It’s not about fragmented work but about building to make the overall impact better.’
I am certain I speak for my fellow participants when I say that the discussions were enlightening and necessary to help in the regional sharing of information as we continue to work together toward achieving participatory Caribbean governance.
Dizzanne Billy is the Caribbean Outreach Manager at Climate Tracker.