How to create climate change policies with a gender focus?

How can we assure gender equality in climate change decision-making? Photo: Dana Smillie / World Bank
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How can we include gender in climate change adaptation and mitigation policies in Latin America?

The central theme of the pre-COP20 event organized by the Gender & Climate Change team of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and CCAFS, together with the Agronomic Centre for Research and Investigation (CATIE) was the inclusion of gender in climate change policymaking. The day evolved around the big questions of ‘why’ ‘how’ and ‘who’. The workshop took place on November 28th, 2014 in Lima, Peru, three days before the official start of the COP20, the UN Climate Conference.

The pre-COP20 event counted with the presence of government representatives, consultants and NGOs working on climate change policies and projects in several countries in Latin America, including Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica.


The overall objective of the workshop was to discuss elements of analysis necessary for gender inclusion in climate change adaptation and mitigation policies in Latin America. This was done through emphasizing the importance of gender for agriculture, food security and climate change through group work, provision of input based on the experience of other countries on effective integration of gender equality in climate change policies and identification of obstacles and challenges to this task, and the development of a plan for next steps to provide continuity to the initiative and integrate gender perspective in climate change policies.

Presentations were given by Jennifer Twyman (gender specialist CCAFS/CIAT), Tatiana Gumucio (Visiting Research Gender & Climate Change, CCAFS/CIAT), Lorena Aguilar (gender specialist, International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN), Felicia Ramirez (CATIE) and Emilia Reyes (Program on Gender Equity, México).

CIAT's Gender Specialist Jennifer Twyman. Photocredit: Gian Betancourt (CIAT)

It's time to start thinking about gender in climate change policies. Photocredit: Gian Betancourt


How to integrate gender perspective

It is important to consider the gender asset gap, and how this affects vulnerabilities of men and women to climate change. If women had the same access to resources as men, the number of people who fail to meet their basic food needs could be reduced by 12-17%, says Tatiana Gumucio. Most of them know about gender, but what is missing is practical information on how to include gender in the policies. And this is the reason why we do these types of workshops; to be able to create some kind of ‘wave’ of awareness, states Tatiana. According to Jennifer Twyman, right now, three days before the COP20, is the time once more to place this topic on the minds of polcy makers, so they can discuss this with their delegates.

Strengthening the capacity of poor people to adapt to the impacts of climate change is a necessity, as well as an opportunity. Policies that help decrease, and not increase, gender gaps are necessary. Also, these policies need to be designed according to women’s and men’s respective needs, as it is stated by the participants of the workshop.

Tatiana Gumucio facilitates the participatory definition of ‘gender’ Photocredit: Manon Koningstein (CIAT)Tatiana Gumucio facilitates the participatory definition of 'gender'. Photocredit: Manon koningstein (ciat)

For example, when we talk about access to information, it is critical to consider the different communication networks of men and women. Failing to do so can lead to public policies and programs that unintentionally exclude women. If we want to make sure that climatic information reaches women, for instance, it would be ideal to choose women’s places of information like water source. Fetching water tends to be a specifically female task. Also, women often go fetch water together, and therefore they can discuss this information, or share it with others, while walking back from the water source to their houses.

However, we have often seen that information is transmitted, for instance, via the radio or formal institutions. These are means through which men commonly access information.

We should take into account all these considerations because women tend to be more receptive to information as well as to change. When women attend a workshop, it is certain that the information will be dispersed. They are able to invent their own techniques, and combine them with traditional knowledge, as well as with the information learned.

But there is also another side of the coin. When we talk about gender equality, we do not only refer to equality for women. When we talk about migration, for example, it is almost always men who move; they feel forced to migrate when times are hard. Its not just that men are forced to migrate due to strict gender roles, says Emilia Reyes.

The next steps

The day ended with participatory brainstorming on the next steps for gender inclusion in climate change policies. Some of the main starting points given by the participants were to compile lessons learned and start practicing them and to organize workshops with field technicians and follow-up workshops with the key decision and policy-makers. We need more qualitative data, says Francisco Soto, to have real proof to provide to policy-makers, so that they have actual tools to integrate gender in their policies.

The workshop was important to us because it helped us define the concept of gender within the work we do. Because involving gender does not only benefit one woman, but all women and men, and in the end, the entire community, says Liliana Paz from Ecohabitats.

the Participants of the workshop. Photocredit: gian betancourt (ciat)

But we should also see where we have come until now. We already have had many fights and effort to even start talking about the involvement of a gender aspect. This is the moment for us to keep on fighting because it is not solved yet how we should articulate gender in climate change and agriculture. Both men and women should understand the gender topic, says Luis Alfonso Ortega.

A successful day

Participants described the workshop with words like useful, learning experience, repeat, clarification of concepts, importance, relevant, concrete, replicable, actuality, joint work. The day was a success and there were more and deeper discussions than we expected, says Jennifer Twyman. The knowledge of the participants at the beginning of the day was already fairly high, but we were still able to face some recurring doubts the participants had.

CCAFS hopes that on the short term these workshops will help to put this topic on the table. On the long term we hope to give the participants the actual information they need, says Jennifer Twyman.

Furthermore, this day was meant to share experiences and lessons learned among countries, something that happened until much after the official event had ended. In conclusion, CIAT/CCAFS Gender & Climate Change team is very content with the day's accomplishments and looks forward to continuing collaboration that promotes gender-inclusive policy-making for climate change mitigation and adaptation in the agricultural sector.

For pictures, please click here