Empowering women to take the lead on climate change adaptation

We can all support the process of empowering women to take the lead, both during local meetings or on climate adaptation. CCAFS South Asia works with local partners to train women champions to train others on climate change impacts. Photo: IFPRI
Our South Asia program has for the past two years organized a series of workshops aimed to give women leaders skills and knowledge on how to adapt to climate change and sensitize others on the same topic. The trainings aim to inspire change across the region, and lead to more gender-sensitive adaptation strategies.

As women make up on average 43 percent of the agriculture workforce - almost 50% in South and Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa - they bear the brunt of climate impacts just as much as their male counterparts. But women face specific barriers when it comes to tackling climate change, as many lack sufficient access to weather information and services, struggle with lower levels of literacy and have to face a society with institutionalised social inequalities.

With the ambition to transform the unequal playing field for women and to ensure that climate adaptation activities benefit men and women farmers equally, CCAFS South Asia organised a series of “train-the-trainer workshops” on the theme: Gender, Agriculture and Climate Change. For two years, these trainings have been rolled out in 75 districts in Nepal and in Bihar, a state in north-eastern India.

The workshops aimed to increase local women leaders' understanding of what climate change is, illustrate the differentiated impacts on male and female farmers and show how farming in their regions will be affected. In the end, these trainings aim to support women to improve their incomes and livelihoods.

The trainings also prepared the participating women to train others on these cross-cutting issues, and show how both men and women farmers can successfully adapt to an increasingly variable climate.

In Bihar, Seetha, an elected representative from Muzaffarpur district, attended one of these trainings and took away some key messages:

“We received training on how we can continue to farm productively even under a changing climate. I understood how climate change can be detrimental to agriculture.” 

Organised and lead by local partners, the training workshops encouraged women to make links with the district agriculture office, so they too can benefit from local level schemes and programmes. Making sure women, and men, have the knowledge on how to claim their rights to climate- and weather information, for example, is a crucial part in climate adaptation work.

Trainings have now been held across 17 districts in Bihar, with over 1,500 women participating. In Nepal, around 7,000 women participated in the training workshops which covered all 75 districts. Nearly 10.000 copies of the CCAFS Manual on Gender and Climate Change, translated into Nepali, were distributed.

Watch a video prepared by our partners ViDocs illustrating one of these trainings. It showcases how CCAFS South Asia is working with partners such as Alternative Futures and women's groups such as the Bihar Mahila Samakhya to spread the message on climate change which will hopefully help build the basis for more resilient farms and households in the region:

CCAFS strives to put women’s voices at the centre of the climate change debate, not only because they are potentially more vulnerable to environmental changes but because it is their rights as human beings to have equal access to the tools and information needed to tackle climate change. Through the trainings, CCAFS aims to inspire and support change and buid resilience among women and men farmers. 

Read more about our Gender Work in this Brief: Enabling people to reach their full potential in adapting agriculture to climate change

Learn more:
- View photos from the
Training in Bihar, India
- Get the Gender Training Manual for South Asia in English
- A blog from the Bihar Gender & Climate Change Training: Taking the lead: local champions train farmers on climate change and gender issues
- Blog: Training women to train others: a smart way to spread the message about gender and climate change

Dharini Parthasarathy and Cecilia Schubert both work as Communications Specialists for CCAFS.

This story is part of a blog-series aimed to highlight International Women's Day on 8 March and this year's theme #Inspiring Change. Help us celebrate IWD by following us online on Twitter, Facebook and Storify using #IWD2014 for more updates. Read additional gender-related stories on our blog