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As we celebrate Earth Day -- our celebration of Madre Tierra (Mother Earth) -- most of us can't help but be concerned about the impact that climate change has on her health and our own lives. Mother Earth is clearly urging a call for action. The impact from weather-related events, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of human and natural systems to current climate variability. As we face COVID-19, we are also reminded of the connection of this worldwide health pandemic to the health of our ecosystem.

Women more vulnerable to climate change

However, the impact of climate change on women and girls is not the same. Women are increasingly being seen as more vulnerable to the impact of climate change mainly because they represent the majority of the world's poor and are proportionally more dependent on threatened natural resources. Women are often responsible for food, water and fuel, meaning the scarcity of these resources has an obvious impact. Climate change is leading to increased violence against women around the world(1) as the strain over limited resources reinforces existing power imbalances within communities and individual households. 

Women key agents to adaptation

But as much as the climate impact is unique to women, their role as a key agent of adaptation and resilience is also predominant and essential. Despite women being disproportionately affected by climate change, they have great power to influence climate actions on the ground and provide solutions to their communities. Women and girls are the basis for any resilient society which government strategies and plans should take into account. At national levels, efforts should be made to mainstream gender perspective into national policies and strategies, as well as related sustainable development and climate change plans and interventions. 

Women empowerment is key

Mother Earth day reminds us that by addressing gender inequality, we also increase our resilience and capacity to adapt to climate change. Based on this rationale, SNV has created a unique women’s economic Balancing Benefits approach. The strength of our gender programme is that it leverages our livelihood programmes. When women’s empowerment is integrated to SNV Climate and Business Product, women and men often see immediate benefits of changing their behaviour.

Some of our experiences are: 

  • With the Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises (EOWE/FLOW), SNV implemented a programme with the aim of boosting the start-up and development of women’s businesses in rural areas in Kenya and Vietnam. The programme has 3 key pillars: business improvement, gender equality transformation and leveraging policy frameworks. The success of the project depended on the involvement of people from all levels of local government, women’s associations, and cooperatives. The goal is to help people adapt to climate change in vulnerable areas in a gender-responsive way.
  • Through the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme, SNV supported Civil Society Organisations to foster collaboration among relevant stakeholders, influence agenda-setting and hold the government and private sector accountable for their promises and actions. We tackle four issues – food and nutrition security, resilience, renewable energy, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) – by also addressing gender balance and climate change mitigation. 
  • The Dutch Fund for Climate Development (DFCD) is a climate adaptation fund implemented together by SNV/FMO/WWF. One of the key factors for developing an investment proposal is to consider how the project could empower women, how many jobs it creates and how many people will benefit from it. The hope is that these initiatives will help narrow economic, education, health and political gaps that have been in place for many years. 

Through EOWE/FLOW, DFCD, V4CP and similar initiatives, we hope to improve gender balance and to support women to no longer be an untapped resource but put their power and energy into climate change adaptation.

 

 1 IUCN, 2020. Gender-based violence and environment linkages

Expert

Harko Koster

Global Coordinator - Climate and Business