Climate Change

China, south Asia not proactive in reducing climate impacts on women: ICIMOD

Most policy documents are silent on the existing pay gaps and women’s access to agricultural resources

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Friday 30 September 2022
Energy poverty is intrinsically linked to economic deprivation. Representative photo: iStock_

Governments of countries in South Asia and the Hindu-Kush Himalaya (HKH) regions have not done much to address the impact of climate change on women, according to a new report.

At the same time, the national policies of these regions recognise that women are more negatively impacted by climate change, noted the State of Gender Equality and Climate Change in South Asia and the HKH Region report released September 29, 2022.

“We can see gender integration in policy documents. But when it comes implementation, gender is not getting attention,” said Abid Hussain, senior economist and food systems specialist, livelihoods at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to arrest climate change acknowledged the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment. But it does not suggest any measures for the same, the report highlighted.

Similarly, the National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC), 2008 recognises that women are more vulnerable to climate change but lacks apparent gender and social inclusion measures.

The ICIMOD report classified NDCs and NAPCC as gender-sensitive since they recognise gender problems.

Some of the national plans — Bhutan’s Climate Change Policy 2020; Nepal’s National Adaptation Plan 2021, National Climate Change Policy 2019 and NDC 2020; Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy 2021 and Climate Change Gender Action Plan 2022 — were gender-responsive and considered gender-specific needs.

We need gender-equal climate outcomes to ensure that no one is left behind, Maria Holtsberg from the UN Women Asia and Pacific Regional Office, said.

But, “this is not at the front and centre of a lot of government policies,” she highlighted.

Climate change is further widening the gender gap and worsening existing social inequalities, the authors of the report wrote. Limited mobility and voice in decision-making contribute to this, they added.

The report assessed the state of gender equality and climate change in climate-affected sectors such as agriculture, water and energy. 

It covered 10 countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

China, India, Nepal and Pakistan are witnessing climate change-induced migrations of men. They leave for better livelihood options and employment, leaving behind women, children and the elderly, the report noted.

Also read: Why this abandoned village is a threat to Uttarakhand

This adds more workload to the female population, the report added.

Women are also informally involved in the trade of agricultural products. “Although the volume of trade is significant, its informal nature means that there are no regional or national policy measures to safeguard these women traders,” the authors noted.

There is also a pay gap between women and men. But most policy documents of South Asia and HKH regions are silent on this aspect.

These policies do not address women’s lack of or limited access to and control over the resources necessary for agricultural activities.

“Land rights are held by men,” the findings stated. Women are not recognised while formulating policies on groundwater or irrigation, as they are tied to land rights.

The researchers pointed out data gaps in assessments and recommended countries to maintain gender-disaggregated data.

“It is known that more women are below the poverty line than men, but we don’t have enough data,” said Aditi Kapoor from the Red Cross Climate Centre, India.

More data on the same will guide gender budgeting or allocations, she added. She recommended roping civil society groups and local frontline workers in government departments to plug the data gap.

“Ministries of women or women commissions are not taking the lead in women and climate change,” she pointed out.

Energy poverty is intrinsically linked to economic deprivation. Women and girls are disproportionally impacted, the findings of the report stated.

“Children in rural areas with poor access to energy are more likely to give up on education,” said Dechen Dema, department of renewable energy, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Bhutan. 

The report called for gender equality and social inclusion-sensitive assessments. Monitoring and evaluating interventions in the agriculture, energy and water sectors can help improve the effectiveness of policies in the short term, it added.

Other recommendations include guaranteeing the meaningful participation of women and marginalised groups in policy dialogues. They should also be involved in developing climate-related interventions in these sectors.

Governments also need to evaluate implemented policies regularly. This will help them identify and learn lessons, the report suggested. Strengthening mechanisms for sharing knowledge is also crucial, it added.

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