Climate Change Gender Action Plan argues for a greater role for women in the development of climate solutions
n the wake of the recent floods, women have become more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men. More than 33 million people have been affected by the floods. They include 1.6 million women of reproductive age. Nearly 650,000 are pregnant and in need of urgent health services.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently published a report, Climate Change Gender Action Plan (ccGAP), aimed at building the capacities of the Ministry of Climate Change and for mainstreaming gender in projects funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The report addresses gaps and identifies new ways to deal with women’s vulnerability in case of disasters. In addition, it creatively interprets the existing approaches towards the inclusion of women in the decision-making processes during calamities.
The ccGAP argues for a greater role for women in the development of climate solutions. It is an attempt to rectify the imbalance between the genders. The report makes a series of recommendations to strengthen inclusiveness at all levels of planning and action for climate change adaptation in Pakistan.
Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said on the occasion: “with the launch of ccGAP, a big step has been taken in the mainstreaming of gender considerations in climate change policy and implementation frameworks”. She said she was keen to take the actions proposed by ccGAP to mitigate the impacts of climate change on women and other vulnerable groups in the society.
Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, the IUCN-Pakistan representative, said that the ccGAP, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Climate Change (MOCC) and the IUCN, marked a new phase in the work of MOCC to ensure gender inclusion and responsiveness in combating the climate crisis.
The first half of the report talks about Pakistan’s commitment to a gender-inclusive response to climate change. Pakistan’s climate response is now driven by the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) 2021. The policy has 14 objectives aimed at building the adaptive capacity of vulnerable populations, including women. The ccGAP report is a key step towards achieving the main objectives of the NCCP by focusing on pro-poor and gender-sensitive adaptations.
In the second half, the ccGAP provides a framework for integrated gender-responsive climate action in Pakistan. The ccGAP identifies six priority sectors that are particularly important for building resilience where women are likely to be most severely affected. These include disaster risk reduction; agriculture and food security; forests and biodiversity; integrated coastal management; water supply and sanitation; and energy and transport.
The report mentions Pakistan as one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. The changing weather patterns will significantly affect the spatial and temporal distribution and availability of water over the coming decades.
The report notes that according to German Watch, Pakistan is among the 15 countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The extreme heat wave in May and extreme flooding are two systemic, interlinked extreme events. Every extreme weather event is a result of a previous event.
Climate-related disasters also have a strong impact on the economy of the country. The report maintains that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank (WB) claim that according to some estimates, Pakistan is facing up to $3.8 billion annual economic loss due to climate change. Pakistan has also dropped seven places in the Human Development Index (HDI), ranking 161 out of 192 countries in 2021-2022 period, according to a UNDP report.
Women in developing countries like Pakistan are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate disasters due to deep-rooted gender discrimination. According to the 2022 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index report, Pakistan is ranked as the second worst country in the world in terms of gender parity. The impact of natural disasters is 14 times greater on women and children than on men. Women and girls face additional challenges, including difficulty in access to healthcare and relief supplies, vulnerability to various fears in relief camps and threats to personal safety. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), women and girls are more likely to suffer from waterborne diseases. In addition, recovery from infections and diseases is difficult for women with limited mobility and livelihood opportunities.
The 2010 floods displaced almost 1.5 million people in Sindh, out of which 49 percent were women. The agriculture sector is the most vulnerable to climate change and is central to the livelihoods of Pakistani women, especially in rural areas. Women are involved in farming, livestock rearing, harvesting crops and collecting fuel wood. When destructive weather events occur, women’s employment and earnings are highly impacted as they do not receive enough assistance to find alternative means of livelihood.
The report mentions Pakistan as one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. The changing weather patterns will significantly affect the spatial and temporal distribution and availability of water over the coming decades. The report refers to WaterAid 2022, which states that Pakistan is among the ten countries in the world with the largest number of people without access to safe drinking water. Water scarcity forces women and girls to travel long distances to fetch water, putting at risk their personal safety, the report observes. Lack of access to water and toilet and menstrual hygiene management issues create shame and anxiety in women and girls. This also aggravates gender inequalities.
In addition, the report provides gender-transformative climate responses, success indicators, programmes and initiatives to involve women in important decision-making conversations.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in AJ&K. She tweets hunain_mahmood and can be reached at hunainmehmud101gmail.com