Women’s Empowerment at the Frontline of Adaptation


The situation in the Hindu Kush Himalayas is rapidly changing. Mountain women and men are directly affected by the combined impact of climate change, globalization, land use change, economic liberalization, migration and others. This has posed a major challenge to the development agenda in developing and least developed countries. HKH is predicted to face a higher rate of temperature increase and an increasingly variable precipitation system and melting of the glaciers. These changes have direct bearing on the fragile mountain ecosystem, affecting the natural resource base and threatening the livelihoods of the people who depend on these resources. The Himalayas cover 80% of Nepal’s territory. Majority of the population, particularly women, depends on farming, herding or tourism for its livelihood. While men and women are likely to face many common challenges due to these changes, in many communities, climate change will have a disproportionately greater effect on women. Mountain women are often poorer and less educated than men and often excluded from decision-making processes that affect their lives. Despite these challenges, women also have a rich knowledge and skill set in managing and making wise use of natural resources and biodiversity. Although their knowledge and skills contribute to adaptation in extreme situations such as conflicts, disasters or displacement, they are not adequately acknowledged, valued and documented. These challenges vary widely across the mountain region depending on the circumstances, and our evidence base on the gendered interaction between livelihoods, natural resource management, poverty and resilience is still weak. Gender issues and climate change is an emerging topic for research and policy makers all over HKH . To develop effective adaptation strategies, there needs to be proper documentation of the impact of various changes on women and men, how they adapt to these changes and how gender-specific conditions affect their abilities to adapt. Under its regional programme on Adaptation to Change and specifically under the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP), ICIMOD hopes to fill this knowledge gap by integrating gender in the various components of the programme and also focusing on gender specific studies and research. One of the key objectives of HICAP is to, “make concrete and actionable proposals for strategies and policies considering vulnerabilities, opportunities and potentials for adaptation, with particular reference to strengthening the role of women and local communities”. HICAP seeks to enhance the role of women and gender in adaptation by understanding and integrating the opportunities and risks for women and men resulting from changing socio-economic and environmental conditions. This report is an attempt to take stock of key issues, needs and gaps in the area of gender and climate change adaptation as well as the key stakeholders and organizations working in this field in Nepal. Building on extensive field work and existing knowledge at ICIMOD and WOCAN (Woman Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management), the report explains how climate and other changes affect women, who are often at the frontline of grassroots level action. At the same time it advocates for integration of gender perspective in designing national policies and adaptation strategies. I hope this report will help raise awareness and generate adaptation policies and programmes that are more gender sensitive and inclusive.

David Molden Director General International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development


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