Women’s Empowerment at the Frontline of Adaptation
The gender-related impacts of climate change are often discussed in global meetings of climate change and gender activists, where women are generally portrayed as vulnerable victims of climate change. Only rarely are such discussions based on primary research that incorporates the perspectives of women farmers and environmental managers from the global South and communicates their agency as actors who respond to such challenges. This study provided WOCAN with an opportunity to interview women farmers of the hills and mountain areas of Nepal, to identify and analyse their challenges and responses associated with climate change. The scoping study looked at the impact of climate change on women’s material conditions and the implications for their position and empowerment in terms of social, economic, and political perspectives and processes. The key finding of the study is that there has been a significant increase in rural women’s workloads due to the possible impacts of climate change brought on by the drying up of ponds and springs, erratic rainfall, and extended dry spells and drought. This increase in workload is having multiple effects on women’s health, income, safety, nutrition, levels of violence against women, and, ultimately, women’s social, economic, and political empowerment. Key emerging issues confirmed by the research include the increase in women’s workload and drudgery; loss of traditional and new income for women; reinforcement of the exclusion of women; the backsliding of rural women’s achievements and roles; declining women’s leadership; an increase in violence against women; a mismatch between demand and supply; the need for alternative technologies and new knowledge; health; and access to financial resources. The knowledge generated from this study has informed WOCAN’s strategic planning based on recommendations to: increase and enhance rural women’s engagement in local-level climate change planning, implementation, and decision-making processes; strengthen local-level women’s organizations and networks to benefit from climate change policies and programmes; provide specific funds and resources for women; promote time saving appropriate and alternative technologies for women; establish local-level pre- and post-assessment mechanisms; invest in developing the skills of local-level service providers on climate change issues; enhance national and local- level institutional capacities for gender equality; develop the awareness of men to support women’s leadership; strengthen women’s leadership; mainstream gender-sensitivity in relation to climate change interventions in relevant institutions; and conduct further research. It is hoped that this scoping study will be of use to researchers and policy makers working on the gendered impacts of climate change to inform a more gender-sensitive approach to climate change interventions and to value the input and experience of women in adapting to climate change in Nepal.
Jeannette Gurung Executive Director Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN)
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