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Commonwealth Secretariat

Gender and climate change

Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting - Georgetown, Guyana, 15-17 October 2007

Commonwealth Secretariat, Social Transformation Programmes Division (STPD)

September 2007

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Linking gender to climate change

It is in the context of this year’s theme for the Finance Ministers Meeting, ‘Climate Change: the Challenges facing Finance Ministers’, that this brief focuses on the importance of understanding the links between gender and climate change.

  1. The predominant approach to dealing with climate change has been to see and assess it in terms of a technical problem that requires technical solutions. It is clearly evident that there has been very little attention to gender issues in the international processes concerning the development of climate change, whether in protocols, treaties or debates around them. (See box on Climate Change Milestones, page 7).

  2. However, when understanding environmental change, gender is an important dimension to take into account. Environmental management is not gender neutral and it is important that climate vulnerability assessments adequately reflect the different circumstances of men and women within communities.

  3. The differential impacts of climate change on men and women can be illustrated by the following:

    Poverty and Vulnerability

    • All conventions underline the fact that livelihoods of the poor are directly threatened by the loss of biodiversity, climate change and desertification.
    • Poverty is a key factor affecting people’s ability to provide adequate selfprotection, and it is generally accepted that women comprise a larger proportion of the world’s poor. Women’s status and activities make them experience poverty differently from men and they are more vulnerable.
    • Within the developing world, women represent the majority of low-income earners, with lower education levels and unequal access to social, economic and political resources. Gender differences in property rights and in issues related to access to information and the different cultural, social and economic roles for men and women means that climate change is likely to affect them differentially.
    • Since women form the disproportionate share of the poor in developing countries and communities that are highly dependent on natural resources, they are likely to be disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change.
    • Giving an example, following the cyclone and flood of 1991 in Bangladesh the death rate was almost five times as high for women as for men. Warning information was transmitted by men to men in public spaces, but rarely communicated to the rest of the family and as many women are not allowed to leave the house without a male relative they therefore perished waiting for their relatives to return home and take them to a safe place.1

  1. Lorena Aguilar, Global Senior Gender Advisor, IUCN - The World Conservation Union. 2004 fact sheet on Climate Change and Disaster Mitigation.

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