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Structural causes of gender differentiated impacts of climate change

Actual and projected climatic changes will impact differentiated social groups in different ways. For example, climate change is prompting fluxes in forest and tree resources, shifting migration patterns, and changing livelihoods (Djoudi and Brockhaus 2011; Sultana). Gender intersects with other factors of social differentiation such as age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity to influence local women and men’s exposure and capacity to respond to these changes (Carr and Thompson 2014).

The different cultural, domestic and economic roles that women and men play  in their households and communities influence the sets of knowledge they develop about forest and tree resources and the environment (Bee 2016). In turn, this knowledge contributes to their varying adaptive capacities and strategies in the face of a changing natural resource base (Djoudi and Brockhaus 2011). Gender inequalities and norms limiting women’s access to and control of resources, such as land, capital and technical services, can hinder their capacities to navigate the challenges of a changing climate (Brody et al. 2008; Lambrou and Piana 2006; Rodenberg 2009). Furthermore, while both women and men are integral players in natural resource management, men often have greater opportunity than women to participate in decision-making on sustainable development of forest and tree resources.

Importantly, research demonstrates that gender-related vulnerabilities are neither essential to women nor static (IPCC 2014). For instance, Arora-Jonsson (2011) demonstrates how gendered mortality patterns related to natural disasters are often influenced by intersecting social variables such as class and caste and vary greatly between contexts. For instance, in certain instances in India, women’s vulnerability was a function of poverty (homestead in unfavorable location) and gender (women spending more time around the homestead). In other instances, upper-caste women were more vulnerable due to the need to maintain caste-related ideas of female honor even at a time of crisis. Finally, during Hurricane Mitch, men were found to be more vulnerable due to the social and cultural norms which encourage risky behavior (2011).  Djoudi and Brockhaus (2011) find that women in northern Mali are adapting not only to the changing climate, but also to the out-migration of men. However, women’s adaptive capacities were differentiated by restrictive social norms related to class and ethnicity.

Various national as well as local governments are seeking to address climate change in their policymaking and planning in the agricultural and environmental sectors. This is demonstrated by countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), REDD+ schemes, and initiatives to develop adaptation plans and mitigation actions. In this context, it becomes increasingly urgent to develop mechanisms that promote women and men’s equal access to decision-making spaces on climate change related planning, strategies and policies to ensure that their preferences and interests are adequately represented and addressed.

Though empirical case studies on gender and climate change may be limited, critical research on the issues is developing, carried out as part of FTA by partners.

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