Women at the frontline of climate science and policy by Dr. Asuncion Lera St. Clair, Lead Author, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group II
Listening to the voices of women and increasing our awareness of gender perspectives in the climate change debate matters not only because of all the substantive reasons outlined in this Rapid Assessment, but also because they are fundamental to fulfil two pressing tasks. First, there is an urgency to produce credible scientific knowledge based on social science and humanities that contextualises and gives meaning to both the risks and the opportunities posed by climate change. Second, it is of fundamental importance that policy decisions at any scale (from local to national, regional or global) are designed in such a way as to be considered credible and relevant by the people for whom such polices are addressed. Women’s voices are important because they will increase the quality and relevance of both science and governance.
It has taken over two decades of climate science to establish the scientific basis of the problem. Although much more climate science is needed, there is now an urgency to understand what climate change means for people, for our institutions and for our future as social human beings. In addition, there is urgency to devise solutions that go far beyond technological innovation
Most importantly, to understand the role of women in adaptation to climate change, we need to understand power relations between and among women and men, and the way that climate change can exacerbate and widen these relations (Brody et al., 2008). Hence, not all women and not all men contribute to climate change in the same way (Terry, 2009; Johnson-Latham, 2007; Connell, 2005). Nor are women and men affected equally because differences in impacts and adaptation vary according to their multiple and overlapping identities, roles and access to resources that are mediated by gender, class, caste, ethnicity, marital status, life-cycle and household positioning, etc
GENDER INEQUITIES IN AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION
Given the above arguments and findings, the situation is similarly acute for millions of mountain women who struggle
and market mechanisms. While these are needed, it is unlikely that individuals and societies will transform and change towards more sustainable paths unless we understand questions such as: What kinds of institutional dependency prevent a transition towards sustainable practices? What role does entrenched interests and power have in perpetuating unequal access to and unsustainable use of existing resources? How is it possible to change legal instruments that benefit the wealthy and polluters to be more democratic and respectful of equal rights and the environment? How is policy made, which perspectives dominate in shaping policy decision and who has decision making power in the public sphere? How can we assure the rights of future generations are valued correctly? What is a good “lifestyle” in the Anthropocene? How do people’s identity change when they consider those suffering from climate related impacts, or the difficulties likely to be encountered by future generations? What is the role of culture as a barrier of driver of change?
We need answers to these questions from a gender- disaggregated perspective, and we want such answers from women’s perspectives as well as men’s. Gender studies,
on a daily basis for survival for themselves and their families under harsh environmental conditions and power relations that disadvantage them socially, economically, culturally and politically. Studies indicate that women are responsible for 65% of household food production in Asia, 75% in Sub- Saharan Africa and 45% in Latin America (Robinson, 2006; UN Women Watch, 2009). Recent studies from FAO indicate that women contribute approximately 43% of the agricultural labour force in the South, ranging from 50% in Africa and Asia to 20% in Latin America, however the statistics vary depending on specific types of crops and activities (FAO, 2011). Such regionally aggregated statistics covering a large number of countries across diverse contexts sometimes mask differences in some countries such as Nepal. In this mountainous country, the gender division of labour is highly skewed, especially when agricultural, pastoral and wage labour is combined with household, community and casual