Policies on climate change fail to acknowledge women’s role

PRAGATI SHAHI EVEN as women bear a disproportional burden of the impact of climate change, national programmes and policies on climate change hardly take into account this reality.

Women, especially in the rural areas, spend far more time doing household chores than their male counterparts. Since their daytoday activities such as fetching water from distant sources to collecting firewood and fodder are closely linked with climatic conditions, women are the first to feel the effects of climate change.

But the latest policy framework on Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPA) approved by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) in November 2011—designed to help the vulnerable communities—has failed to prioritise gender issue while developing strategies to combat climate change. The Lapa's main objective is to enable communities to understand changing and uncertain future climatic conditions and engage effectively in the process of developing adaptation priorities, along with implementing climate resilient plans that are flexible to vulnerable communities at the local level.

“There is not a single reference to gender issue in the document that is being worked out for helping the vulnerable communities to develop climate resilient strategies,” said Mina Khanal, joint secretary at the MoE.

Not only LAPA, the existing policies and strategies such as National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), a national framework on national climate change action providing short-term and immediate adaptation strategies and Climate Change Policy 2011, have not incorporated gender issue in the document. Batu Krishna Uprety, under secretary at the MoE, agrees that the existing policies and strategies lack mainstreaming gender due to lack of consultation during the preparatory phase of the programmes. “However, we are working to involve women in the implementation phase of the recently approved LAPA and NAPA,” Uprety said.

He added that the government is working to formulate a strategy on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the role of women can be highlighted in it.

In Nepal, over 90 percent of people in the rural areas depend on forest resources for livelihood. Though women are an important stakeholder in forest resource management, they are neglected in the decision-making process.

The constitution of the Forest User Group (FUG) under the Federation of Community Forests Users' Nepal has a provision that at least 50 percent of the members should be women. However, women participation in forest resources and management programmes in the FUG committees are limited due to socio-cultural barriers, said Apsara Chapagain, Fecofun chairperson.

“Women's participation in the decisionmaking process is dismal though they play an important role in implementing those decisions,” she said, underscoring the need for gender sensitive policies to ensure women's rights to forest resources.

A growing body of evidence shows that women tend to be disproportionately more vulnerable to climate change impact than men. Because of their vulnerability to natural disasters like, floods, droughts and cyclones, it's vital that women play a more central role in building their communities' climate resilience, read a World Bank report published in December 2011.

Meanwhile, with a need to urge the government to take gender differentiated impact on climate change, the International Union for Conservation of Nature in coordination with the MoE is developing Gender in Climate Change Strategy for Nepal.

“The strategy will help guide the existing and new policies being undertaken by the government to be gender sensitive to combat climate change,” Khanal said. Women's participation in decision-making process is dismal though they play an important role in implementing those decisions.


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