In the face of escalating climate change impacts on vulnerable rural populations globally, the chief of the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said promoting gender equality in rural communities is essential to climate change adaptation.
“We call on the international community to increase investments geared towards building rural women and girls’ skills and capacity to adapt to climate change,” said Alvaro Lario, IFAD president, during an event held at the climate change conference in Dubai.
IFAD’s call comes as the latest data has confirmed that the financing gap between mitigation and adaptation is widening. Despite an overall increase of climate funds, finance directed towards adaptation efforts has dropped by as much as 44 percent during 2019-2020, according to the Climate Policy Index.
Rural women are persistently left out of climate finance activities despite their key role in rural economies, reinforcing existing inequalities. Official climate development assistance dedicated to gender equality as the “principal” objective represented 2.4 percent of the total during 2018-2019, according to OECD data.
The concept that “climate change is not gender neutral” was a key takeaway at the event; “Untangling the nexus between gender and climate” at COP28 led by the Gender Transformative Mechanism (GTM), one of IFAD’s most innovative initiatives. Panelists recognized the challenge lies in bringing about systemic change. “This requires doing things differently,” said Lario.
Climate change is amplifying gender inequalities and posing unique threats to women’s livelihoods, health, and safety. In rural settings, women often bear the responsibility for fetching food, water and fuel for their families, making them more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Women are also more affected by extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts, because of discriminatory gender norms that hinder or prevent women’s access to extension services, education, finance, land ownership and climate information needed to adapt.
Given the significant role that women play in agriculture, biodiversity conservation and food security, they have the potential to actively participate and implement adaptation measures. However, rural women and gender equality issues are not often a priority for governments. Women are often underrepresented in climate policy decision-making at all levels.
“Investing in the nexus of gender equality and climate change to transform the whole food value chain from farm to fork, is a unique opportunity to unlock women’s potential as drivers of socio-economic change, while we address many interconnected challenges at the same time,” said Alvaro Lario, referring to the mechanism.
Lario and Fatoumata BAKO/TRAORE, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Economy, Burkina Faso, committed to working together on gender equality in the context of climate change through the GTM partnership. This initiative is currently being implemented in Burkina Faso with a budget of $5.84 million, Ethiopia ($4.5 million) and India ($5.25 million) to support a total of 1 million women across the three countries.
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with $23 million since 2021, GTM is the biggest IFAD facility on gender equality. The mechanism aims to mobilize $180 million by 2030 to promote investments, skills-building and activities to achieve gender‑transformative results at scale in rural areas, and increase women and girls’ capacity and participation in climate change adaptation.
Tefera Tadesse, Natural Resource Management director at the Ministry of Agriculture, Ethiopia; Yvonne Pétronille YAMEOGO, Focal Point on Gender and Climate Change, Ministry of Environment, Energy, Water and Sanitation, Burkina Faso; and Kehkashan Basu, Founder of Green Hope Foundation, environmental and human rights activist, also attended the event.