The implications of not providing women with equal voices, choices and opportunities affect not just their lives, but the future of the planet. Efforts to promote inclusive sustainable development and fight climate change are inextricably linked. At Winrock, we understand the urgency in engaging with women in the pressing threat that climate change poses, today, and recognize we cannot leave this problem for future generations to address. Left unchecked, climate change – along with unsustainable patterns of development – could wipe out the gains of recent decades.
Winrock is excited to celebrate this year’s theme for International Women’s Day: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” recognizing the contribution of women and girls around the world who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation and response to build a more sustainable future for all. At Winrock, we see firsthand across our programming that women and men experience climate change differently, as gender inequalities persist around the world affecting the ability of individuals and communities to adapt.
We recognize that women are among those most vulnerable to the impacts of unsustainable practices and climate change, because they often have no independent income or land rights. In many countries, women are entirely responsible for the provision of water and food for their families. And when the usual sources of these resources are disrupted, women are forced to travel farther and spend more time working for less return. Women are in fact at the heart of the household’s nexus of water, food and energy across the world – and thus often know firsthand about the challenges and potential solutions in these areas.
We also recognize the important contributions of women as decision-makers, stakeholders, educators, caregivers and experts across sectors, and that their commitment, energy, and capability across all levels will lead us to successful, long-term solutions to climate change. We support efforts in our programs that promote sustainable development in natural resource management and climate change adaptation by leveraging women’s innovations and expertise that has the potential to transform lives and livelihoods. We have learned this firsthand from our experience on projects from Senegal to the Solomon Islands, from Nepal to Tajikistan, as well as in dozens of other countries where Winrock works.
In Senegal, for example, women and men have sharply defined roles in artisanal fishing communities. Winrock’s own evidence, gleaned from collaborative learning and adaptation on the USAID Feed the Future Senegal Dekkal Geej activity, demonstrates that coastal resource conservation efforts that involve women often help improve their position within the community, leading to better representation of their interests and more decision-making power over their own livelihoods. As a result of Dekkal Geej’s interventions and focus on gender equality, the project has successfully equipped a group of nearly 50 women processors to design and access financing to strengthen climate resilience and protect livelihoods through climate adaptation activities to counter negative effects of climate change on fisheries-based livelihoods and food security. These women are gaining huge ground in improving the coastal erosion that has devastated fish landing sites. Their work has had transformative positive impacts on livelihoods.
In the Solomon Islands, women are often prevented from participating in decision-making and policy development; they are also provided only limited access to land and natural resources. With women’s voices largely absent in governance structures, Winrock is helping to develop innovative strategies that increase engagement of diverse groups of women through stakeholder consultations and dialogues about critical natural resource management issues. In different parts of the Solomon Islands, women represent a huge opportunity to raise awareness about activities that are damaging the rich marine environment. As Ruby Awa, Gender Equity and Social Inclusion Specialist with the Strengthening Competitiveness, Agriculture, Livelihoods and Environment – Natural Resource Management project says: “Addressing women’s empowerment and advancing gender equality can lead to more environmentally friendly decision-making both at the household and national levels – and addresses various levels of power that can reflect more inclusive participation.”
Climate change represents the most complex challenge of our time – and it requires a concerted, proactive and holistic response. Winrock is committed to investing in participatory, multi-stakeholder dialogues that integrate gender concerns and build on women’s unique knowledge and perspectives. We support equal space and resources for women and men to participate in climate change decision-making and action at all levels. And we work hard to ensure that climate finance should be accessible to both men and women and designed to generate mutual benefits, not exacerbate patterns of inequity.
More inclusive engagement of women in the fight against climate change means a better, more inclusive future for all. Across the world, Winrock staff are thinking about how to be more intentional in our design and delivery of this promise. Because we believe that women’s voices should be heard loudly. It’s time to seize this opportunity for a just and equitable future for all.