IPS: Gender barriers prevent women across the developing world access
funds for communities dealing with the effects of climate change
Women excluded from climate change projects in Africa, UN experts warn
ï¿½ Kristin Palitza for IPS
ï¿½ guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 28 June 2011 17.31 BST
According to the UN, 80% of the continent's smallholder farmers are
women. Photograph: Jacob Silberberg/Getty Images
Of the millions of dollars spent on climate change projects in
developing countries, little has been allocated in a way that will
benefit women. Yet, in Africa, it is women who will be most affected
by climate change.
According to United Nations data, about 80 percent of the continent's
smallholder farmers are women. While they are responsible for the food
security of millions of people, agriculture is one of the sectors
hardest hit by climate change.
"There is a lot of international talk about climate change funding for
local communities and especially for women, but not much is actually
happening," says Ange Bukasa, who runs investment facilitation
organisation Chezange Connect in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Bukasa was one of the delegates at the Climate Investment Funds (CIF)
2011 Partnership Forum, which was held from Jun. 24-25 in Cape Town,
The Climate Investment Funds (CIF), established by the World Bank in
cooperation with regional multilateral development banks, provide
funding for developing countries' climate change mitigation and
Since their launch in 2008, the CIF have allocated 6,5 billion dollars
to climate change projects in 45 developing countries. More than a
third of the money went to 15 African states.
But most of the money ï¿½ more than 70 percent ï¿½ is financing large-
scale clean technology energy and transportation projects. These are
traditionally male-dominated sectors of the formal economy.
Only 30 percent is being spent on small-scale projects that directly
benefit poor, rural communities and thereby potentially improve
Experts at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warn that
the funds could run the risk of perpetuating existing gender imbalances.
To take into account the gendered nature of energy consumption and
domestic labour patterns in a resource-poor context, women need to be
consulted when designing and implementing climate change mitigation
and adaptation initiatives, they say.
But that doesn't happen often enough. "The links between large
regional institutions that administer the funds and the people on the
ground who need to access them are missing," says Bukasa, who works
with farmers in Katanga in the southern DRC and elsewhere in the
She complains about a lack of consultation of women, who make up the
majority of smallholder farmers in the area. Bukasa also points out
that most rural communities have not been sufficiently educated about
what climate change is and how to mitigate it or adapt to it.
"People may have heard the words 'climate change', but they have no
clue what to do about it and where to access information," Bukasa warns.
That means that they remain unable to identify problems and solutions
related to climate change and hence cannot develop their own projects
and apply for funds. Their only option is to "continue farming like
before", she sighs.
Such feedback from climate change experts working at community-level
seems to have had some effect, however. The banks managing the CIF
have now pledged they will integrate gender indicators into all
operations and include them in the main criteria for the approval of
Gender analysis, sex-differentiated data, gender monitoring and gender
auditing will also be part of all projects financed by the CIF to
ensure they benefit men and women equally, they promise.
"We are planning to take gender into greater account and are
introducing more and more indicators to assess the gender dimension of
projects," says Mafalda Duarte, climate finance coordinator at the
African Development Bank (AfDB), one of the regional institutions
administering the funds.
Duarte says there is a particular focus on financing off-the-grid
energy technologies that will improve the lives of women and girls,
because they are still lumped with the burden of fetching wood and
water in rural communities.
The funds will go towards solar energy projects, improved cooking
stoves, sustainable forestry projects, solar-powered irrigation as
well as water storage and heating systems. "When we review proposals
we ensure that women will be able to access the funded technologies,"
The only drawback is that the focus is again on small-scale
investments that only make up a small percentage of the overall funds.
Duarte admits that more needs to be done: "We do need to increase the
scale of gender-sensitive projects because we have too many poor
hotspots on the continent."
Florah Mmereki, project manager at Wena Industry and Environment, an
environmental education trust based in Gaborone, Botswana, agrees that
efforts need to be accelerated: "The few climate change project
projects that exist in Botswana today are not targeted at women. It's
a huge oversight."
Mmereki says women remain excluded because participation in many
climate change adaptation projects usually requires an upfront
investment, such as a contribution to the cost of energy-efficient
"But rural women don't have access to funds. They are the ones working
in the fields, but it's their husbands who manage the money," she
notes. "There are many gender barriers that still need to be removed."
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