Published | 11th November 2015

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Gender dynamics in a changing climate: How gender and adaptive capacity affect resilience

Gender, climate change and adaptive capacity are intricately linked. Poor and marginalised women and men face multiple and complex challenges. Climate change further exacerbates these challenges and threatens to erode development gains made to date. Unequal distribution of resources and power imbalances are both the root cause of poverty and also impact on a person’s capacity to adapt.

There are many different factors which shape inequality across gender, ethnic, cultural or religious groups and therefore also determine the different ways in which climate change impacts on individuals, households and communities. Differences in access to information, control over resources and ability to innovate in response to climate challenges determine a person, household or community’s ability to adapt. Furthermore, their different roles give women and men different knowledge, priorities and concerns in relation to climate change.

Adaptation interventions are often based on the belief that women’s role in the home makes them critical agents of change and, thus, a focus for adaptation interventions. But many women do not have decision-making power within the home or over all household resources, let alone over valued livelihood resources and may not be able to keep or manage their own earnings. Even in some female-headed households, social stigma may prevent many women from being treated as economic or social equals, despite their sole management of their livelihoods. These barriers tend not to be addressed by climate change adaptation programmes, which can inadvertently entrench gender inequality and even increase women’s workloads.

This learning brief synthesises lessons drawn from CARE’s Adaptation Learning Programme for Africa (ALP), which has been supporting vulnerable communities in sub-Saharan Africa to adapt to the impacts of climate change since 2010. It is based on evidence and practical experience in implementing community based adaptation (CBA), about gender dynamics and the ways in which CBA can increase adaptive capacity and promote gender equality. It identifies the factors shaping gender dynamics and adaptive capacity and gives examples of how to integrate gender into CBA approaches as well as outlining knowledge gaps and recommendations for policy and practice.

This document is also available in French

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