Published | 26th February 2018

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Enhancing Resilience through Gender Equality

Gender equality and women’s voice in Asia-Pacific resilience programming. 

CARE Australia has been working with communities in the Asia-Pacific region for over three decades, supporting women, their families, and local communities to build their capacities to prepare, adapt and respond to disasters and climate change. Using participatory, rights-based approaches, with a specific focus on women, CARE has made good progress in assessing and responding to the vulnerability and capacity of women, and in promoting and enhancing more gender equitable social relations in its programming.

This report is the culmination of desk- and field-based research across six of CARE Australia’s country programs – Cambodia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste Vanuatu, and Vietnam. The author consulted over 600 documents, and the research team engaged directly with 89 people (50 female, 39 male) using participatory approaches to gather the relevant information from key informants in Papua New Guinea.

This report finds that highly gendered roles and responsibilities mean higher workloads and lower recognition of women for their work. Men and women have distinct gendered roles in agricultural production, income generation, management of natural resources and household activities, and men tend to have more authority and control of power and resources within the household and community. This leads to inequality for women in terms of division of labour, decision-making power, and access to resources.

CARE recognises that promoting women’s leadership and equal decision-making requires changes in multiple areas: women’s own sense of entitlement and confidence; expectations about women’s and men’s roles and relationships; and the social and political structures that surround her. Enabling women to become leading figures within resilience-related work increases resilience for the whole community.

With this in mind, CARE has sought to better understand how gender and other factors intersect to influence people’s vulnerability and capacity, through a range of approaches and tools, including: the Gender Equality Framework (GEF); the Community Based Adaptation (CBA) Framework; gender and power analyses; climate risk, vulnerability and capacity analyses (CVCA); inclusive planning; and monitoring change from a gender perspective. In using these tools and approaches, CARE has been better able to recognise the different ways in which women, women, girls and boys are exposed to, and sensitive to different risks, shocks and stresses; and to design and implement projects that are closer to the gender-responsive and gender-transformative end of the Gender Program Continuum.

CARE has helped build the agency of women and girls through building awareness and skills and creating structured space for critical self-reflection with key actors. For example:

  1. In Timor Leste, CARE designed and implemented dedicated training (sustainable agricultural techniques, home gardening), and supported the application of climate-resilient crops, sustainable water and land management practices, as well as risk mitigation, specifically for women. As a result, female members of farmer groups have increased knowledge, skills and confidence to apply sustainable techniques learned, and to apply knowledge and skills to mitigate risk.
  2. In Vietnam, time and effort devoted to capacity-building on gender equality, and inclusive planning with project beneficiaries and partners, facilitated a change of mindset towards more collaborative and bottom-up planning that was more inclusive of women and other vulnerable groups.

CARE has changed the power relations through which people live their lives, building solidarity and leadership amongst women and girls, and by synchronising approaches to engage men and boys. For example:

  1. In Papua New Guinea, core group members of the community-based adaptation project were configured to ensure equal representation from women, with members receiving training not only on technical aspects of the project, but also in leadership and gender equality. This helped members (in particular, women) to gain influence at the household and community level.
  2. Again in Papua New Guinea, CARE’s work with traditional male leaders (to better structure village assemblies and decision making processes to increase women’s participation and decision-making power) has resulted in changing attitudes of not only leaders, but men more generally, with wider acceptance of women as actors and decision-makers within communities.

CARE has transformed structures such as social norms and policies by working on service delivery with government and other actors; supporting alliances and movements for social change; and advocating for policy change. For example:

  1. In Vietnam, the community-based adaptation project worked closely with the Women’s Union to strengthen women’s role in local governance structures and broaden their skills and expertise climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. As a result, the Women’s Union gained capacity and grew with the challenge.
  2. In Vanuatu, the program was able to influence government policy, through contribution to key policies, mobilising civil society involvement in the consultation process, participation of women on policy steering committees, and even by being charged with drafting specific sections of policies.

Key recommendations

For CARE and other organisations who value the importance of targeting future resilience-related programs to maximise gender equality and women’s voice, the following strategies and actions are recommended:

Recommendations for programs

  1. Invest in a context-specific analysis to understand the interconnected factors shaping the aspirations of men and women, in order to design effective and appropriate action.
  2. Ensure that the program has a gendered Theory of Change (ToC), with specific gender goals and objectives, informed by a gender analysis.
  3. Integrate gender-responsive and gender-transformative interventions to support progress on the program Theory of Change and gender goals/ objectives.

Recommendations for multiplying impact over time

  1. Promote gender equality and women’s voice as a core approach in all programs.
  2. Engage men in order for traditional structures to change.
  3. Address power and resources imbalances in the household and community, and transform gendered
    roles and responsibilities.
  4. Plan for long-term development.
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