Toward Gender-Responsive Ecosystem-Based Adaptation - Why it’s needed and how to get there

Submitted by Sohara Mehroze Shachi | published 27th Jul 2021 | last updated 8th Sep 2021
Women farming in Nepal

Credit: CIFOR (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Introduction

Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) has emerged as an approach to addressing the impacts of climate change in ways which reduce people’s vulnerability while also building the resilience and adaptive capacity of ecosystems. Though gender considerations are recognised as important to the success of EbA, there is limited evidence of EbA initiatives taking systematic approaches to addressing gender inequalities, including the root causes.

The purpose of this report is two-fold: to illustrate the importance of integrating gender considerations in EbA actions, and to provide concrete examples of how this can be done in practice. The primary audiences are EbA practitioners and climate change and environmental policy-makers, including government decision-makers and technical support staff, civil society organisations, private sector enterprises, and research institutions.

The report begins with a description of the rationale for integrating gender considerations in EbA action from policy and implementation perspectives. It then outlines what gender-responsive EbA looks like in practice, introducing a set of broadly applicable building blocks, followed by case examples that illustrate how the building blocks have been applied in different contexts. Finally, recommendations are provided to improve the practice of gender-responsive EbA going forward. 

The key messages are provided below. For more details, download the full report from the right.

Gender considerations for EbA approaches

It is important to consider and address gender and social equality concerns at all points in the design, planning, implementation and evaluation of EbA actions. To guide a gender-responsive approach, we have identified a set of “building blocks” representing key steps that can be taken at different stages.* 

  1. EbA planning informed by gender analysis. Gender and intersectional analyses enable an understanding of gender and social differences and systemic discrimination that must be addressed to make progress toward equality. With this knowledge, EbA actions can be planned and implemented in ways that recognise gender roles and dynamics while tackling discriminatory norms and practices. Gender analyses must be ongoing and iterative processes that inform learning, monitoring and evaluation, with participation built in throughout.
  2. Targeted EbA actions that address gender-specific needs and capacities. A range of actions may be needed to reduce social vulnerability, such as recognising gender-specific roles in different livelihoods. Targeted actions may also be needed to overcome social barriers to resource access and control, for example by engaging with community leaders who make land-use and resource decisions, to ensure that EbA actions not only don't exacerbate existing inequalities but also proactively work to reduce them. There may be a need to channel resources on an equity (i.e. need/priority) basis to groups that are typically excluded and marginalised.
  3. EbA planning processes actively engage under-represented voices. The leaders of EbA planning processes must actively work to create opportunities for meaningful participation by women, Indigenous Communities, and others whose opinions are often left out of decision making. This may require targeted gender-sensitive consultations, capacity building, and engagement of facilitators representing excluded and marginalised groups. 
  4. EbA actions promote gender equitable and inclusive governance of natural resources. In some cases, existing governance systems are discriminatory, in terms of resource access and use, representation of women and marginalised groups, and sharing of benefits from ecosystem services, which can exacerbate vulnerability to climate change and undermine efforts to protect biodiversity. As EbA actions are implemented, it is important to engage with decision makers at different levels to raise awareness of discriminatory policies and practices, and to promote governance of ecosystem services that is gender-equitable and inclusive.
  5. Structures set up to implement EbA actions are gender-equitable and inclusive. Attention to gender balance and inclusion of under-represented groups in these mechanisms is an essential element of a gender-responsive approach. Awareness raising and capacity building may be needed to facilitate this participation.
  6. Participatory monitoring & evaluation systems track who is benefitting from EbA actions and how. For a gender-responsive approach, this process must utilise disaggregated data and examine who is benefiting from EbA actions, how, and why or why not, as well as tracking any unintended negative benefits on particular groups or communities.

Given that gender responsiveness is highly dependent on the context and the process undertaken, these building blocks represent approaches that are broadly applicable and can help ensure that EbA initiatives promote gender equality and don’t exacerbate existing inequalities.

Recommendations

The following recommendations for enhancing gender-responsive EbA approaches are aimed at decision-makers, practitioners and funders operative in EbA-relevant spaces:

  1. Build capacity for gender analysis within the EbA community. Gender and intersectional analysis are foundational to gender-responsive planning. It’s also fundamental for tracking differential impacts of EbA initiatives on people of different genders and social groups.
  2. Engage gender experts in EbA planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Experts can support the application of a gender lens in all stages of EbA initiatives and should have recognised roles in project teams and oversight mechanisms.
  3. Create opportunities for women to take on leadership roles. This may involve targeted capacity building to take on leadership roles, influencing how, when, and where processes are organised to make it easier for women to be involved, and addressing structural barriers to women's leadership. 
  4. Allocate resources for participatory processes. Investments in developing methodologies, tailoring communication approaches to meet the needs of different groups, and building gender-responsive facilitation skills may also be needed to support EbA actors to engage under-represented and marginalised people in the process.
  5. Invest in building the evidence base on EbA and gender equality. Documentation and sharing of gender analyses, as well as the results of gender-responsive monitoring, evaluation, and learning processes, are essential to expand the evidence base and ensure that lessons are shared and incorporated in approaches over time, across scales.
  6. Engage with local governance systems to advocate for equitable representation. EbA initiatives should be embedded in local governance systems to ensure their sustainability. Engagement with local authorities and decision-making mechanisms also presents an opportunity to advocate for equitable representation of women and marginalised groups. Addressing under-representation in governance systems is one way to drive systemic change, toward more equitable distribution of benefits derived from ecosystem services.

Citation

GIZ (2021). Toward gender-responsive Ecosystem-based Adaptation: Why it’s needed and how to get there. Authors: A Dazé (IISD) and A. Terton (IISD). Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Bonn, Germany