Gender Roles and Vulnerability to Climate Change

Submitted by Andrew Maclean | published 31st Mar 2011 | last updated 13th Jan 2020

In every society, women and men have different roles inside and outside the household, and different resources to deliver them. In the rural communities of the developing countries where Oxfam works, men’s roles typically focus on earning cash by growing food, trading, or selling their labour. But it is largely the role of women to provide the food, fuel, water, and the care that the family needs (all for no pay), in addition to earning some cash. In such communities, women are likely to have:

Greater reliance on natural resources – like rivers, wells, reliable rainfall, and forests;

Fewer physical resources – such as land, fertiliser or irrigation, and fewer assets (like machinery, or a bicycle) to use to make money, or to sell as a last resort;

Fewer financial resources – little cash, savings or access to credit, and less access to markets that give a good price for their goods;

Less powerful social resources – due to social and cultural norms that limit their mobility and their voice in decision making, reinforce traditional roles, and put them at risk of violence;

Fewer human resources – due to having less education, fewer opportunities for training, and less access to official information.

Source: K. Raworth (2008) ‘Coping with Climate Change: What works for women’, Oxfam Internal document.