Clarifying Misconceptions on Gender and Risk

Author: Jennifer Baumwoll, Project Coordinator, Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility


Discussions on risk reduction will be centre stage over the coming months, and gender will undoubtedly enter the conversation.  So when advocating for an inclusion of gender-responsive risk reduction policy and action, we must clear up a few common misconceptions that could potentially undermine these efforts.


Misconception number 1: Gender is just about women.


While the widespread concept of integrating gender has become synonymous with making sure to consider women, it is in fact much more nuanced than that; and it goes well beyond peppering the words ‘women’ across a document or proposal.

Gender is about ensuring that perspectives and needs of both men and women are taken into account.  While it is true that women have historically been (and often continue to be) left out of decision-making, considering gender is more about understanding the local gender dynamics than it is about focusing on women.

The project I coordinate, the Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility, encompasses projects across six countries, all working to prepare communities for disaster and climate impacts, particularly smallholder farmers.  A study done in 2016 analyzed the gender-related experiences and lessons learned from the six countries. It defines gender dynamics in three ways:  roles and responsibilities, gender-based differences in accessing resources (e.g. land, water, finance) and gender power relations.  Understanding these dynamics, and how they relate to both men and women, helps ensure gender-responsive adaptation.

Let me give you an example.

The Tillaberi region in Eastern Niger has been facing chronic food insecurity for over a decade due to environmental degradation and climate change-induced drought. Gendered roles and responsibilities look like this: Men typically own the land to produce staple crops (e.g. millet, sorghum) during the rainy season and then migrate to find additional work in the lean season, while women stay at home to take care of the household.

Our project understood this, and the associated power dynamics . To address the risk, it took a two-pronged approach. First, we introduced new drought-resilient varieties of millet as well as improved water management practices. These efforts helped ease men’s workload and increase production of this staple crop.  Second, the project supported women to undertake off-season vegetable production during the lean season.  This included securing access to and protection of land from men and engaging groups to collectively manage the plot - which was easier for women who had other responsibilities and worked well in existing cooperatives.

These complementary approaches have led to a substantial increase in food security, through increased crop production for both consumption and income generation.  Considering these gender dynamics and taking different approaches for men and women therefore helped the entire household and community.


Continue to the full article here.


Source: UNDP

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