Session 6.1 are women victims, agents, perpetrators of climate change
Are women victims, agents or perpetrators of climate change?
Gender and climate change discourses in policy & research
Bimbika Sijapati Basnett
Center for International Forestry Research
World Congress on Agroforestry, Delhi, Feb 10th – 14th, 2014
Purpose & arguments
• Gender a ‘late-comer’ in climate change policies.
But gaining focus due to adaptation &
vulnerability, on the one hand, and pressure to
consider gender as an important variable for
analysis, on the other.
• But two recent trends require critical scrutiny.
– Policy - Premise for integrating gender rests on
tenuous assumption and weak empirical evidence.
– Research on gender and agroforestry – tabulate
gender disaggregated data and make far-reaching
Feminist Political Ecology
• Political ecology – “a concern with tracing the genealogy of narratives
concerning “the environment”, with identifying power relationships
supported by such narratives, and with asserting the consequences of
hegemony over, and within these narratives for economic and social
development, and particularly for constraining possibilities for selfdetermination” (Stott and Sullivan 2012)
• Feminist political ecology– is there a gender dimension to these narratives
and how might these interact with feminist objectives, strategies and
• Recent advances in feminist theory - gender as beyond description of
women and men. As political, relational, intersectional, and performative.
• Discourse analysis – trace shared meaning of a phenomenon; actors and
processes producing, reproducing and transforming discourses; and social
impacts and policy outcomes of discourses.
“In many contexts, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate
change than men – primarily as they constitute the majority of the
world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihoods on natural
resources that are threatened by climate change” (UN Women 2013)
Productions and reproduction of stark
figures with shock value
Women constitute 70% of the poor and 14 times more
likely to die of natural disasters.
• But such data isin’t available!
• Gender and poverty are two separate issues
• Comparing male and female-headed HHs exaggerates
asset poverty of women.
• Originated from anecdotal use in natural hazards
workshop in 1994 and repeated endlessly.
• Gender gaps in mortality rates only makes sense when
combined with other forms of disadvantage such as
class, caste, ethnicity etc.
Persistence and pitfalls?
• Driven by motivation to put women and unequal power
relations to policy discussions over climate change.
• Seek sympathy and strategic coalition with those who
privilege ‘efficiency’/investing in women as /smart
• But understanding of gender is limited to stereotypes of
women and men.
• Instrumental use of gender/women. Previous research
suggests women’s work increased without accompanying
• Weaken the credibility gender research and implement
policies that reproduce/reify gender inequalities.
Gender discourses in
Increasing pressure/concern to consider gender as an important variable. But
focus on tabulating gender disaggregated data rather than carrying out gender
analysis informed by over 20 years of feminist research.
• Either – differences in responses by women and men unexplained or lacking in
careful gender analysis (paucity of history, politics, structural inequalities).
• Make far-reaching consequences based on findings. Methodological
“Contrary to expectations and gender stereotypes, the increased involvement of
women in landscape level decision making may serve to increase emissions from
deforestation in the area, thus posing further challenges to emissions reductions”.
• But also, normative implications of research for policy. Fodder to neoconservativism?
“.. .policy support for greater gender equality in decision making does not necessarily
and immediately coincide with environmental goals, and hard choices between
objectives may have to be made”.
Lessons for future policy research
• Facts and figures investigated and not
• Sound gender analysis
• Normative implications of research
• Rights-based rather than instrumental