What Women Need: Addressing Gender and SRHR Needs in the SDGs and 2015 New Climate Agreement

November 27, 2015 CC PP pic

As the world continues to experience the adverse effects of climate change, especially in Asia-Pacific, its interlinkages with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is an increasingly visible and urgent issue that needs to be addressed in the context of sustainable development and climate change policy. The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), together with our regional partners from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines, call for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2015 New Climate Agreement to be cognizant of the interlinkages of climate change and women’s SRHR and ensure universal access to SRHR. Overall, the SDGs and 2015 new Climate Agreement should eliminate social, political and economic barriers to women’s human rights[1] and ensure gender equality and full participation of women in climate c hange processes[2]. The SDGs and 2015 New Climate Agreement must ensure that women are equal partners in building resilient communities and tackling challenges brought on by climate change.

Interlinkages of climate change, gender and SRHR

Climate change will affect every person from every region of the world, but not unilaterally. The most marginalized, such as women, children, the elderly, the poor and disabled, are the most vulnerable to its impacts. In particular, the Asia-Pacific region faces disproportionate vulnerability because of its location, high population, high rates of poverty, and dependence on agriculture and fisheries for sustenance[3]. Climate change affects women’s health in numerous ways, which vary from the day to day increased burden of feeding families and caring for the sick, to the extreme threats during disasters such as being unable to swim in a flood, and drowning. These effects are uniquely felt by women, as their gendered roles and responsibilities become more difficult, and they often lack the survival skills that their male counterparts have. Whether it is rates of violence against women increasing post disaster situations in Bangladesh, or food shortages that disproportionately affect rural women in Nepal, it is clear that women and their SRHR needs are being threatened and forgotten in climate change policies. ARROW’s partners from their community experiences are reporting increasing difficulty in accessing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, and are able to correlate this to the compounding effects from climate change. These experiences, correlations and interlinkages must be recognized in policy, mitigation, and adaptation strategies.

Resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters

The most vulnerable countries and communities are in the greatest need of adaptation strategies and resources[4]. While women are disproportionately vulnerable, and are at the forefront of climate change’s effects, they are also valuable and capable agents of change in addressing the changes brought about by climate change. As key actors, their SRHR must be addressed to ensure that they can demonstrate the resiliency needed in the adaptation and mitigation of climate changes effects[5].

Integrating climate change measures into national policies, strategies and plans

National policies, strategies, and plans that look at the issues of climate change and SRHR need to be integrated to achieve sustainable development. In developing countries, policies and commitments addressing climate change, gender equality, and universal access to SRHR are not coherent[6]. Even though women have been found to be disproportionately vulnerable to climate change related disasters, in many countries, such as Laos and Indonesia, policy as well as national and local responses to climate change are not rights based or gender sensitive [7],[8]. To enable this, various stakeholders, including women, lack awareness of climate change in general, and how it influences their SRHR. These findings tell us that government bodies working on the issues of climate change and SRHR must work together to ensure that the challenges are addressed holistically. An integrated approach is needed and the role of civil society, academia and other sectors are important in the efforts to address the interlinkages of climate change, gender and SRHR. Climate change related measures should protect human rights for all, including SRHR. National adaptation plans must also be gender responsive, participatory and fully transparent[9].

Education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

Everyone has a role to play towards achieving climate change resiliency and sustainable development. Governments, civil society, academia, and other sectors should work together in helping communities address the impact of climate change. Awareness raising on the interlinking issues should be mainstreamed towards achieving informed communities, who are ready to face the uncertainties created by climate change. The access to education and information should also be available to marginalised groups, who are the most vulnerable to climate change. In a study in Sarawak, Malaysia that focuses on indigenous women, findings show that rural women do not have access to SRH information and services and there are inequalities in terms of accessibility and quality[10]. These findings reflect the Asian landscape, and are only exacerbated in times of extreme weather and climate change disasters. The leadership and participation of women, whether rural, indigenous, farmers or fishers, must be recognised and supported in decision making processes. In order to increase their capacity for participation, women should have access to information and education on climate change. There’s also a need to enhance community disaster preparedness and resilience, especially that of women. This integrated approach will create synergies that collectively addresses the impact of climate change while ensuring gender equality and fulfilling SRHR[11]. Together with education, good governance is a requirement in climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning. In both national and local levels, this requires institutional capacities to implement and mobilise integrated actions that are accountable, transparent and participatory.

Address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation action and transparency on implementation and fully operationalise Green Climate Fund (GCF)

To address the needs of developing countries, there’s a need to ensure that the commitments in the 2015 new Climate Agreement are in line with the principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) and these encompass the costs of adaptation, mitigation, loss and damage, technology transfer, and capacity building[12]. Also the 2015 new Climate Agreement must commit to keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and the adaptation actions and resources must also be geared towards the most vulnerable countries[13]. For the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to be effective, it must be independent and accountable to the needs of the most affected and vulnerable countries in the context of climate change. Country pledges to the GCF must be kept and full participation from the sectors must be encouraged. Women’s leadership and participation in decision making must also be ensured in GCF processes.

Mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalised communities

Capacity building for effective climate change-related planning and management must ensure women’s equal access to negotiating, developing, managing, and implementing adaptation and mitigation financing[14]. The capacity building mechanisms[15] that enhance the ability of individuals, organisations and institutions to identify, plan and implement ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change, must be inclusive and guarantee gender equality so both women and men have access and can benefit from the efforts. The mechanisms must be integrated and recognise that marginalised sectors are most vulnerable to climate change. In planning and implementing capacity building initiatives, there’s also a need to recognise the value of community knowledge, traditional knowledge, and indigenous practices in climate change-related planning and management.

Position Paper by:

Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Huvadhoo Aid (Maldives), Khan Foundation (Bangladesh), PATH Foundation (Philippines), Penita Initiative (Malaysia), Sindh Community Foundation (Pakistan), University of Health Sciences (Lao PDR), Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (Nepal), Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan (Indonesia)

ARROW coordinates a regional partnership that is working together on building the interlinkages of climate change and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

[1] Post-2015 Women’s Coalition Advocacy Brief: Post 2015 Development Agenda (Climate Change & SRHR) (2014). Retrieved from http://www.post2015women.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Climate-Change2.pdf.

[2] The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) Position Paper on the 2015 New Climate Agreement (2015). Retrieved from http://womengenderclimate.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/WGC_FINAL_1June.pdf.

[3]IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Barros, V.R., C.B. Field, D.J. Dokken, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 688 pp.

[4] The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) Position Paper on the 2015 New Climate Agreement (2015). Retrieved from http://womengenderclimate.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/WGC_FINAL_1June.pdf.

[5] Population, Health, Environment & Climate Change Nexus, framework by PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc. (PFPI) (2015).

[6] Identifying Opportunities for Action on Climate Change and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines (2014). Retrieved from http://arrow.org.my/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Climate-Change-and-SRHR-Scoping-Study_Working-Paper_2014.pdf.

[7] National Scoping Study on climate change and SRHR by Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan (YJP) (2015)

[8] National Scoping Study on climate change and SRHR by University of Health Sciences (UHS) (2015)

[9] The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) Position Paper on the 2015 New Climate Agreement (2015). Retrieved from http://womengenderclimate.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/WGC_FINAL_1June.pdf.

[10] National Scoping Study on climate change and SRHR by Penita Initiative (2015)

[11] Population, Health, Environment & Climate Change Nexus, framework by PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc. (PFPI) (2015).

[12] The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) Position Paper on the 2015 New Climate Agreement (2015). Retrieved from http://womengenderclimate.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/WGC_FINAL_1June.pdf.

[13] The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) Position Paper on the 2015 New Climate Agreement (2015). Retrieved from http://womengenderclimate.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/WGC_FINAL_1June.pdf.

[14] Identifying Opportunities for Action on Climate Change and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines (2014). Retrieved from http://arrow.org.my/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Climate-Change-and-SRHR-Scoping-Study_Working-Paper_2014.pdf.

[15] Capacity-building under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol takes place on three levels: individual level, institutional level and systematic level. Retrieved from http://unfccc.int/cooperation_and_support/capacity_building/items/1033.php.