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Gender responsive finance interventions are central to tackling climate change

Webinar demonstrates how crises hit women hardest
A woman wearing a bag on her side, scatters fertilizer from a bowl
An oil palm worker scatters fertilizer. CIFOR/Icaro Cooke Vieira

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The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified prevailing gender inequalities, highlighting how women are often hit hardest by crises and disasters.

In addition to suffering economic losses, women have also had to take on the greater burden of unpaid care work, said an expert speaker during a recent webinar hosted by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).

“On top of their professional responsibilities, they’ve had to look after family and children who are currently learning from home,” said Norimasa Shimamura, UNDP resident representative to Indonesia. “This places them at a higher risk for infection, and many of them have been exposed to increased risks of gender-based violence.”

These impacts further demonstrate the urgency of entrenching the needs of both men and women in financing mechanisms for climate change, another crisis hitting women in the agricultural or natural resources sector hardest, said Stibniati Atmadja, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), who also spoke at the online event.

She and CIFOR researcher Nining Liswanti were two leading authors on the recent joint CIFOR-UNDP report titled “Leveraging climate finance for gender equality and poverty reduction,” which demonstrates that in Indonesia climate change-related adaptation and mitigation strategies have gender-differentiated impacts.

For the report, Atmadja studied climate finance mechanisms at the national level, while Liswanti studied two climate projects at the subnational level to determine whether increased gender equality or poverty reduction could be achieved through these mechanisms.

The findings confirmed that gender responsive interventions must be better integrated into climate finance mechanisms, Shimamura said, explaining that the study shows women face greater difficulties in accessing climate financing from the state than men or higher income constituents, due to inequities with regard to such eligibility requirements as asset ownership, business skills, access to information and membership in cooperatives.

“This is one instance of an obstacle faced by women and the poor, the kind that limits access and benefits to those who need the most,” he added. “To avoid creating a larger gap between women and men, the rich and the poor, climate finance mechanisms should be designed to narrow rather than exacerbate existing inequalities.”

Atmadja detailed some of the ways mechanisms to finance climate actions can fall short, restricting access by marginalized groups, reducing their capacity to confront the impact of climate change.

“Money for climate action may actually worsen inequalities across genders and between rich and poor if its means of distribution is not carefully considered,”  she said.

Considerations should include technical aspects on how financial mechanisms are designed, the practical aspects of knowing who exactly will be affected by funded projects, and the human aspect of understanding why gender equality matters in achieving climate resilience and reduced emissions.

Other panelists at the webinar highlighted the importance of acknowledging women’s need to access natural resources in designing climate funding, and how it provides the evidence and indicators needed to understand how and why gender matters.

The presentation prompted Dyah Roro Esti, a member of Indonesia’s parliament and commission VII DPR RI, to reflect on the critical role that women play in climate action.

“When we talk about policymaking, one thing that I realize is that the role of women in climate change mitigation is very important and should be pushed in the future,” she said. “Women tend to think long term and this is very important when we talk about things such as how we can promote sustainable development.”

The importance of engaging women as key allies in mitigation and adaptation action is highlighted in CIFOR’s study, which provides targeted recommendations and indicators to assess gender responsiveness of climate actions.

In addition to informing more equitable distribution of climate funds at national and local levels, the findings and recommendations put forward by the study can also support national delegates to negotiate more inclusive and equitable global solutions.

“Climate change is a global problem, so the solution must be global and requires international negotiations,” said Amanda Katili , manager of the Climate Reality Project Indonesia. “If our negotiators have material like the one presented by CIFOR, the negotiations will be more stable and Indonesia will certainly be more respected.”

“We have to honestly admit that it’s true that participation of women in climate change discussions or in policymaking is very important, but we also need to understand that there is an underlying problem, which is the inequality,” said Dwi Yuliawati, program management specialist at U.N. Women.

She also offered up a reminder that women’s work is predominantly informal and centered at low levels of productivity or no-growth sectors, a challenge, which means funding or activities targeted for women usually do not effectively those who need it most.

“Indonesian women spend 13.5 hours a day to do unpaid care or domestic duties,” said Yuliawati. “I believe that these are usually related to activities that are closely related to natural resources — for example, taking water from the river or collecting firewood from the forest.”

“We have to focus on the impact, so I completely agree with what was mentioned in CIFOR’s study, that what is needed to be strengthened is the monitoring and evaluation from a gender perspective,” she said.

The research found that women in small and medium enterprises find significant benefits from economic support.

As a follow-up to the study conducted with CIFOR, UNDP is currently working with Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance and also the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection to produce guidelines for gender-responsive climate change financing, said Muhammad Didi Hardiana, UNDP Indonesia project manager for Sustainable Development Financing.

“Economic recovery management can incorporate green aspects or environmental aspects and also be economically inclusive, paying attention to fiscal stimulus that doesn’t only contribute to the economy and environment, but also contribute to gender equality,” he said.

Speakers highlighted the urgency of ensuring that climate finance reaches the most vulnerable populations.

“In Indonesia 65 percent of the population lives on the coastline and depends on fisheries for their livelihoods,” said Amanda Katili Niode, adding that 40 percent of them are women living in poverty so that they will be the worst hit if there is sea level rise or degradation of marine resources.

“The funds flowing in are urgently needed for climate adaptation and resilience, which has already been mentioned in CIFOR’s research.”

Based on key findings, the study lays out a number of indicators to guide more inclusive and equitable financing mechanisms.

Some of these will be made available based on the findings produced by Liswanti, which project owners, institutions and ministries will be able to use to develop more gender responsive climate change programs, Hardiana said, adding, “Hopefully this will be useful to everyone in the future.”

This results affirms the benefits of our findings, said Liswanti. “We are heartened to know that these data can be put to use to construct climate finance mechanisms that can ultimately lead to greater gender equality.”

In Indonesia, gender mainstreaming is a national strategy under development and is included in the 2020 to 2024 medium-term national planning (RPJMN) document, said Muhammad Ihsan, a representative at the Indonesian Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection.

The national government has initiated the integration of gender perspectives into the climate change mitigation program and adaptation activities in the form of double tagging, or a thematic climate change and gender responsive budget.

“One of the objectives of the dual thematic tagging initiative for climate change and gender responsive budgeting is to identify the roles and conditions of women and men in facing climate change and provide appropriate, prompt steps for women and men in implementing mitigation and climate change adaptation,” said Ihsan.

The initiative provides appropriate pathways for both women and men, including increasing the capacity of human resources to integrate a gender perspective into climate change mitigation and adaptation programs and activities.

“Women are at a disadvantage from the impact of climate change and there needs to be affirmative action that can change the position of women in [relation to] the impacts of climate change,” Ihsan said. “Women can play an active role in disaster management due to climate change — on a micro scale, women’s participation in climate change mitigation can be seen in the form as agents of change such as in disasters that occurred, including during the 2004 Aceh tsunami, and the 2015 Jakarta floods where women were the first responders.”

However, much work remains to be done. “Hopefully the recommendations presented in this study can be followed up with further activities,” Niode said.

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