The Gender lens on climate change adaptation: Lagos’ Experience

Yewande Seriki (ELP 2022) | Senior Scientific Officer, Lagos State Ministry of the Environment and Water Resource, Nigeria

Globally, different categories of people are vulnerable to climate change, however, women and children are the most at risk. Women are more likely than men to be affected by climate change. UN figures indicate that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. Women around the world are facing the consequences of the climate crisis first and worst, and women lack equal representation in crafting policies that are better able to meet their needs.  Emerging research has revealed that significant gendered impacts induced by climate change are not addressed by policies and practices for mitigation and adaptation strategies. According to UN DESA, in 2010, 84 percent of women in Sub Saharan Africa were in vulnerable employment, and were subject to low income and productivity compared to 71 percent of their male counterparts.

Vulnerability to climate change impacts depends on several factors, including gender, age, socioeconomic status, and people living with a disability.  Seventy per cent of the 1.3 billion people living in the developing world below the threshold of poverty are women. Also, the World Bank estimates that 143 million people could be displaced by 2050 due to the impacts of climate change and most of them will be women and children. It is acknowledged that women and girls face a heavier burden of domestic work as a result of resource shortages (food, water & firewood) caused by climate change, face economic, social and political barriers which limit their coping capacities hence women & girls face double jeopardy, which has largely been ignored in the debate on climate change thus there is an urgent need for gender-sensitive adaptation.

Gender equality and climate change are undoubtedly linked, girls and women are on the frontlines of the fight against climate change and they don’t have the opportunity to voice their needs. Gender is defined as the characteristics of a group of people that are socially constructed and this includes behaviors, roles, norms associated with being a certain gender as well as relationships with each other. Climate change is a sustainable development challenge with broad impacts not only on the environment but also on economic and social development. The threats of climate change that manifest in extreme drought, sea level rise, and storms have heightened effects on women and further magnify the impacts experienced across various regions.

It is now imperative to put a gender lens to projects because adaptation initiatives that do not take gender perspectives into account may unintentionally reinforce existing gender inequalities. Undoubtedly, women possess unique knowledge and experience, particularly at the local level, and their inclusion in decision making processes is critical to effective climate action. Examples of gender sensitive projects includes; Afforestation project by the Mama Watoto Group Women’s Group in Kenya, The Ghana Public Private Partnership for the Restoration of Degraded Forest Reserve project, these projects are set up and designed to promote gender equality in projects which would help close the gender disparity.

The Lagos State Government in January 2021 commenced a gender- adaptation training workshop to improve women’s adaptive capacity through trainings on urban farming, waste reusing, and waste recycling. The first series of this initiative was held at Ikorodu, Yaba, and Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Areas, respectively, where 150 women were trained and 30 were empowered with an urban farming kit, which contained seedlings, compost tools, and farming tools. The benefits gained from participating in the workshop included:

1.   Knowledge gained on urban farming of vegetables, fruits, and spices;

2.    Knowledge gained on utilizing food waste to make compost to improve soil quality;

3.    Knowledge gained on recycling and upcycling of plastic bottles or other containers to be used as a nursery of seedlings and;

4.   Knowledge gained on boosting economic activities through the sale of planted food, that can combat poverty for women.

It is also worth highlighting that the implementation of this program will address some of the sustainable development goals. Thus, Lagos is contributing to meeting the 2030 Agenda, some of the SDG goals addressed are SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 3 (Good Health & Wellbeing), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth, and SDG 13 (Climate Action).