This article is written by Bindu Bhandari.
As smallholder farmers in many parts of the world, women play a crucial role in food production to feed a 7.4 billion people’s world. In its recent ‘State of Food and Agriculture’ (SOFA 2016), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlights that most of the world’s poor and hungry are located in rural areas who rely on agriculture for their living.
An estimated 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty and 750 million work in agriculture as smallholder family members. Women farmers not only produce food, they are responsible for raising their children, caring for the sick, cooking, cleaning, and collecting water and firewood. Climate change increases the burden of women at all levels. Yet they are the least equipped to adapt their farming practices to climate change.
The reason? Rural women have less access and control than men over key assets, such as capital, agricultural information and training, lands and resources related to agricultural production. While they are disproportionately exposed to climate risks, social norms restrict the entitlements of women to participate in decision-making regarding climate change. Often because of poverty and dogmas, there are huge gaps between male and female educational access and literacy levels which affect later the participation of women. Because of longstanding gender discrimination, women do not have access to land in developing countries. Most of the time, they live and work on land that is owned by their fathers or husbands and have no legal claim to it.
Last November, world leaders gathered in Marrakesh at COP22 to participate in the climate talks. As human rights advocates, we think it is imperative that negotiators turn their attention to rural women and focus on policies that increase their ability to cope with climate change. But are they on track to meet women’s needs? Significant progress has been made at the international level with negotiations and constituencies to address the gender equity and support the agricultural sector and the associated elements of finance, technology transfer and capacity building. But what matters is the efficacy and effectiveness of such decisions and interventions.
At COP20 in 2014, the Parties adopted the Lima Work Programme on Gender (LWPG), which aims to advance the implementation of existing gender mandates across all areas of the climate negotiations. However, the official list of participants to UNFCCC negotiations in 2015 suggests that women accounted for around 38% of all National Party Delegates and 24% of heads of delegations. Recently, at COP22, it was decided to continue and enhance the LWPG for a period of three years and undertake a review of the work programme at COP25 in 2019. Since the 2011 Durban Agreement, there has been an agricultural agenda item at the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) which was set to conclude at COP22 but in absence of conclusions is has been again postponed to next year.
More evidence on the recent developments has been brought by the Women’s Environment and Development Organization(WEDO) research paper on Analysis of INDCs. It reveals that as of November 2016, 64 of the 190 INDCs reviewed included a reference to women or gender. This is a good effort but insufficient as most of the references are part of a broader sustainable development strategy that is non- specific to climate change. Though steady, the transformation is taking its pace for a sustainable, inclusive and equitable world, which is appreciable if not satisfactory.
The challenge lies in meeting the growing demand while offsetting the emissions from the agricultural value chain. Acknowledging the contribution of women in agriculture and recognizing their role in ensuring the food security, it is urgent that our plans, programs, and policies in agriculture be gender- responsive and climate- adaptive. Investing in, empowering and including women of least developed and vulnerable countries actively in all levels of decision making would boost up their access to resources and services, thus consequently accelerating our long term goal of sustainability. It is thus, crucial that no one is left behind in this common but differentiated responsibility, also a common but differentiated opportunity.
About the author : Bindu Bhandari is an international delegate in COP21 from CliMates also COP in My City leader from Nepal,involved in CliMates since end of 2013. She has been advocating as a youth campaigner for youth empowerment and inclusiveness at grassroot levels. She is also a Regional ambassador at Tunza Eco- generation and passionate on volunteering with a sincere concern on environmental issues.