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Queensland 4811 Australia

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Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Gender assumptions harm progress on climate adaption and resilience

04
Mar 2021

Scientists say outdated assumptions around gender continue to hinder effective and fair policymaking and action for climate mitigation and adaptation.

Lead author of a new study, Dr Jacqueline Lau from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (Coral CoE at JCU) and WorldFish, said gender—alongside other identities like race, class and age—has a powerful influence on people’s experience of, and resilience to, climate change.

She said the four most common and interlinked assumptions found are: women are innately caring and connected to the environment; women are a homogenous and vulnerable group; gender equality is a women’s issue and; gender equality is a numbers game.

“Although there is a global mandate to work towards gender equality in climate change mitigation and adaptation, efforts are hindered by a set of assumptions about gender, long critiqued in development studies,” Dr Lau said.

The study draws on post-2014 gender and climate change literature, to give an overview of how the gender assumptions manifest across recent work in adaptation, mitigation and broader climate change policy, practice and research.

The review of the literature takes a closer look at how these assumptions narrowly diagnose the causes of gender inequality.

“As a result, we see too many strategies that have unintended—and even counterproductive—consequences,” said Dr Pip Cohen, from WorldFish.

“For instance, strategies that target women only may overburden them, cause a backlash, or obscure the vulnerabilities of other groups.”

The study offers lessons for a more informed pursuit of gender equality in climate change research, policy and practice.

The authors said progressing gender equality means breaking down stereotypes and prejudices about gender—creating environments to enable all people to exercise their agency to cope, change and adapt.

Dr Lau said she was surprised to find so many examples of gender assumptions in climate change practice. She explained that a first step in disrupting these assumptions is to lay them bare and explain why development research has found them to be problematic.

“The social and cultural expectations about what it is to be a woman or a man in any given society will shape people’s wellbeing,” Dr Lau said.

She said alongside efforts to dismantle broader barriers to gender equality, better and more coordinated efforts are needed from practitioners and researchers to disrupt and counteract unhelpful assumptions.

“Pursuing gender equality in climate change policy and practice is critical, and decades of experience in development offer lessons for how to do it well,” Dr Lau said.

“Ultimately, we want to see equitable opportunities for all people to realise their full potential. Where no one is left behind.”

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PAPER

Lau J, Kleiber D, Lawless S, Cohen P. (2021). ‘Gender equality in climate policy and practice hindered by assumptions’. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/s41558-021-00999-7

IMAGES

A selection of images can be used for media stories with credit to the photographer as stated in the caption. Please note these are for single use with this story only, not for any other story. No archival permissions are granted.

CONTACT

Dr Jacqueline Lau (Townsville, Australia)
P: +61 (0)403 990 738
E: 
jacqueline.lau@jcu.edu.au

Dr Pip Cohen (travelling on/off 4 & 5 March)
P: +61 (0)400 468 255 (via WhatsApp will work best)
E: p.cohen@cgiar.org

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Melissa Lyne/ Coral CoE at JCU (Sydney, Australia)
P: +61 (0) 415 514 328
E: melissa.lyne@jcu.edu.au

BACKGROUND ON WORLDFISH

WorldFish is an international, nonprofit research and innovation institution that creates, advances, and translates aquatic food systems science into scalable solutions. We vision an inclusive world of healthy, well-nourished people and a sustainable blue planet, now and in the future. Our mission is to end hunger and advance progress on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals through science and innovation to transform food, land, and water systems with aquatic foods for healthier people and the planet.

For over 45-years, WorldFish’s data, evidence, and insights have shaped practices, policies, and investments to end hunger and advance sustainable development in low- and middle-income countries.  We have a global presence across 20 countries in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, with 460 staff of 30 nationalities deployed where the greatest sustainable development challenges can be addressed through holistic aquatic food systems solutions. Embedded in local, national, and international partnerships, our work sets agendas, builds capacities, and supports decision-making for climate action, food and nutrition security, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, blue economy, OneHealth, and AgriTech, integrating gender, youth, and social inclusion.

A core element of the 2030 WorldFish Research and Innovation Strategy: Aquatic Foods for Healthy People and Planet is focused on building resilience of aquatic food systems to shocks, which is critical to COVID-19 response and recovery.

WorldFish is part of One CGIAR, the world’s largest agricultural research and innovation network.

Pursuing gender equality in climate change policy and practice is critical. Image of a woman in the PNG sea by Jacqui Lau.
Pursuing gender equality in climate change policy and practice is critical. Image of a woman in the PNG sea by Jacqui Lau.

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