The Gender Advantage

During IFAD’s more than 35 years of existence, gender equality and women’s empowerment have gained increasing importance, both as objectives and as instruments for poverty reduction. IFAD has long recognized that as primary collectors of fuel and water in most developing countries, women are on the front line of climate change impact (IFAD 2010a). Experience has shown that “women are central to permanently improving the lives of their families and communities, and therefore must play a pivotal role in community-based adaptation initiatives” (CARE 2009). Yet in the countries most reliant on rainfed agriculture and natural resources, poor rural women, who have fewer assets and less decision-making power than men, are even more exposed. Over the past few years, IFAD has paid close attention to both climate change dimensions and closing the gender gap, and in some cases, through cooperation with the Global Environment Facility (GEF). In 2012, IFAD launched an innovative Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP). The ASAP has put gender equality and women’s empowerment at its heart, not only because it is the ‘right thing to do’, but also because it means greater resilience for the whole community. The ASAP approach is underpinned by IFAD’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy (2012), which prioritizes equal economic empowerment, equal voice and access to decision-making, and equal workloads for women and men. Women’s increased equality can contribute to improving relationships between men and women in the household. This publication illustrates IFAD’s experience in closing the gender gap and mobilizing the ‘gender advantage’ in climate change adaptation through ten case studies from across the world. The case studies show that gender-sensitive adaptation results in better livelihood options and incomes, improved yields, more food security and reduced workloads for women and their families. They also show that women and men are better able to make informed decisions about their lives, thus balancing their human development priorities when giving attention to sustainable natural resource management. IFAD’s experience in different thematic areas is presented through projects in the case studies (see Box 1), which build on IFAD’s expertise in these areas. IFAD acknowledges that there are challenges when designing projects and programmes to ensure gender-responsiveness. There is a growing consensus that climate change can exacerbate existing conflicts and gender inequalities. Therefore, a holistic approach should be adopted to ensure that tackling one problem does not lead to another. For example, support for women to diversify their livelihoods can lead to even greater workloads for them. Ensuring that women have access to clean and laboursaving technologies is therefore fundamental. However, these technologies are not always enough; projects need to address power relations through sensitization and advocacy in key institutions and within households. IFAD has noted that when women’s agency is promoted the well-being of women and their families is improved.

Document Tabs


Resource Type: