Journal Article

IDS Bulletin Vol. 39 Nos. 4

The Gender Dimensions of Poverty and Climate Change Adaptation

Published on 1 September 2008

It is generally recognised that it is those who are already poor and marginalised who experience the impacts of climate change most acutely (see Tanner and Mitchell this IDS Bulletin, ‘Entrenchment or Enhancement’; GTZ in Lambrou and Piana 2006), and are in the greatest need of adaptation strategies in the face of shifts in weather patterns and resulting environmental phenomena.

At the same time, it is the poor and marginalised who have the least capacity or opportunity to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate or to participate in national and international negotiations on tackling climate change issues.

As is frequently argued in gender analyses of climate variability and change, women and girls make up a disproportionate number of the ‘poor or marginalised’ (see, e.g. Mitchell et al. 2007). This is due to multiple poverty-inducing/exacerbating disadvantages caused by pervasive gender inequalities. Such inequalities can give rise to higher rates of poverty among women relative to men, and a more severe experience of poverty by women than men – for female household heads, and also among women and girls living within male-headed households considered to be non-poor due to unequal intra-household distribution of power and resources, such as food and property (Kabeer 2008; Chant 2007). Where women and girls have fewer capabilities and resources than men, this undermines their capacity to adapt to existing and predicted impacts of climate change, or to contribute important knowledge and insights to adaptation and mitigation decision-making processes.

Drawing on available literature on gender and climate change, this article seeks to unpack in concrete ways the interlinkages between gender inequalities, poverty and the differential capacity of women and men to adapt to or mitigate the very real challenges posed by climate change. While there is little existing research considering the linkages between climate change, poverty and gender explicitly, there is a wealth of literature relating to gender and agriculture, land, water management, forestry, migration and livelihoods. Moreover, gender analyses have for decades been surfacing the social, economic and political inequalities that both comprise and contribute to the multiple dimensions of poverty and constrain development processes and outcomes. As pro-poor adaptation fast becomes a priority, those researching and working on climate change adaptation can draw from these existing analyses to help ensure that climate change processes and outcomes are equitable, efficient and effective. At the same time, the growing awareness of the need to ensure that climate change adaptation and mitigation processes are inclusive of poor and marginalised people’s needs provides an opportunity for gender advocates to insist that the priorities of poor women and men are heard and taken seriously.

Related Content

This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 39.4 (2008) The Gender Dimensions of Poverty and Climate Change Adaptation

Cite this publication

Demetriades, J. and Esplen, E. (2008) The Gender Dimensions of Poverty and Climate Change Adaptation. IDS Bulletin 39(4): 24-31

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Justina Demetriades
Emily Esplen

Publication details

published by
Institute of Development Studies