Gender Tools for Understanding the Nexus of Climate Change and Gender

Elettra Baldi, Arnab K Dey, Jennifer Yore April 22, 2022

Cross-posted from EMERGE at UC San Diego.

The climate crisis is not gender neutral. The impact of climate change amplifies gender inequalities and continues to pose a disproportionate risk to women and girls, their health, wellbeing, and safety. This year, the theme of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) event centered on achieving gender equality in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies, and programs.

Despite increasing evidence that women and girls disproportionately suffer from climate change and environmental disasters, persistent gender data gaps hinder our understanding of how climate change escalates social, political, and economic tensions through a gender lens.

On March 22nd, the EMERGE project at the Center on Gender Equity and Health (GEH) at UC San Diego joined Data2X and the World Bank at CSW to discuss the challenges of understanding the nexus of gender and the environment and possible tools that individuals can use to close these knowledge gaps.

Below, we discuss four open-access tools shared at the CSW session that stakeholders can use to supplement research, planning, and policy formulation.

Tool 1: Evidence-based Measures of Empowerment for Research on Gender Equality (EMERGE)

The first tool available for understanding this intersection is the Evidence-based Measures of Empowerment for Research on Gender Equality (EMERGE) platform. This tool provides an open access repository of survey measures on gender equality and empowerment compiled by researchers at the GEH. The platform supports researchers and practitioners to assess gender inequities across multiple domains and monitor the achievements of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs).

Site users can filter their search for survey items and scales by thematic area, including environment and sustainability. Users can further identify the best measures for their context by using filters for country, length, and psychometric strength of measures. These features allow researchers to identify, adapt and develop surveys that consider the gendered effects of climate change in their own setting. For example, the Climate Change Anxiety Scale, assesses the emotional response to climate change. The measure has four sub-scales including cognitive and emotional impairment, functional impairment, personal experience of climate change, and behavioral engagement.

Tool 2: UN Women’s Rapid Gender Assessment on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 (RGA)

Individuals can access the UN Women’s RGA database to explore data on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 in over 50 countries. While these surveys aim to capture the gendered differences in the COVID-19 pandemic, they also reveal essential information on the intersection of gender and the environment. For example, the RGA in Asia and the Pacific found that women are less likely to access the internet, a key source for early warning information for environmental disasters. The RGA also provides employment insights on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and tourism, which can be helpful for discussions on climate action and planning.

Tool 3: Gender Data Solutions Inventory

Data2X and Open Data Watch’s new Gender Data Solutions Inventory, released in tandem with the Solutions to Close Gender Data Gaps report, presents over 140 practical, replicable solutions to fill gaps in existing evidence across development domains, including the environment. These examples cover opportunities and tools that readers can reference when considering means of tackling environmental gender data gaps. A few environmental tools listed in the inventory include:

  • CARE’s Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA): CARE’s RGA is a survey tool to understand the gendered impacts of climate disasters and has been used to evaluate climate crisis and food security in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.
  • 50×2030 Guide on Survey Tools: This survey guide outlines two modules for measuring gender parity in ownership and tenure rights over agricultural land (SDG 5.a.1).
  • The Gender Climate Tracker App: This app gives decision-makers regularly updated information on policies, mandates, research, decisions, and actions related to gender and climate change. This tracker also serves as an accountability tool for citizens and civil society groups to hold governments accountable.

Tool 4: *New* World Bank Gender Data Portal

The fourth tool, the new World Bank Gender Data Portal, gathers over 900 gender indicators in an easily accessible and usable format. This initiative has made the available sex-disaggregated data easier to analyze and visualize. The portal provides valuable resources such as the Gender and Information Communication Technology (ICT) survey toolkit that practitioners can use to develop data collection instruments. It also includes country-level information on gender data availability in the form of a dashboard that can be useful for funders to inform funding strategies to fill gaps.

The portal’s particular section on the environment highlights important indicators for understanding the nexus of gender and climate change. They have data available on the differential effects of unsafe water, sanitation, and ambient air pollution on mortality – by gender. Making this crucial data accessible to multiple audiences will facilitate its use in policymaking, advocacy, and research efforts.

To tackle the climate crisis, it is necessary to rapidly develop our understanding of the relationship between climate change and gender. Understanding this relationship would require us to find answers to essential questions such as: how does climate change impact women differently? How can policies adapt a gendered lens to mitigate such differences? What role can women play in addressing this crisis?

While the existing data gap hinders our ability to answer these and other important questions, these new emerging tools give changemakers resources they can use to address gaps in measurement related to gender and environment. However, access to tools like these is only the first step. We need to work on mechanisms that support data democratization and its use to build and support evidence for program development and policymaking related to addressing the effects of climate change globally.

Finally, changemakers must understand those gender vulnerabilities to climate change are not because of characteristics salient to women but result from inequities in multiple gender dimensions ranging from women’s economic empowerment, time use, reproductive rights, and agency. Therefore, the use of these tools should be seen in this light to address the multiple dimensions of gender inequities in climate change.

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