Today is International Women’s Day.
We take this opportunity to celebrate Mbale’s Gender Champions and share with you about the recent Gender and Climate pilot project.
Around the world and in Uganda, inequitable distribution of power, resources and responsibilities has resulted in women and girls being partially or fully excluded from political, economic and social-economic spheres in society.
Below, we will explore in more detail some of the ways the climate crisis amplifies gender inequity and puts women and girls at greater risk. But first, we will share how a participatory gender assessment was carried out in Uganda, and the specially designed activities that followed aim to address this gender imbalance.
Size of Wales co-designed a one year pilot project with partners: METGE (Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise), ITF (International Tree Foundation) and MADLACC (Masaka District Landcare Chapter Leadership) and the communities in which they are based.
The aim is to integrate gender into agriculture-related climate change activities and policy and to enable rural women to become important agents of change. Following the gender assessment, a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities regarding women’s participation resulted in a pathway to support women. This included training, networking and access to resources such as seed funds, organic fertilisers, equipment and beehives to set up nature-friendly initiatives.
It is essential to recognise that the mission of gender equity isn’t and shouldn’t be the sole burden of women. As such, the project included men within trainings and awareness raising to create a group of women and men gender champions.
See project activities and impacts below:
Individuals were trained to carry out gender equity training. 44 men and women were trained to become gender champions to raise awareness in their community, challenging gender roles, sharing the benefits of tree planting and growing, fair treatment and respect of everyone regardless of their status.
For example, men have begun to realise that women can engage in activities such as tree growing and should have a say in how the land is managed.
The skills they learnt included communication, teamwork, and coordination with others enabling them to share information within their communities.
Here, Deborah and her son Gideon share what they have learned through Deborah becoming a gender champion.
Women often struggle accessing funds and the hand-to-mouth nature of life in the project regions means it can be hard to pay for health care or medication and education– larger sums of money. Supporting women to gather and collectively set up savings groups empowers women and gives greater power to the money they earn.
Thanks to the project, 19 savings associations have received training on financial literacy and management, records keeping, and loans recovery.
Women are often neglected from leadership roles and decision-making positions meaning their needs are overlooked and their perspective is not considered. The project trained 40 women to improve their leadership skills and raise confidence to take on decision-making roles in the community.
They also went on to train 664 other women in their community. Focus group discussions revealed that women’s perceptions to leadership is changing. At the beginning, some of the women doubted themselves, but now thanks to the training, they said they feel encouraged and comfortable in their roles.
They now see that they can take up leadership positions, make decisions and speak out in public gatherings. Some of them are preparing to stand for leadership positions in the next elections and when opportunities arise in their community.
Income Generating Activities for Women
Over 600 women were supported to set up climate resilient livelihood opportunities to generate an income and improve food security:
“We women have been able to participate in beekeeping because we know the benefits from this activity. We have been able to generate honey and other beekeeping products which we sell to earn some money” Ms Victoria Namalikye from Masele Beekeepers group in Sironko District – one of groups that has benefited from METGE’s beekeeping trainings explains.
The project has also fostered learning and sharing between project staff and community members from both Mbale and Masaka district through peer-to-peer exchange visits. For example, they learnt how women nursery bed operators use technology to track the number of trees planted.
“Record keeping and data capturing is a good aspect in the project. We saw a woman using a tablet to enter data for farmers who have taken trees and it’s inspiring to empower women to get familiar to use technology,” said Ms Nankya, a farmer from Masaka.
The visits also generated discussions about the role of women in the community and how to better support people living with disability.
“Women can do beekeeping and we have seen this and so we have to do the same. We have to interest ourselves in doing beekeeping as a business when we go back to Masaka”, explained Christine Nankya, a community member from Masaka.
Why are women disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis?
The climate crisis is not gender neutral. It amplifies existing gender inequities. Women are often most likely to be responsible for growing, gathering, planning and feeding families and gathering water and firewood. They often rely on land and natural
resources for food and income. When weather patterns change and become more extreme, it is very difficult to support their family, it is harder to grow food and there is less access to safe water. This puts pressure on the women and girls of a household and the eldest daughter in some cases will be under pressure to leave school and support the family’s income gathering activities and food provision.
Women are kept out of decision-making positions on climate change and management of nature, in part due to discriminatory social and cultural norms, such as unequal access to land, water and other resources. Women are excluded not only at family and community level, but also at national and international level within government.
Looking at this through an intersectional lens, it is Afro-descendant and Indigenous women, rural women and those from low-income families or communities, women and girls with disabilities, LGBTIQ+ people, migrant women and those women in disaster-
prone areas who will feel the risks and impacts most acutely.
What action needs to be taken?
In order to tackle the climate crisis, we need to bring about gender equity, raise awareness among all genders, and see an increase of women in leadership and decision-making roles.
Research shows that countries with more female parliamentarians have more advanced climate policy and lower recorded emissions.
Women play a crucial role in tackling the climate crisis.
Let us celebrate and value their knowledge, practices, and skills to ensure the survival of our planet. Women and girls, such as Deborah in Uganda or our Indigenous partners in Brazil are already leading their own solutions to the interlinked challenges of climate change and gender inequality but greater access to climate finance is needed to scale these up.
We thank Hub Cymru Africa and the Welsh Government for supporting and funding this work.
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