Women’s leadership is essential to tackling the climate crisis

April 23, 2023 - 13:34
As we celebrate Earth Day worldwide, UNDP Resident Representative in Việt Nam, Ramla Khalidi, shares a few reflections and recommendations regarding women’s roles in climate action and policies.


UNDP Resident Representative in Việt Nam, Ramla Khalidi.. Photo by UNDP 

 As we celebrate Earth Day worldwide, UNDP Resident Representative in Việt Nam, Ramla Khalidi, shares a few reflections and recommendations regarding women’s roles in climate action and policies.

Việt Nam is committed to pursuing gender equality and climate action as the country's highest agenda and is an active member of all international agreements to promote these interconnected goals. Without making substantive progress in gender goals and rigorously mainstreaming gender-sensitive climate actions at all fronts, Việt Nam will not be able to achieve its climate ambitions, meaning that many women and girls will be left behind with an unjust future.

How is gender equality practically translated into climate policies and practices in Việt Nam?

Our recent report, "Mainstreaming Gender into the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Process," explored this question in five key sectors: natural resources and the environment, agriculture, health, planning and investment, and transport.

The report examines climate and gender governance structures, investigates the factors that drive gender inequalities and women’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, and analyses the status of mainstreaming gender into sectoral policies. Results show that several gaps exist in practice.

Firstly, women’s political participation in climate decision-making remains lower than men’s. There are no women directors of provincial quotas in Departments of Natural Resources and Environment (DONREs) or Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARDs) in any of the 63 provinces and centrally managed cities of Việt Nam. Việt Nam sets a target of 35 per cent women leaders in elected bodies and 30 per cent women leaders of enterprises and cooperatives by 2030 to accelerate gender progress and break the gender glass ceiling for women’s leadership. According to an upcoming UNDP report there are inadequate incentives and momentum to advance such changes in state institutions. We need to work closer with the Ministry of Labours Invalid and Social Affairs (MOLISA) SA, Việt Nam Women’s Union, and women-led CSOs to ensure gender-sensitive policies and a nuanced understanding of the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change within the most vulnerable subsectors.

It is time for Việt Nam to elevate gender-sensitive measures in such subsectors’ climate action plans. It is key not only to build the resilience of societies and ecosystems against climate extremes, but also to boost women’s leadership in a meaningful transition toward a net-zero and resilient future by 2050. 

Secondly, the limited data availability poses considerable challenges for policymakers since it might prevent them from grasping women's specific vulnerabilities and exposure.

When developing a new infrastructure project, such as a hospital, or a road, it’s still rare to conduct ‘gender analysis and gendered risk and vulnerability assessments’, meaning that women’s specific needs are not systematically considered.

To tackle this, Việt Nam could strengthen its setting of gender indicators and targets in key climate-vulnerable sectors and rigorously monitor them. Quantified gender-disaggregated finance for climate actions is essential in such a monitoring system. Technical guidelines for implementing infrastructure projects (as they represent a considerable share of climate expenditures) are also needed.

Thirdly, climate finance, with gender equality as a key objective explicitly addressing women’s needs, remains scarce; hence there is a need to build the capacity of grassroots women’s organisations and increase their access to climate finance.  Here, we believe that allocating dedicated finance and policy incentive schemes to support women’s innovation and action on climate change will enable local communities to transform faster toward resilient and sustainable paths. Women’s Unions at local levels and NGOs are helping women daily to strengthen their resilience to climate impacts via training and financial and educational opportunities.  In the second episode of the podcast, an ethnic Chăm farmer Châu Thị Xeo shared how she created her Chau-Re General Agricultural Service Cooperative and enrolled 37 households who are now cultivating asparagus in sandy soil, bolstering incomes and livelihoods.

As Việt Nam is embarking on the Just Energy Transition Partnership, the country has the opportunity to demonstrate what a ‘just’ transition would mean in practice in the regions where coal will be phased out in favour of renewable energy in the next few years. UNDP commits to establishing a process to protect the most affected and marginalised communities (including women, women-led households, and young girls) and to trigger support for economic empowerment and reskilling opportunities through such a transition process.

Gender inequality is not a women’s problem; rather, it is a social concern where all members of society should collectively address bias and cultural norms and create equal opportunities for everyone to embrace their full potential and life choices.  In the words of Loan, one of the forest keepers, “women can achieve anything. Here in the forest, it makes no difference if you are a man or a woman”.

Inclusive climate action holds the potential to not only empower women and promote gender equality, but also to contribute more efficiently to the sustainable management of natural resources. UNDP is committed to working with all partners in Việt Nam to enable inclusive climate action, where all members of society are able to contribute meaningfully to preserving and nurturing healthy ecosystems upon which resilient societies can thrive today and in the future. UNDP