Numbers and narratives are equally gender unequal -when it comes to climate change- Part 1: Women as agents of change

Numbers and narratives are equally gender unequal -when it comes to climate change- Part 1: Women as agents of change

One of the biggest problem countries are facing with, when it comes to developing policies which should intersect gender and climate change, is lack or absence of sex-disaggregated data, and respectively gender indicators in areas related to climate change, as well as lack of analysis of gender roles which are defining the gendered needs, obstacles, opportunities of women and men to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

One of the biggest problem countries are facing with, when it comes to developing policies which should intersect gender and climate change, is lack or absence of sex-disaggregated data, and respectively gender indicators in areas related to climate change, as well as lack of analysis of gender roles which are defining the gendered needs, obstacles, opportunities of women and men to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

As opposite of that, we succeeded to design and gather, both gender indicators and to get an insight into gendered roles in family and society in different climate change related areas - tailored by women and men at a very grassroot level.

Namely, within the  4th NC/3rd BUR and CBIT Project implemented by UNDP in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning and Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, two very essential processes were realized by developed Gender indicators in climate change in the Republic of North Macedonia and Narrative Study – Gender and Climate Change, Macedonia – micronarratives.

Macedonian gender and climate change indicators were developed, with a purpose of introducing gender perspective in the National Communications, national strategic documents and papers, with a special focus on a set of indicators in the following requested areas of the Biennial Update Reports (under 4th National Communications to the UNFCCC): I. Sex-disaggregated data and gender indicators in National Mitigation Assessment and respectively NDC report; II. Sex-disaggregated data and gender indicators in Vulnerability and Adaptation assessment, III. Gender responsive measures in legal and strategic framework intersecting gender and climate change, IV. Gender data in the energy and transport related governmental subsidies (Mitigation activities) and V. Gender and the National GHG Inventory.

The second data – source is the Narrative Study on Gender and Climate Change, Macedonia - micronarratives which provided perspective on the daily challenges of the Macedonian citizens regarding climate change. This survey also served as a non-typical consultative mechanism for policy maker as it resulted in stories that depict both mainstream issues but also particular issues that common quantitative data relatively often fails to do since it projects percentages which are more useful for decision maker.

It is already known, and we do not want to advocate for that (at least in this text) that, in the world of climate change, gender plays an extremely important role, primarily in the (un)equal opportunities of women and men to mitigate and adapt to negative changes. By far and with the continuous efforts of UNFCCC in regards to climate change, emphasize that gender plays an extremely important role, primarily in the unequal opportunities of women and men to mitigate and adapt to negative effects of climate change. Climate change and its negative impacts do not recognize stereotypes and grounds for discrimination (age, gender, ethnicity, religion and other affiliation) but strongly recognizes people`s climate resilience which deeply depends on the social and economic status, and gender-based disparity (gender is key factor for multiple discrimination if cross-referenced with above mentioned grounds of discriminations – which at the end leads to joint factors of social and economic status in the family and in the society).

In order to further delve into these aspects , we cross – referenced, compared and analyzed the primary data sources having the gender and climate change indicators as quantitative data and the national survey via micronarratives as qualitative data source.  Here, we analyzed them both, numbers, and narratives, by comparing and cross-referencing.

What was the result? Numbers and narratives are equally unequal when it comes to the gendered positions, roles, opportunities etc. of women and men in the family and in the Macedonian society which is still, mostly male dominated when it comes to policies tangible to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Cross-referencing numbers and narratives provided us with an evidence of what was already known (and assumed) that there is a serious gender disparity in the climate change areas, and that must be properly addressed.

Who designs programs and policies at country level, and manages the resources when dealing climate change at family level?

The power distribution in the family and in the society confirms the male dominance in the power and money management positions and practices.

Gender indicator on the Governmental` institutions decision making structure, after the Parliamentarian Elections 2020, shows extremely low female participation of 14% in the Ministerial, Deputy Ministerial and State Secretary positions in the Ministries related to GHG and Mitigation sectors.

What did people narrate? Who manages the resources when dealing climate change? Who made a decision to act/not to act in response to this situation?

Who managed a budget required to respond? (to a situation related to climate change?      

Who made a decision to act/not to act in response to this situation?

Male dominance is present in almost all the climate change related sectors when it comes to managing the budget to respond to a situation related to climate change, as well as making decisions to act or not to act at the family level. On the other hand, women are dominating in the health sector – the sector that is traditionally belonging to women  (on lower paid level) due to the traditionally gendered role of women seen as care givers or care providers (in paid and unpaid sectors – health care system and home). It is comparable to the gender disparity in the national central decision-making level.

The fact is that women are underrepresented in the budget management and decision-making processes at micro and national level in situations dealing with climate change whether it is related to natural disasters or diseases caused by the poor quality of the environment.

This must be firmly addressed by undertaking serious steps in advancing the female participation in the decision-making processes which should be reflected in providing gender responsive actions (including financing) in dealing with climate change, especially in a context of such staggering disparity in regards to decision making.

We won’t be arguing here, why should be women equally included in all the activities? That is not even an issue that has to be argued in democratic societies. Still, there is an undisclosed, but an essential female role (in family and the society) that has to be seriously considered when it comes to efforts in combating climate change.

The first and the ultimate is that by equal inclusion of men and women as a human capital in those efforts against climate change, both mitigation and adaptation will be more effective, efficient and with long-term results, Sustainable and with increased ownership and therefore engagement.

What we want to advocate here, is that women are real agents of change in everyday life, everyday practices, and everyday efforts to fight climate change. Women are the heroes that have to be followed.

Why? If we go deeper in this problem – climate change, what is essential to be addressed is the human behavior. Again why? Due to the one very simple definition of climate change (among others), which is stating that "Climate change" means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (UNFCCC).

Human behavior is one of the factors contributing to altering the composition of the global atmosphere. Human behaviors has to be considered not only at macro but also at micro level.

What is that micro level behavior telling us about that in our country? The following pictures gives an overview of gendered attitude towards acting/responding and behavior/response to climate change negative impacts as well as activities used to mitigate climate change.

If we compare the female everyday behavior practiced reducing GHG emission or mitigate climate change with male`s one, it is quite obvious that women are more pro-active in the everyday mitigation activities which are depending on them, as their choice to contribute towards mitigating climate change.

On the other hand, they are also more concerned about possible impacts than men, and still are not encouraged enough to act and do something in the society, and their role is left on just observing or making changes in their behavior at individual – or micro level. Response to climate-change situations shows more “passive” approach of women towards the response to climate change on one hand, and bigger female`s concern on possible impacts. Namely, if we cross-reference this finding, with “using existing resources in a different way”, where men are more likely to secure new resources, while women are more relying on reaching out to others for information (connectivity aspect) are confirming the pro-active role of men in the response to climate change related situation, while female respondents are more likely to rely on connectivity method.

“Micronarrative:  Personal contribution to clean air. Experience: Air pollution affects us all. In Skopje, the air pollution is above all standards. It is not an individual but a story that affects us all. So instead of a car, I go to work by bike and in winter when conditions do not allow by bus. The car is reduced to exceptional cases when there is no other alternative for transportation. That is my contribution to clean air”.

That micro or individual level should not be neglected, because it represents a basis for macro influence ONLY if a chance of acting or decision making is given to them. How? Micronarratives are an insightful method in the perceptions of common people where through providing experiences from their personal perspective, they provide ground for developing nuanced strategies and policies to cover aspects that might have been overlooked previously. In that direction, qualitative data provides insights useful for  (giving a very simple answer and a method on) establishing a communication strategy where women will be more engaged across decision making levels in different sectors

As shown in the picture above women should be more engaged in national or local strategies dealing with climate change issues (mitigation and/or adaptation activities, services, knowledge sharing, information’s distribution etc.). All the activities that are designed to strengthen people`s capacities in their response to climate change should be equally distributed to both female and male targeted population of beneficiaries.

Female participation should be ensured starting from the design phase of such activities – which relates to the needs assessment and decision-making level, and ending with equal participation in all designed measures, properly evaluated by gender designed indicators. The effects from such participation is manifold, but the key benefits lay ground is towards avoiding gender-blind measures and policies and secondly increased ownership in the decision-making process.

“Micronarrative Title: Flood. Experience: It rained a lot for several days. From the heavy rain, the water entered my hook and completely destroyed everything I had, both furniture and appliances. The moment water entered, I was unable to deal with the situation”, Female, aged 30-49, Divorced/Separated, Urban area, Macedonian.

What must be changed?

“Micronarrative: Burning our house, a natural disaster. Experience: Hello I am a 26-year-old girl. In our village a few years ago it happened that 2 or 3 houses burned down and it was really a natural disaster which can not be described .. I was watching how our house was burning and I could not do anything the only thing I did was call the firefighters and see how they were trying to stop the fire... everything burned not a single thing remained, every memory burned was lost and turned to ashes .. it was a difficult time because we had nowhere to live, we went and lived for a long time of some family, we had nothing to wear or to eat or money, but luckily not we had damage to people but only to material things .. some years we lived with this bad dream because it could not be forgotten. It was a by a cold winter night and the fire was caused by a  fire in the chimney.”. Female, Albanian, Rural area, Single, 24-29.

We are comparing here numbers and narratives.

Narratives provided life to numbers. These narratives are a real-lives stories that cannot and must not be translated only into numbers. They must be translated into realistic and doable (effective, efficient) measures and policies that will help people dealing with negative impacts, and will help people mitigate or adapt climate change as long-term, enhanced and policies that are recognizing different needs and practices of both women and men.

These stories should and must lay ground for developing nuanced policies that will leave no person behind, meaning will strive to address and cover more aspects than previously.

What must(needs) be changed?

  1. National policy/program development must encompass peoples, both male`s and female`s different needs and obstacles, capacities and potential to prevent and/or adapt/mitigate climate change negative impacts,
  2. National communication/information/knowledge sharing strategies, must target equally male and female beneficiaries, and must consider different types of social, health, economic and/or other types of vulnerabilities.
  3. Administrative capacities of the responsible institutions dealing with climate change must be strengthened on the gender perspective of climate change.
  4. Fiscal planning, or financing climate actions must be in correlation to the different needs of different vulnerable groups cross-referenced by gender.
  5. Women must be considered as agents of change, and their capacities, knowledge, and role in the family and the society must be fully recognized and used for developing efficient climate change policies.

“Micronarrative:  Skopje, when will you be happy again? Experience: In Skopje, in winter, one no longer lives free from polluted air. I must wear a mask when I go out, which is too expensive, and I cannot afford it. I cannot have walks and various activities that affect my mental health and well-being. I cannot open a window to purify the air in the house. There is no oxygen outside, and it affects my alertness during the day. I also developed various allergies.” Female, Single, Urban area, 30-49.

Olgica Apostolova; co-author: Filip Kondovski

Olgica Apostolova, MSC in European Studies in Integration and Communication, with 18 years of experience in the field of gender equality, social inclusion and non-discrimination.



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