Women serve as agents of social change and development, through their unique roles in the family and child care, agricultural labor, food and nutrition security, health and disaster risk reduction. However women are poorly represented in consultation and decision-making processes for the development of climate change adaptation strategies – both at the local, the national and global levels. The promotion of their engagement and leadership is critical to addressing climate change in equitable, healthy, and sustainable ways.
Current climate change policies and strategies tend to inadequately address the needs of women and children, particularly in the contexts of nutrition, food security and health. Integrating women’s empowerment as well as food and nutrition security and health in adaptation strategies, as well as resilient development is urgently needed to ensure the well-being of communities under a changing climate. Yet the issues of climate change adaptation, global health, women’s empowerment, nutrition and food security continue to be addressed in siloed approaches.
Recognizing that these issues should be addressed in an integrated way, the Center for Public Health and Climate Change at the Public Health Institute (PHI), the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) and Action Against Hunger (ACF) have prepared a document on “Enhancing women leadership to address the challenges of climate change on nutrition security and health”.
Successful strategies for addressing the challenges that climate change pose to nutrition security and health, and to promote women’s engagement and leadership in adaptation planning and decision-making have been identified. The aim is to ensure that these are gender, as well as nutrition and health sensitive.
KEY MESSAGES TO ENHANCE WOMEN LEADERSHIP TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH:
Empowering women is a cornerstone of fostering adaptation and addressing the impacts of climate change on health and nutrition. Through drawing on women’s knowledge and experiences based on their unique social, economic and resource management roles, climate change adaptation planners can significantly reduce communities’ vulnerability to climate change.
Women’s capacity to address health and nutrition risks resulting from climate change must be enhanced through greater gender equity. This involves improved access to education, information, land, technologies, credit and social protection, as well as increased participation in climate change decision-making.
Facilitating access to maternal and child care and nutrition services reduces hunger and malnutrition among women and children in the face of climate-related hazards and climate change impacts. This includes direct nutrition interventions, promotion of good nutrition and feeding practices such as breastfeeding, complementary feeding for infants and improved hygiene practices among others.
Strengthening women’s role in promoting sustainable and diverse diets, resilient livelihoods, local food systems and climate-smart agriculture, including the production and consumption of nutrient-rich crops, is critical for ensuring food and nutrition security under a changing climate.
Protection and enhancement of health is an essential pillar of sustainable development, and of the response to climate change. Promoting health access and healthy environmentsthrough investing in health care systems, clean energy access, water and sanitation, all address significant climate change impacts on health. Policies and investments to mitigate and adapt to climate change have great potential for improving health.
Protection and promotion of nutrition and health are essential components of climate-resilient and sustainable development. Women can be instrumental in addressing climate change, nutrition and health in an integrated way. Promoting women’s leadership on these issues requires an integrated approach focusing on both immediate and long-term actions. These include creating mechanisms to promote and protect women’s rights, empowering women, and enhancing their capacity to address the challenges of climate change for nutrition and health. Promoting women’s leadership will have a positive and significant effect on climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, and ultimately, on the health and well-being of the societies of which they are members. This can only be achieved if women are at the centre of adaptation and development planning processed at community national and international level.