Climate change is not gender neutral. While everyone is impacted by a changing climate, traditional gender roles in many countries mean that women feel its effects disproportionately. In Pacific Island Countries (PIC) it threatens almost all aspects of life—land, food, and water security—but Pacific women often bear the brunt of climate-related impacts due to traditional roles that place them at the center of childcare, education, and subsistence fishing and agriculture. At both the PIC and global level, women have less access to economic, political, and social power structures and decision-making around climate change. In short, PIC women are often the most impacted by climate change and the least able to influence it on an institutional and policy scale.
Given this, it’s clear that women should be meaningfully involved in decision-making processes around climate change adaptation, and their perspectives mainstreamed into project implementation. And not only because they bear the brunt of impacts. Leaving women out of the problem-solving process creates a real risk of inadequate solutions for entire populations. In the Federated States of Micronesia, for instance, fishing is a primary source of food and livelihoods. But whereas men fish for commercial purposes, women fish for subsistence, so programming that focuses solely on commercial fishing ignores both impacts on female-run food production and an important piece of the climate adaptation puzzle.
The traditional roles that place women at the heart of food production, childcare, and natural resource management also place them in position to make meaningful strides to implement change, especially at a grassroots level. Meaningful gender integration in donor-funded projects and grants can be a method to incorporate women’s perspectives into climate change work, which ultimately creates a better environment not only for women, but populations as a whole.
This spring, a group of George Washington University (GWU) graduate students decided to focus on gender integration in PICs for their capstone project. Says Rebecca Giovannozzi, one of the five graduate students who worked on the project:
“With such diverse academic backgrounds, we wanted to find a topic and region that intrigued us all and allowed for us to grow individually in our own fields. We identified the intersection of climate change resilience and adaptation efforts with gender as a focus area. The more we researched, the more we saw that gender was inadequately addressed throughout the literature and in practice.”
After picking the topic, the team looked for a development organization and project to work with, ultimately selecting USAID Ready, implemented by DT Global. USAID Ready works with PICs to increase resilience to climate change and disaster risks through the development of climate change adaptation (CCA) policies and legislation, improved access to climate finance, and strengthened capacity to implement CCA initiatives, including working with partners on gender integration strategies.
On gender integration, Trevor Ole, USAID Ready Project Chief of Party, says “We understand that climate risk cannot be adequately mitigated or managed without understanding and addressing gender equity and social inclusion (GESI) issues. This is why the Project provides important technical GESI expertise to partners in 11 countries across the Pacific. To date, the Project has supported government agencies to conduct GESI analyses and broad stakeholder engagement processes leading to gender action plans and strategies that have informed the development of CCA policies, legislation and project designs.”
USAID Ready has produced checklists and tools to guide GESI-responsive CCA mainstreaming, and a GESI Project Management workbook to help project managers in the Pacific better address GESI in their own work. USAID Ready also delivers training opportunities for both men and women at government and non-government partner agencies to strengthen their capacity to implement effective CCA initiatives.
One of USAID Ready’s work streams is to provide technical assistance to small community-based organizations in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) that are applying for small Adaptation Fund grants, issued by the Micronesia Conservation Trust. The team picked the Chuuk Women’s Council as their focal organization and worked virtually with the Ready field team to obtain documents for background documentation, receive guidance on how to select a country and focus area within Ready, and discuss their research.
The Chuuk Women’s Council project aims to increase resilience and adaptation using community nurseries and agroforest gardens—reducing erosion by creating buffer zones around flood-prone areas and propagating degraded zones with edible crops. USAID Ready provided technical assistance to the Council during the grant application phase and the grant implementation phase, including on how to integrate gender considerations into the project lifecycle.
The GWU students found both successes and challenges in gender integration from their study of the Chuuk Women’s Council project. Using these findings and conducting research on similar toolkits, the students created a “Gender Integration for Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation Projects” toolkit that draw on and summarizes best practices in gender integration. The toolkit was specifically designed to be used by small community-based organizations that often feel they don’t have the staff time, budget, or specialized expertise to integrate gender into projects. To help with this, the students wanted to present an accessible, realistic road map for organizations to make gender integration easier and emphasize that gender integration does not have to be an expensive, complicated process and even simple measures, done well, can have a significant impact. As Rebecca points out, “We think that the impact integrating gender can have on your program results is worth tenfold the effort you put into the integration.”
The tool emphasizes basic steps for small community organizations, regardless of sector, to take to integrate gender. These include how to conduct a gender analysis including analyzing implicit and explicit power structures, tips for conducting desk research, how to develop and collect gender-sensitive indicators, and perhaps most importantly—clear information on why all of these steps are important for local organizations to take. While the toolkit offers resources and examples specific to climate resilience and adaptation projects, the GWU students hope that its basic steps and recommendations can be used by organizations in a range of sectors. Though the tool requires further testing and validation by potential users, the response to this work thus far has been positive, including a request from the Marshall Islands Ambassador to the US to share the report and toolkit, based on similarities in gender gaps between the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.
This work contributes to the important and ongoing discussion on how to strengthen gender equity and inclusion capacity and outcomes in the Pacific. USAID Ready continues to support partners with GESI expertise, as well as find, document, and share best practices on engagement of women and other vulnerable groups in CCA initiatives and decision-making in targeted PICs.
 Rebecca Giovannozzi, Yuxin Lei, Sarah Lutz, Isabella Mekker, and Benjamin Troupe; Assessing the Effectiveness of Gender Integration through Climate Change Adaptation Projects in the Federated States of Micronesia (2020); 4, 5