Women’s Economic Empowerment: Women’s Enterprises in a Changing Climate: Barriers and Opportunities

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Globally, climate change heralds resource shortages, rising sea levels, increasingly erratic weather patterns and less dependable growing seasons, which promise to impact virtually every facet of our lives.

On the other hand, women and their unique knowledge and experience—including their strong links to nature-based production and management—represent a key tool for addressing climate change and developing relevant and successful strategies for mitigation and adaptation. Female entrepreneurship can be leveraged to develop and implement these strategies, and entrepreneurship itself gains importance as traditionally female-led sectors are further threatened by climate change.

Key Findings

Climate change disproportionately affects women.

Climate change, and its long-term impacts, will affect women and men differently, with women to a large degree bearing the lion’s share of the burden. This is a product of both the industries into which women and men segregate and the ways in which women and men interact with resources outside of the labor force, which govern individuals’ and communities’ ability to cope with and adapt to climate change. Women more than men tend to work in agriculture, forestry, healthcare, tourism and other sectors that will be most heavily impacted by climate change.

Gender norms constrain women’s ability to adapt.

Gender norms governing the ways in which women and men engage both within and outside of the household will also limit women’s ability to adapt to climate change. For example, laws and norms that prevent women and girls from owning or inheriting land and accessing credit and other financial resources constrain their ability to move to more climate-resilient industries or amass savings that could be leveraged to respond to climate and income shocks. Norms that limit women’s mobility and unequal patterns of household and financial decision-making may also prevent them from taking the steps necessary to respond to changes in climate. Norms also dictate access to national decision-making spaces, from which women have largely been absent.

Women will be instrumental to combating climate change.

Women’s local knowledge and contextual understanding is a critical tool for developing and disseminating adaptation strategies that will be successfully and broadly adopted within their communities. In addition, the demand for innovative strategies represents an opportunity for the development of entrepreneurship, including among women. Without a doubt, the need to design adaptive technologies to respond to the growing threat of climate change presents an opportunity for engaging women, particularly female entrepreneurs.

Key Recommendations

In order to respond to the demands of climate change and meet the needs of female entrepreneurs and workers in climate-vulnerable situations, we present the following recommendations:

  • Increase climate investment that is gender-sensitive;
  • Document women’s knowledge and focus on capacity-building for climate adaptation among women and female entrepreneurs;
  • Integrate a value chain approach that addresses women’s livelihoods and climate resilience; and
  • Increase and improve the collection of sex-disaggregated data.

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