Exploring the 'Gender ICT Climate Change' Nexus in Development
How gender influences the effectiveness of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in tackling climate change is underresearched. Gender is social expectations and stereotypes of how men, women, boys and girls, should behave in society. Gender enables some groups of men and women to get access to ICTs, whilst constraining others from doing so. Different control over ICTs, built on unequal power relationships, affects how poor people adapt to the changing climate and respond to climaterelated disasters.
Conceptually, this paper explains why, and how, women are more constrained than men from using ICTs in tackling climate change. In term of assets, compared to men, women have less access to technology, to information, to finance, and are more deprived of land rights. Women are more institutionally constrained than men. With regard to social structures, women are excluded from decisionmaking in policy design and resource allocation. They are less represented in formal decisionmaking bodies, such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative.
In addressing these limitations, this paper makes four digital empowerment proposals in an attempt to make 'ICTclimate change' interventions more gender sensitive:
- Contextualise gender mainstreaming: gender mainstreaming helps integrate gender analysis into ICT policies. It acknowledges that men and women perceive and receive information differently, and that this requires diverse approaches to adaptation. However, the attempt to reposition women and girls as 'ecocarers' is problematic because this fails to capture their protective, as well as their destructive, role in relation to natural resources. Without addressing the unequal power relations between women and girls, eadaptive practices can also help reproduce the intergenerational equalities.
- Strengthen governance: crafting new and reforming old, institutional arrangements is essential to improve gender inclusion. Women only interventions are sometimes necessary to empower previously excluded women to engage in ICT-related decisions. However, poor and powerless men should also have their say in climate change policies.
- Develop gendersensitive funding mechanisms: securing adequate funding to support ICT interventions is crucial to gender empowerment. Yet, targeting women by microcredit projects risk putting an additional financial burden on them, and that needs serious reconsideration.
- Recognise agencystructure dynamics: women are active agents, but they are socially constrained from engaging in ICTrelated decisions. Women's preferences, institutional arrangements and politics need to be taken into account in order to tackle digital exclusion.
These four proposals will be useful for development agencies, governments and NGOs seeking to improve the gendered outcomes from use of ICTs in response to climate change.