Author and Institution:
Sam Wong, University of Liverpool

How gender influences the effectiveness of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in tackling climate change is under­-researched. Gender is here understood as the social expectations and stereotypes of how men, women, boys and girls should behave in society. Gender enables some groups of men and women to access ICTs, whilst constraining others from doing so. Different levels of control over ICTs, built on unequal power relationships, affects how poor people adapt to the changing climate and respond to climate-­related 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 decision-­making in policy design and resource allocation. They are less represented in formal decision­-making 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 ‘ICT-­climate change’ interventions more gender­-sensitive:

  1. 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 ‘eco-­carers’ is problematic because this fails to capture their protective, as well as their destructive, role in relation to natural resources. Without addressing unequal power relations between women and girls, for example, e­-adaptive practices can also help to reproduce inter­generational equalities.
  2. 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.
  3. Develop gender ­sensitive funding mechanisms: Securing adequate funding to support ICT interventions is crucial to gender empowerment. Yet, targetting women via micro­credit projects risks putting an additional financial burden on them, and that needs serious re­consideration.
  4. Recognise agency­-structure dynamics: Women are active agents, but they are socially constrained from engaging in ICT-­related 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 of the use of ICTs in response to climate change.

Thematic Paper