Addressing Climate Change from the Perspective of Women and Children

The historical social structures in India have left women and children, as the most vulnerable to some of the biggest risks facing the country today. While the policy frameworks meant to address these risks are yet to be fully implemented or accommodate their requirements. due to social and economic inequalities, adequate nutrition, clean drinking water, sanitation and healthcare are yet to reach the poorest of the poor . Climate change has further exaceberated the problems and are now the the most acute challenges facing the local governments.

Even as multiple studies recognize India as highly vulnerable to climate change, the capacity of officials in various government departments at sub-national level has been found to be grossly inadequate across states. The State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC) have remained without widespread ownership as required for their effective implementation besides the fact that multiple independent reviews have found them to be lacking a specific roadmap for action or incongruent with other policy frameworks.

Recent drought across majority of the districts in India as well as heat waves and floods led to an in-depth study by UNICEF India on status of coping mechanisms in 11 states of India.

In response to the findings of that report  CAN South Asia and PHIA Foundation were engaged to run a program in 3 states on building resilience of children through policy framework reviews and best practices documentation to identify specific opportunities of action, designing capacity building modules for state officials, and supporting them to develop project proposals that can secure finance for additional challenges that children face from climate impacts. The program also involved supporting Gram Panchayat of a least developed/backward district to build climate resilience and achieve carbon-neutrality by 2020.

The 3 states of Kerala, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh represent a wide spectrum of agro-climatic zones, climate risks and demography. The state partners of the program – Thanal, Oxfam India and GEAG – performed respective SAPCC and budget analyses from the perspective of child resilience to identify gaps in the plan and finance allocated.

The stakeholder roundtables also brought out training needs assessment for officials who implement policies and schemes. This analyses helped develop draft capacity building modules that were presented to the officials and CSOs in 3 states for inputs based on their experience. Simultaneously, 9 best practices from across India were documented for the first time to present ideas and approaches to scale up women and child resilience efforts of the governments in states and centre.

During the stakeholder consultations, ideas emerged that were taken to Climate Finance Proposal Write-shop conducted in collaboration with NABARD’s training institute BIRD. These ideas are being developed to submit project concept notes to identified sources of funds within India and internationally.

The insights that have emerged from the program have created the base to take the knowledge products and engagement methods to other states in India as well. The best practices that present how certain initiatives have made an endeavour to ensure women and children are able to cope with climate impacts with a defying spirit provided they are involved in the planning and implementation with a strong commitment to inclusive, bottom-up approach. These practices present perfect complimentary role to top-down scheme design and budget allocation processes as well as address disaggregated governance through multiple departments not often exercising convergence and pro-active planning.

Addressing climate change from the perspective of women and children has the potential to transform the way governance functions and has several co-benefits to other business-as-usual development programs as well. This program has produced multiple reports, analyses, briefings and recommendations in a probably first-of-its-kind attempt to go the whole mile till recommendations are imparted as planning tools and projects designed to implement the recommendations.

More such programmes engaging a cross-section of departments relevant for women and child resilience are needed with urgency across other states of India.