Gender and Child Inclusion in Policies on Climate Change in South Asia

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Climate change is a natural process, but its exacerbation in recent decades due to anthropogenic activities has created severe problems and challenges. Though children and women contribute little to the causes of climate change, they are the ones hardest hit by it. Poor governance with respect to climate risks and lack of policies and programmes specifically including children and women compound their vulnerabilities. This study aims to review policies on inclusion of child rights as well as on the aspects ofGender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI), across Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The changing climate poses a challenge to child security and gender equality. Droughts result in famine, increasing the workload of children and women and increasing the threat of child labour and trafficking. Because of climate-induced disasters like floods or cyclones, children and women are at risk of drowning. Traditional wells, springs, and streams are drying up, so women and children have to travel long distances to fetch water. The impacts of climate change on female-headed households and climate-sensitive livelihoods affect children indirectly. A situation analysis review of the existing policies across the countries is as follows:

  • Nepal: Since 2015, inclusion of GESI has been consistent across all climate change-specific policies in Nepal, however, it is not the same for child rights. The government has revised, and updated key policies, and laws related to the environment and climate, and aligned them to achievement of SDGs and the Paris Agreement. While most policies are gender-sensitive/responsive across sectors, there are very few that are gender- transformative.
  • Bangladesh: Bangladesh is a pioneer in the adoption of international multilateral agreements related to gender in climate change and environmental protection. The Government of Bangladesh has made efforts to mainstream gender equality into climate actions and has adopted a unique approach to integrate the NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) and NAP (National Adaptation Plan) under a joint governance structure, connecting with key national processes such as the Five-Year Plan and the implementation of the SDGs, and with strategic documents. The National Adaptation Plan of Bangladesh (2023-2050) and Eighth Five-Year Plan, 2020 are very transformative and influence policies across all the four sectors.
  • Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is comparatively behind Nepal and Bangladesh, when it comes to GESI and child inclusion. While a lot of policies are gender-sensitive/responsive, a good number of plans, policies and strategies in Sri Lanka are gender- and child-blind/neutral. However, the recent Agricultural Policy (2019) is a good start and may indicate change in the future policies to come.