Gender and resilience - Working paper

By Virginie Le Masson, Andrew Norton and Emily Wilkinson

Executive summary

The contribution that external interventions make to individual, household and community resilience to climate extremes and disasters will largely depend on the suitability of those activities to the local context and the extent to which implementing agencies address existing social dynamics and power relations.

Exploring the gender dimension of resilience to disasters and climate change encourages researchers and practitioners working in these fields to focus on people’s different relationships to the environment and access to resources. It also encourages them to assess how projects aimed at managing risk and building resilience are affected by social norms, including those pertaining to gender-based inequalities.
This paper reviews different approaches to incorporating gender equality objectives into resilience projects and to monitoring gender equality outcomes. It uses a sample of project proposals from DFID’s Building Resilience to Climate Extremes and Disasters programme (BRACED) and makes suggestions on ways to promote effective and consistent practice across the full range of projects. The methodology is twofold, involving a systematic review of how gender resiliencies are considered in the literature on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and an analysis of project planning materials for eight of the 15 NGO projects being supported by BRACED.

The analysis of NGO approaches reveals different levels of ambition, from recognising gender-based differences to targeting gendered interests and ultimately transforming gendered power relations. Several challenges were however identified within the gender elements of these projects related to their design, operational feasibility and the practicality of monitoring.

The authors set out recommendations for the implementation of resilience-building projects with a gender equality lens, based on examples from the literature and the NGO project documentation. They emphasise in particular the need to analyse the connections between the ‘mini-theories of change’ concerned with the ambitious goal of transforming gender relations and the overall theory of change for the resilience project as a whole.

In doing so, implementing agencies can improve the coherence, gender impact and effectiveness of monitoring approaches.

This exercise will require a thorough examination of the two-way causal relationships between women’s empowerment and community or household-level resilience.

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