Engendering Climate Change: Learnings from South Asia


Engendering Climate Change: Learnings from South Asia explores the “gendered experiences of climate change” across various landscapes and social contexts in South Asia, and the strategies people use for adapting to environmental changes.

This book was released on February 25, 2021, by the UK-based publisher Routledge, and its editors are Amrita Patel (adviser at the government of Odisha’s Department of Women and Child Development), Anjal Prakash (research director and professor at the Bharti Institute of Public Policy in Hyderabad’s Indian School of Business), Asha Hans (professor at Utkal University, Bhubaneshwar) and Nitya Rao (professor at the University of East Anglia, UK).

The 262-page book has 11 chapters, contributed by 28 researchers and social scientists. It states that the effects of climate change are experienced differently based on the individual’s social location and exposure to risks, and that such effects aggravate pre-existing socio-economic vulnerabilities.

The following are summaries of five of the publication’s chapters, which cover significant aspects of the gendered effects of climate change:

Chapter 2: Vulnerabilities of rural women to climate extremes: a case of semi-arid districts in Pakistan
This chapter by Islamabad-based researchers Ayesha Qaisrani and Samavia Batool discusses the ways in which women in the semi-arid districts of Pakistan’s Punjab province interact with the environment and natural resources, and the impact climate change has on them. It draws on household surveys and gender-segregated focus group discussions conducted in the rural areas of Dera Ghazi Khan and Faisalabad districts.

The study found that women’s vulnerability to climate change depends on such factors as their age, geographic location, position in household and community, control over productive resources, decision-making power and access to opportunities for learning. The chapter states that their vulnerability stems from existing structures of discrimination.

Chapter 4: Of Borewells and Bicycles: The gendered nature of water access in Karnataka, South India and its implications for local vulnerability
This chapter by Chandni Singh (researcher at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements in Bangalore) covers the challenges faced by people in Karnataka’s Kolar district in accessing water for daily use. Erratic rainfall, groundwater over-extraction and the erosion of traditional water management structures have compounded the district's water scarcity problem. The author studies the ways in which changes in water supply reconfigure women’s household duties.

The findings display a steady shift in usage from traditional water management systems to private resources such as borewells. These shifts – the chapter says – have undermined the natural resource base through groundwater over-extraction, the usage of water-intensive crops and soil degradation. This has affected environmental sustainability in the region, as well as people’s capacity for adapting to changed climate conditions.

Chapter 6: Climate change, gendered vulnerabilities and resilience in high mountain communities: The case of Upper Rasuwa in Gandaki River Basin, Hindu Kush Himalayas
This chapter’s authors are Kathmandu-based Deepak Dorje Tamang, who has worked with several organisations in the fields of development and environment, and Pranita Bhushan Udas, a researcher at Thompson Rivers University in Canada.

It studies the effects of climate change in the daily lives of people in the high mountain villages of Nepal’s Rasuwa district, where increasing temperatures and changing rain patterns are disrupting crop cycles. The chapter is based on a larger study of gendered vulnerabilities in the Nepalese and Indian parts of the Gandaki river basin, undertaken by Nepal’s International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development between 2015 and 2018.

This study demonstrates that women – who undertake domestic as well as other labour – are more vulnerable to the effects of climate stressors than men, and that the level of vulnerability differs across ethnic and caste groups. Dalit women – the lowest in the region’s social hierarchy – have little food security and limited livelihood resources, and so they bear multiple burdens of climatic stressors.

The authors state that initiatives addressing climate change need to consider such disparities in social, financial, economic, political and physical resources. They recommend interventions to support access to drinking water, sustainable soil fertility, forest and environmental protection, conservation of biological diversity, and more.

Chapter 8: Gender, migration and environmental change in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta in Bangladesh
In this chapter, authors Katharine Vincent, Ricardo Safra de Campos, Attila N. Lázár and Anwara Begum explore the relationship between gender, livelihoods and migration in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta region of Bangladesh. (Katharine Vincent is a researcher and director of the organisation Kulima Integrated Development Solutions, South Africa; Ricardo Safra de Campos is a professor at UK’s University of Exeter; Attila N. Lázár is a researcher at the University of Southampton, UK; and Anwara Begum is a researcher at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.)

Due to cyclones, flooding and erosion, a significant number of people in the region lose their homes and are forced to migrate each year. The study notes that such migration changes the demography of the area and has gendered consequences.

Although men are usually more likely to migrate, the rate of women migrants has been on the rise. In some instances, women report greater decision-making capacity when their partners are away; this is the case with communities that are more tolerant of women assuming men’s traditional roles. In larger families, where younger women have lesser authority, the migration of a spouse can cause a significant decline in a woman’s autonomy.

Chapter 9: Women-headed households, migration and adaptation to climate change in the Mahanadi Delta, India
This chapter focuses on climate vulnerability, migration and adaptation in the women-headed households of Odisha’s Mahanadi delta, which faces recurrent floods, intense cyclones and coastal erosion. These frequent weather events prevent sustained agriculture and push people (mainly men) to migrate, resulting in an increase in the number of women-headed households in the delta.

The authors of this chapter are Asha Hans, geologist Sugata Hazra, as well as researchers Amrita Patel of Utkal University, Shouvik Das and Amit Ghosh of Kolkata’s Jadavpur University, and Jasmine Giri of Sambalpur University. The study contains data on 189 households collected from five districts of Odisha, where 43.3 per cent of houses have at least one migrant worker, and 60.32 per cent are headed by widowed women.

The study finds that both women- and widow-headed households are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in the delta than those headed by men. This is because women are bound by household responsibilities and face trouble earning a steady income. They have limited access to land, no insurance, and benefit from no policy measures for farm skill training. Remittances sent – regularly or intermittently – by family members who have migrated for work aid such households to meet their needs. Since there is no effective policy for internal migrants in the country, remittances remain an erratic and uncertain source of income for such at-risk households.

Focus by S. Mukundan.


Editors: Asha Hans, Nitya Rao, Anjal Prakash and Amrita Patel

Contributors: Amit Ghosh, Amrita Patel, Anjal Prakash, Anwara Begum, Asha Hans, Attila N. Lázár, Ayesha Qaisrani, Chanda Gurung Goodrich, Chandni Singh, Deepak Dorje Tamang, Divya Sharma, Divya Susan Solomon, Jasmine Giri, Mini Govindan, Muhammad Zubair Anwar, Neha Khandekar, Nitya Rao, Katharine Vincent, Nusrat Habib, Pranita Bhushan Udas, Qaiser Khan, Ricardo Safra de Campos, Roshan Rathod, Samavia Batool, Saqib Shakeel Abbasi, Shouvik Das, Sugata Hazra and Vani Rijhwani


Routledge, UK


25 Feb, 2021