Championing Gender in Discussions on Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change

Similar to how spectacles may help one see a picture clearer and in more detail, using a gender lens in our planning and programming to ensure that we are able to consider all perspectives in a situation. A gender lens allows us to permeate the systems in which we operate so that gender is never forgotten.

As we continue to feel our way through living amidst the pandemic that has set us back decades economically, not to mention having pushed the medical and technological fields to new limits, we need to take a moment to view our next steps and actions in a way that considers the gender-specific risks and experiences that should inform and shape all of our interventions. Arguably the most pressing issue of our generation, climate change does not wait, slow down, or stop for anyone, especially for us humans who have been the greatest exploiters of our environment and natural resources.

The 15th International Conference in Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change, or simply CBA15, brings together practitioners, grassroots representatives, local and national government planners, policymakers, and donors working at all levels and scales to discuss how we can drive ambition for a climate-resilient future.

It aims to provide an innovative, interactive space for the global CBA community of practice to come together to promote effective, locally-led climate action. The conference videos and presentations shared by both experts and community members also provide a valuable learning resource for practitioners and policymakers during and after the event to continue the conversation on adaptation and climate change.

Held from June 14-18, 2021, CBA15 includes 2 “cross-cutting” themes – Gender and Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL). These themes were introduced to draw attention to two essential topics – equally relevant across organizations and disciplines within adaptation – that have not typically been given enough attention in previous conferences. 

Gender here focuses on the differences in the way climate change affects men and women, and the power structures and socially constructed norms that affect the way men and women are able to shape, access, or derive benefits from adaptation solutions. It is more than simply focussing on women’s perceived climate vulnerabilities and participation in CBA. Gender may also incorporate discussions of “intersectionality”, the way in which the social identities of different people intersect to create a particular type of experience of marginalization or vulnerability to risks. Discussions on gender should recognize the way in which gender identities maintain the drivers of vulnerability and the importance to change power relations and norms to ensure climate resilience for all.  

MEL focuses on the need to track the outcomes of projects, learn from successes and failures, and incorporate that learning into the way the adaptation community carries out its work. MEL has been typically undervalued and underfunded among the adaptation community, and taking MEL seriously requires practitioners to think carefully about how they prioritise the implementation of projects and programmes. Any thematic discussion could engage with the particular challenges raised by ensuring that outcomes and recommendations are monitored and assessed appropriately.   

By creating “cross-cutting” themes, the objective is for gender and MEL to be integrated across the different sessions at CBA, including thematic workshops, peer-to-peer training and the marketplace. We also aim to demonstrate that these issues are applicable across themes – there are no topics or areas of discussion where they are not relevant, or their consideration does not raise new challenges.

Albeit completely virtual due to pandemic restrictions around the world, RILHUB was able to participate as a gender champion in the following sessions:

  • Voices from the Frontline: Resilience Lessons from Communities
    This session brought together community voices from the “Voices from the Frontline” initiatives, discussing local responses to COVID-19 and how local action can be supported.

    The Voices from the Frontline has been supporting communities across the globe in sharing their stories on the challenges of and the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative has shed light on the different ways that local communities are self-organizing and effectively mobilizing sources of resilience in the face of the pandemic and the consequent lockdown.

    The session was lead by the Global Resilience Partnership, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. It applied a talk show format to bring together community voices from the initiative, academics, local government representatives, and international organizations in an engaging and deep conversation.

  • Pathways to Youth Inclusion in the Local Governance of Climate Action
    Youth inclusion in the adaptation processes is pertinent at the local government level where they could make invaluable contributions through their energy, vision, and ideas to help shape climate change adaptation measures and policies.

    The session sought to explore Pathways to Youth Inclusion, answering these questions:

    • What are the key areas for youth inclusion in adaptation processes at the local governance level?
    • What barriers and enabling factors exist for meaningful youth inclusion?
    • How do we ensure gender favourable youth inclusion in local climate action?

    Generally, the session will explore various views on youth and gender inclusion in local adaptation processes. It was lead by the Green Africa Youth Organization and the Official Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC.

  • What Women Want: How Grassroots and Urban Poor Women are Impacting Change in Climate Adaptation Policy and Practice
    This session highlighted how grassroots needs are being articulated, and open discussions around financing solutions for the urban poor.

    SDI and Huairou Commission showcased how grassroots and urban poor women are effectively innovating, engaging, and advocating for changes in policy and practice that speak to their priorities and needs. It shared the methods they are using, and how this work pushes forward adaptation efforts that are truly community-based in order to effect change from the local to global levels.

    This session was facilitated by Slum Dwellers International and the Huairou Commission.

  • Zoom is Marvellous
    Ideal for trainers, youth workers, managers, community builders, and generally anyone who needs inspiration for Zoom, this session tackled safety considerations and how to be inclusive and engaging in online spaces. It shared methods of how to move beyond ‘presentation’ style sessions to creative interactive sessions by sharing different experiences, fears, and joys of working online.

    This session was facilitated by Rehearse the Revolution.

  • Climate Storytelling for Impact
    The need to challenge ourselves to move past the mono culture of past climate narratives by identifying and amplifying the biodiversity of stories and communication as diverse as the ecosystem we seek to save was highlighted in this session.

    Formatted as a peer-to-peer learning session, it shared a case study on impactful storytelling through film, what storytellers are doing to catalyze climate communication and a breakout group exercise on how to strategize with a story for impact.

    This session was lead by DOCUBOX, Docsociety, and the Indian Documentary Foundation.


By providing avenues for discussion, learning, and knowledge exchange, there are more spaces for marginalized and vulnerable groups like women, children, and indigenous peoples to voice out their specific experiences, concerns, and proposed solutions that are from the perspective of those on the ground. It was highlighted how specific sessions throughout the week-long event were dedicated to amplifying the voices of women and girls in the frontlines and other sessions were either very gender-sensitive, gender-balanced in terms of speakers and facilitators, or at the very least, conscious of not being gender harmful in any way. As representatives of the CBA community of practice shared their reflections on the conference and what needs to happen next alongside high-level panelists during the closing plenary of the event, it was notable to see varied and colorful observations related to or suggestions on how to “use the momentum of the super-year to transform adaptation and address structural inequalities”.


RILHUB continues to strive to create and support various opportunities for learning, reflection, and the sharing of best practices among partners, communities, and stakeholders.