Women at a solar workshop learning how to make solar lanterns /shutterstock

9 November 2021

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Climate change – Another reason for gender inclusive finance

Johanna Nyman, Head, of  Inclusive Green Finance & Helen Walbey, Head of Gender Inclusive Finance


Did you know that just by switching the types of seeds that are planted, women have been able to grow more climate-resilient crops? While this seems like such a simple act, it teaches us valuable lessons about climate change adaptation, things we can achieve with inclusive green finance, and sustainability in the hands of women.

It is undeniable that women are often the primary group responsible for critical sectors such as food production and hospitality. Women, many of whom are also custodians of households and community resources such as water and fuel[1], are also overrepresented in the agriculture and fisheries sectors.

Despite the important roles played by women in the community, existing structural gender inequalities persists. From access to financial resources and land ownership, to education and health, women remain underrepresented in legal and public life, face unequal or weak property rights, and many women globally are still ineligibility for credit due to cultural norms that prioritize access and opportunities for men over women. For these reasons, women are girls are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change and are at high risk of being negatively affected by environmental degradation.

It is therefore essential that policymakers strategize urgent and targeted measures, as well as direct their attention and resources towards removing the structural and cultural barriers faced by women.

Inclusive green finance (IGF) policies can play a vital role in addressing specific climate vulnerabilities faced by women, and ensure that green finance products are not only gender sensitive, but are also gender transformative. By building climate resilience through financial inclusion and enabling small-scale mitigation, AFI member institutions have opened up access to formal savings, credit, insurance, and payment systems which have benefited some of the most vulnerable populations in the world. These initiatives have been particularly crucial in coping with natural disasters as well as gradual climate change, but can also be a gamechanger to enable resilience building against future climate change impacts.

Research has shown that integrating a gender-sensitive approach to adaptation and mitigation activities is key to ensuring that climate interventions respond to the needs of women and girls. To achieve this goal, women’s involvement and representation at all stages and at all levels of the adaptation process is crucial to ensure that it do not amplify existing inequalities[2].

The needs of young professional women living in an urban environment are quite different to those of an older married mothers living in a rural village. Therefore, in discussing women’s financial inclusion, it is critically important to understand that women are not a heterogenous group. In order to develop interventions that appropriately meet the needs of women at various lifecycle stages, measures to support women’s financial inclusion need to consider their age, location, and a wider range of other socioeconomic factors such as education levels and religious background.

Driven by current gaps in regulation and green finance discussions, the AFI network is currently exploring new ways of how access to finance to build resilience and enable mitigation through IGF policies can be more effectively tailored to address specific vulnerabilities experienced by women impacted by climate change. In addition, we are also looking into how women can be empowered to become drivers of sustainability.

Among our preliminary findings on the intersection between gender and IGF, is the power of accurate, timely and relevant data to financial policymakers and regulators. In a progressive move by the Reserve Bank of Fiji, both gender and IGF were considered in its recent national-level demand side survey. Data gathered from the survey is currently being used to inform the next iteration of the country’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy and to develop specific targets and interventions to close the gender gap in access to finance and build women resilience to climate change.

While we are still in the early days of yielding the potentials of IGF and gender inclusive finance, there is unmistakable interest and sense of urgency reflected by AFI member institutions to pursue this important intersection. Guided by the Denarau Action Plan, the Sharm El Sheikh Accord, the Kigali Statement, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, the network is committed to ensuring that in the face of changing climates, we leave no woman behind.


AFI’s inclusive green finance workstream is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI), which is supported by the German Federal Ministry for the EnvironmentNature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), based on a decision of the German Bundestag.

AFI’s gender inclusive finance workstream is financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and other partners.


[1] Bureau of International Information Programs. 2012. Global Women’s Issues: Women in the World Today. United States Department of State. Available at: https://opentextbc.ca/womenintheworld/chapter/chapter-11-women-and-the-environment/#:~:text=Women%20play%20a%20critical%20role,both%20forests%20and%20agricultural%20terrain

[2] International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). June 6, 2019. Why Gender Matters in Climate Change Adaptation. Available at: https://www.iisd.org/articles/gender-climate-change and UNFCCC. (n.d.). Gender and Climate Change Adaptation. Available at: https://unfccc.int/topics/gender/gender-and-unfccc-topics/gender-and-climate-change-adaptation

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