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Women are key drivers of climate change solutions, but gender inequalities seem to stand in their way. “How can we close gender gaps and achieve climate resilience for all?” These question-powered discussions at the First High-Level CGIAR Dialogue focused on gender and climate change in Africa. The meeting took place at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus, Nairobi, on 7 October. It revealed how the new CGIAR Harnessing Equality for Resilience in the Agrifood System (HER+) Initiative is creating opportunities to help women build agricultural resilience for climate change.

Highlighting the objective of the HER+ Initiative, CGIAR Gender Platform Director Nicholine de Haan stated that the initiative pursues women’s economic empowerment agenda that is inclusive through a greater agency, equal opportunities, access, and control over resources.

During the first discussion session, team leads of the four work packages under the Her+ initiative highlighted their activities. CGIAR Gender Strategic Communications and Content Lead Marianne Gadeberg and CGIAR Gender Global Engagement and Policy Lead Vivian Atakos moderated the session.

IITA Senior Scientist and Gender Specialist, Steven Cole, said that the CGIAR research program started the Gender Equality Transformation Work Package to design gender-transformative approaches in food systems. He stated that the package designs different tools to carry out qualitative and quantitative research. This will help create gender transformative approaches that give women the opportunity to build agricultural resilience for climate change. “We hope that through this work we can put together a range of different tools for actors to scale agricultural transformation,” he added.

India Country Representative and Research Leader for Gender and Livelihoods at International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Ranjitha Puskur, spoke on the Power Work Package, which focuses on technology-based pathways to bring about the needed transformation in agriculture. She explained that technological advancement had left a lot of gender groups behind, including women, due to social, political, and economic norms and barriers limiting them from accessing these technical innovations. Puskar advised that innovations should be combined with approaches that break these norms to accelerate access by women and other vulnerable groups to become resilient and empowered. “It is not only about women being able to access these technologies but also making them drivers of climate change in their communities,” she said.

Deputy Division Director at International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Daniel Gilligan, spoke about the Gender Responsive and Social Protection Work Package. He described the package as one made to address gender gaps, starting with social programs. He stated that there is a growing stakeholders’ interest in helping women build resilience in climate change. Hence, his team is working with the government and other partners to test how social protection can address the root cause of women’s vulnerability and risk.

IFPRI Senior Research Fellow Katrina Kosec gave highlights of the VOICE-Promoting Inclusive Governance Work Package. She said the team is working on how stakeholders and policies can support women’s resilience in climate change. Kosec added that there is a need for indicators and tools that can track women’s voices and support agencies that promote women’s voices. “The responsiveness of policymakers to women is important,” she concluded.

Following the presentations was a panel discussion with Gender and Development Expert at CARE International, Maureen Miruka; Director of KULIMA Integrated Development Solutions, Katherine Vincent; Advisor at GIZ, Hanna Ewell; Kenya Gender Focal Point for UNFCC, Jackeline Makokha; and ILRI Climate Change Principal Scientist, Todd Craine. The session discussed directions for gender and climate change research in Africa.

Lilian Kirim, Senior Research Fellow and Research Coordinator at Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, Egerton University, rounded off the meeting, stating that women are more intensely affected by climate change and policy. This makes it necessary to ensure that research is impactful by producing appropriate smart climate solutions that are gender-responsive. She also advised that the government and other stakeholders in the food system are engaged early enough in research.