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Women are traditional knowledge keepers and this knowledge should inform climate-ready practices and policies.



Communities have dealt with natural climatic variability and other changes for centuries by innovating and institutionalizing indigenous and local knowledge and practices (ILKP) in managing local natural resources and infrastructure development. ILKPs are time tested and specific to local needs and priorities. On their own, ILKP are not enough to deal with extreme events that climate change is likely to bring about. By collaborating, the scientific and ILKP communities can generate new knowledge and improved practices for effective climate change adaptation. To do that, knowledge and understanding of ILKP is needed. 

Women are more vulnerable to impacts of climate change. With limited access to resources, restricted rights, limited mobility and household decision-making capacity, in most instances, climate change is disproportionately impacting women more than men. But given their role in supporting households and communities and their greater dependency on natural resources for their livelihood, women are also uniquely positioned to play a key role in shaping community-based adaptation strategies for the addressing climate realities.

Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?

We propose to identify and document several ILKPs for climate adaptation; assess the role of women in practicing, innovating, and sustaining the ILKP; demonstrate the utility of practice for building climate resiliency; and its potential for replicability and scale up.  

The ILKPs will be identified through desk review and reaching out to NGOs working in climate risk prone areas; conduct of focus group discussions and interviews with community women, and field observations.  

These ILKPs will then be documented as case studies for further dissemination and to inform policy.

The objectives of this project are to:

  • Identify community based, women-led best practices in climate adaptation
  • Use these best practices to motivate communities and local governments that have not yet committed to action
  • Use these best practices to inform state and national climate and health adaptation plans 
  • Use these best practices as guides to identify strengths and lacunae in existing policies of the agenda of the National Health Policy in relation to climate change 
  • Use these best practices to assess community vulnerabilities and adaptability to climate change
  • Use these best practices to identify barriers to climate change adaptation  

This documentation study will inform relevant stakeholders about practical actions that have proven effective in the past combined with current day practices so a renewed agenda can be drafted and effectively implemented to help communities adapt to climate change – to reduce their risks and impacts and create more resilient population groups.

Specifically, we will identify practices being employed by women in rural settings to adapt to climate change in areas of livelihood, agriculture, food security, education, sanitation, infrastructure development, disaster management and sustainability. We will review documented practices from published literature, scientific reports and academic articles; white papers, fact sheets, workshop reports, grey literature, and the historical archives.

The output of this documentation exercise will be a series of case studies. These will include analysis of current practices and past/traditional methods of mitigating and adapting to climate change, and can be use for:

  • Workshops or courses in climate change adaptation for researchers and decision makers to inform and educate
  • Conduct vulnerability assessment
  • Impact assessment and adaptation planning at the local or state level.
  • As a learning tool to analyze the best practices and design scale up and replication methodologies
  • For comparative analysis to delineate the processes adopted by women in two or more communities and draw inferences about similarities and differences across approaches

Typically, the case studies shall help describe:

  • Community context with specific gender-based impacts of climate change
  • Regional impacts of climate change and their impact on health
  • Vulnerability of community and especially women to the climate change impacts
  • The genesis and evolution of the adaptation practice 
  • Outcomes of the practice in increasing climate resiliency

They may also include information about -

  • Circumstances that led to development of the adaptation practice
  • Scale up and replication attempts and/or potential
  • Strategies if any used to engage relevant stakeholders 
  • Challenges and barriers to the process and how they were dealt with
  • Resources that were mobilized
  • Limitations of the practice

Who will take these actions?

This study shall be carried out by the applicants, in collaboration with on-ground stake holders and local NGOs working towards building resilience in community and climate change preparedness and adaptation.

Proposal authors are a team of public health professionals working in the area of environmental health and climate related disaster preparedness and response.

The lead researcher is an environmental health specialist with 15 years of experience in the area of water and air quality, climate change and health, policy regulation, program development, and education and outreach .

The second co-lead applicant is a mental health expert working at the intersection of environmental health and related challenges, especially in context to mother-child health.

The third co-lead applicant is an architect  and urban planner by training, working in the space of climate change and disaster management in the communities across South Asia; and has led several projects in building community resilience and disaster preparedness, especially in disaster prone areas of rural India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. 

The lead and co-lead investigators will identify documentation sites; engage with communities and stakeholders including local govts. and NGOs; plan the documentation study; engage with communities and the women during data collection phase; engage with district and state level policymakers to get their inputs into current state of policy making to address climate change,especially in the context of social equity;review and assess the implementation of existing policies; review all secondary data collected by research associates; analyze data; develop case studies and pilot them for sensitization purposes.

Research associates will conduct desk research of existing policy frameworks to address climate change adaptation and assist in the on-the-field documentation efforts.


Where will these actions be taken?

The research team is based out of the capital city of Delhi.
The rural field locations identified as climate change affected locations where we will conduct the documentation project will include:

Across India -
North East - flood prone
Northern high altitude desert - water scarcity
West - severe heat and drought

Nepal - 
water scarcity 

Bangladesh -
Flood prone 

In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.


Country 2


Country 3


Country 4

No country selected

Country 5

No country selected


What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

South Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions to impacts of climate change. Besides a diverse geography, it’s vulnerabilities are a consequence of its large population and poverty. The lack of adequate preparedness further exacerbates the impacts of climate change.

Climate change impacts will be felt and experienced differentially at local level and understanding community level dynamics is therefore important to addressing these climate disruptions. In recent years, attention has been increasingly focused on building community resilience to adapt to these problems, as well as to help mitigate them. There is recognition that disaster mitigation and climate resilience building frameworks need to be informed by local knowledge and practice for them to be truly impactful.

Addressing social equity in adaptation planning will be necessary if we are to address fully the disproportionate vulnerability and associated risks from climate change of some populations. Inclusion and full participation of such populations in making decisions about climate adaptation is therefore of paramount importance. 

Given that the region has the world’s largest number of climate vulnerable population, it will be critical that these communities are engaged as key stakeholders in the decision making process for designing the region’s adaptation strategies. 

Women are the most climate vulnerable for a variety of reasons. They are also the keepers of ILKPs. It is therefore important that their lived experiences and knowledge be incorporated into the plans that inform local, national, and regional responses to climate change, including the UNFCCC mandated national adaptation plans. 

This documentation project aims to bring to attention such practices and share it with relevant stakeholders. 

What are other key benefits?

Addressing climate change impacts in a country of 1.3 billion is a Herculean task.

All countries are required by UNFCCC to develop national and regional adaptation plans. Addressing social equity is a key component of UNFCCC's call to action on climate change. India’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) states as its first principle the protection of the poor and vulnerable sections of society. However, within the action plan there is limited mention of how these will be addressed. In principle, the plan states that the local communities will be involved in decision-making and implementation, but an evaluation of the plan points out the shortcomings in this regard. 

Adapting frameworks and approaches that have worked elsewhere without considerations of ground realities only exacerbate the problem. Our effort to document the lived experiences of  women in climate-sensitive communities and their coping mechanisms can help address the shortcomings as identified in the national action plan and also strengthen the current approaches listed in the NAP by incorporating the role of communities and their ILKPs. 


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

Projected costs - USD 25K

Challenges to implementing the proposal:

1. Challenges in identifying community champions -
For any community-based project to succeed, it is necessary to have community champions. All efforts will be made to identify such champions but this could pose a challenge. Documentation efforts will only be conducted in communities where we are able to identify such champions.

2. Challenges in implementing policy-level change
To be able to inform climate adaptation plans using the ILKPs we identify and document, will need interested policymakers. Lack of such policymakers will pose an hindrance to the translation efforts of our documentation proposal. By actively engaging with relevant stakeholders during the initial stages of the proposal, we hope to overcome this challenge.

3. Challenges in documenting ILKPs
 Women may not be readily accessible in certain communities to participate in our documentation efforts. We will need to allocate sufficient time to build trust with communities, and/or identify and engage with NGOs working in the region to approach communities. This will add to the cost of the project. 


The United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change requires all countries to develop plans are a means of identifying medium- and long-term adaptation needs and developing and implementing strategies and programmes to address those needs to build community resilience.This documentation project of ILKPs will be used to inform these UNFCCC mandated adaptation plans. 

Short term goals:

(i) Identification of lacunae in existing policies that address women and their vulnerabilities to climate change; their role in climate adaptation; and opportunities for women to contribute to building climate resiliency

(ii) Engagement with stake holders and government functionaries to apprise them of these lacunae

(iii) Interaction with communities and specifically women to help them recognize their role they play/can plan in community climate readiness

(iv) In collaboration with stakeholders, drafting of new or revising existing policies that are reflective of the role of women in addressing climate readiness of communities, 

(v) Funding for gender-specific climate finance in relation to strategic guidance, policy implementation, local training, monitoring progress and evaluation of programs.

Mid-term impact: 

(i) Acknowledgement of women as effective agents of change, of their specialised skills and capacities in different spheres of livelihood system and natural resource management and involving them in the process of developing adaptation and mitigation measures against climate change, and thus appreciation and inclusion of their role and participation

(ii) Improved participation of women in grant-making with a  sensitive gender approach

(iii) Periodic monitoring, evaluation and reporting on all climate-responsive programmes using gender responsive indicators and involving gender experts.


(i)  Gender sensitive attitude incorporated into policies and governance modalities 

(ii) Gender responsive budgeting and planning as part of gender mainstreaming.

(iii) Acceptance of environment protection as an integral component of societal and governance functions. 

(iii) Improved climate readiness due to concerted efforts by communities, stakeholders and government functionaries 

(iv) Acknowledgement of and reformed role of women in society

The proposal should start having an impact once the lacunae in current processes has been identified and communicated to the relevant stakeholder fraternity. This process shall take around an year, post which, best practices from ILKPs can be incorporated into the state and local climate adaptation plans. Next, step will be to identify specific programs for enhancing climate readiness and advocating for their inclusion into the local program implementation plans such that funding can be allocated for their implementation. 

About the author(s)

Dr Suhela Kapoor is a mental health expert working at the intersection of environmental and neurodevelopmental health. Dr Kapoor resides in India. She will be responsible for implementation of the study on ground including design of questionnaires; conduct of interviews and FGDs with the community; collect, review and collate data from archived sources, publication, and other secondary sources; write case studies; and conduct data analysis to prepare policy suggestions. 

Dr Banalata Sen is an environmental health specialist and has 15 years of experience in environmental health research, policy, regulation, education, and capacity building. working in areas of climate change, household air pollution,hazardous air pollutants, arsenic contamination of drinking water. Her interest is in community-based approaches to reducing environmental exposures.  She resides in India. She will be responsible for implementation of the proposal including design of questionnaires and surveys to be disseminated in the community; engagement with stakeholders including community women where the documentation will take place; assess lacunae in policies; present finding to relevant stakeholders; document, develop case studies and related training content; help states to develop climate adaptation plans to include gender sensitivity

Dr Manu Gupta is an architect  and urban planner working in the space of climate change and disaster management and preparedness in the communities in India where he resides. He is a PhD in disaster management. He has led several projects towards building community resilience and disaster preparedness, especially in disaster prone areas of India.  He will lead the identification of climate-sensitive communities, stakeholder engagement, assessment of ILKPs for replication and scale up; review of case studies.

Related Proposals


(i) Global assessment report (GAR) (2015), UNDP

(ii) India’s Progress in Combating Climate Change Briefing Paper for UNFCCC COP 20 Lima, PERU (2014)

(iii) Adaptation to Climate Change in the Context of Sustainable Development and Equity, I. Burton et al

(iv) Climate adaptation in India, Govindarajulu D (2015)

(v) National Action Plan, Government of India, Prime Minister's council on Climate Change

(vi) Indigenous peoples and climate change: From victims to change agents through decent work, International Labour Office, Geneva (2017)

(vii) Adivasi Women: Engaging with Climate Change, Govind Kelkar (2009)

(viii) Gender, climate change and community based adaptations, A guidebook for designing and implementing gender-sensitive community based adaptation programmes and projects, United Nations Development Programme (2010)

(ix) The Role of Women in Climate Adaptation, Rangwala L (2015)

(x) Farmers in a changing climate: Does gender matter? Food security in Andhra Pradesh, India,  Yianna L et al (2010)