6.5 Women's Ways of Knowing in Pacific Islands: Applications for Coping with Weather Extremes, Adapting to Climate Change, and Reducing Disaster Risk

Tuesday, 8 January 2013: 4:30 PM
Room 19A (Austin Convention Center)
Cheryl L. Anderson, Univ. of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI

Even as efforts to link gender and indigenous knowledge with climate and extreme weather events have made enormous strides in international efforts to build awareness of policy makers, the methods for integrating gender in assessments are still not well understood. Lessons from disaster risk reduction have shown that that dealing with gender issues is much more complicated than assigning labels of vulnerability based on sex-disaggregated data. Gender, age, and cultural aspects of identifying and coping with extreme weather and climate events in the Pacific offers other ways of understanding extremes and associated risks. Gender analysis provides a lens for considering integrated risk reduction and adaptation planning, where gender is considered throughout the process of identifying exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. We examine gender in divisions of labor, livelihood activities, access to resources and information, political access to positions of power, and coping strategies. As a unit of analysis, gender attaches to other socioeconomic indicators, such as class and poverty, race and ethnicity, and traditional knowledge.

In the Pacific Islands, where many are on the frontlines of severe climate change impacts and subsist in a state of chronic disaster relief, there are adaptive capacities associated with gender roles in matrilineal and matriarchal societies that have not been considered in planning and policy development. Several Pacific projects demonstrate the ways in which gender, realized through traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), enable communities to reduce risks from hazards and changes in climate. In the Pacific, formal risk management sectors, largely male dominated, have not thoroughly engaged essential areas of the private sector working on risk reduction, including non-governmental organizations, civil society, and community groups, where leaders in many islands are women. An exploration of gender in Pacific Island case studies reveals lessons about ways that women's knowledge, which is often under-utilized in examining severe weather extremes, may offer culturally appropriate adaptation methods and ways to build community resilience to withstand impacts from climate and disaster. These lessons that emerge from these unique places have implications for reducing risk and building resilience to climate extremes elsewhere.

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