How Green Jobs for Women Help Promote Gender Equality and Climate Resilience

Disaster-resilient houses are needed in Fiji, which is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards. Photo credit: ADB.

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In climate-vulnerable communities in Fiji and Mongolia, capacity-building activities support women’s participation in the green economy.


Climate change and disasters triggered by natural hazards disproportionately affect women and girls, particularly those who are poor, and worsen existing inequalities, including in education, employment, and livelihood opportunities. Women recover from post-disaster shocks slower than men because of restricted access to resources, disparities in care responsibilities, lower levels of education, and lack of a say in decision-making. Multiple climate-related hazards may also prompt poor households to adopt extreme coping actions that can lead to long-term and intergenerational vulnerability of women and girls, such as early marriage for girls, selling land and other assets for less than their value, withdrawing children from school, and reducing food consumption.

Women can benefit from growing green economies, but the existing gender gap hinders prospects for advancement from low-skill, entry-level positions to high-skill, higher-paying green jobs. These include limited access to skills training, lack of finance, and social and gender norms affecting choice of study and career perspectives in the labor market. Reforms and demonstration of effective initiatives that could accelerate green jobs for women are urgently needed to make the green sectors gender-inclusive. 

A knowledge and support technical assistance program by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) aims to strengthen women’s resilience to climate change and disaster risks in the region. Among its goals is to demonstrate the green jobs potential for women in Fiji and Mongolia.[1] The project conducted a gender analysis of green job sectors in three countries Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, and Fiji—such as renewable energy, green construction, environmental protection, and climate-smart commercial agriculture—to identify ways to promote women’s participation and benefits from green economy and green sectors growth. The study looked at how gender gaps in women’s access to skills, leadership, and entrepreneurship may negatively affect women's entry into green sectors and green jobs, and provided policy recommendations that could help reduce the gender gap.

A gender-inclusive green economy requires reforms and demonstration of effective initiatives that are likely to accelerate women’s participation in green jobs and entrepreneurial activities. In Fiji, the green jobs demonstration subproject trained women in carpentry so they could construct climate-friendly and disaster-resilient homes for the poor as a form of climate adaptation and use their new skills to earn a living. In Mongolia, the green jobs demonstration subproject provided skills training for women through the grant-funded Community Vegetable Farming for Livelihoods Improvement Project.

Construction of Disaster-Resilient Homes

As a small island nation, Fiji is highly exposed to the impacts of climate change and weather-related disasters, including intense tropical cyclones and storms, sea level rise, and the related hazards of floods, landslides, and drought.

Gender inequalities influence the ability of people and different social groups to build resilience. The overall progress of Fiji toward promoting women’s rights and gender equality is noteworthy, but there remain disparities that hinder women’s ability to build resilience to increasing climate change and disaster risks. There is gender inequality in labor force participation in Fiji, and a significant gender wage gap exists.

Post-disaster needs assessments find that loss of housing and possessions is among the major direct impacts following a disaster. Others are damage to crops, agricultural production, and businesses. These impacts are highly disruptive to family life, livelihoods, and employment; and increase the risks of gender-based violence.

In Fiji, the green jobs demonstration subproject was designed to raise awareness and demonstrate the importance of vocational training and employment opportunities for women in the growing green economy. ADB partnered with Habitat for Humanity Fiji to provide women with carpentry skills that they can use to contribute and make decisions around shelter preparedness in their communities. It would also provide them to access employment opportunities in construction, which is a historically male-dominated industry.

Participants joined classroom and practical training in carpentry in 2018 and 2020 through the Australia Pacific Training Coalition. Eighteen female graduates earned Certificates II and 11 female graduates received Certificates III in Construction, a recognized Australian qualification issued through Technical and Further Education Queensland. During the duration of the two programs, the women assisted with the building of 20 homes and separate toilets in Fijian communities vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The project demonstrated that women can successfully study and work in a male-dominated construction sector, and play an important role in supporting community resilience with new knowledge and skills. 

Community Vegetable Farming

Mongolia faces significant sustainability and environmental challenges that are amplified by climate change. Pastoralism, which provides the livelihood of 40% of the population, is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, especially climate extremes and desertification.

Vegetable farming remains an underdeveloped sector despite its good potential for cropping, particularly in the country's central region.[2] Challenges include farmers’ limited access to markets, storage, and post-harvest processing facilities; their lack of technical expertise on sustainable farming practices, relevant tools and technologies; and the agriculture sector’s vulnerability to climate change. The country’s agriculture sector is unique and gender-specific historical circumstances as a result of nomadic pastoralism influence the gender relations of Mongolian women and men. Women in herders' households have always been involved in key decision making.

Mongolia has made noteworthy progress in gender equality. However, concerns over women’s political participation, economic participation and opportunity, and gender-based violence remain. As these key areas of socioeconomic development are likely to be exacerbated by increasing climate- and disaster-related risks, there is a need to improve equality of outcomes between women and men alongside combating growing impacts from natural hazards.

The project draws lessons from agriculture sector initiatives in Mongolia. It has a strong gender component as women in rural areas have often been in the forefront of income diversification activities, including vegetable production. Female-headed households can also be recruited for new initiatives in the subsector. At the same time, climate change increases the need to introduce innovations into the vegetable subsector. In support of the Community Vegetable Farming for Livelihoods Improvement Project, the program provided associated skills training for women to improve the livelihoods of smallholders involved in climate-smart vegetable production. This includes training them on vegetable food processing, packaging, labeling, marketing, and selling to inclusive agriculture value chains. In particular, the project provided training to more than 100 women and supported procurement of dry and wet processing equipment for processing facility  in Orkhon. 

[1] The International Labour Organization defines green jobs as “decent jobs that contribute to preserve or restore the environment, be they in traditional sectors, such as manufacturing and construction, or in new, emerging green sectors, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

[2] Asian Development Bank. 2020. Community Vegetable Farming for Livelihood Improvement: Project Administration Manual.

Malika Shagazatova
Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development), Gender Equality Division, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Department, Asian Development Bank

Malika Shagazatova has many years of experience in mainstreaming gender into programs and projects in transport, urban infrastructure, energy, education, and health. Before joining ADB, she worked as consultant in countries in Central and East Asia, designing and implementing programs and projects on poverty reduction, gender equality, education, and social protection.

Zonibel Woods
Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development), Gender Equality Division, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Department, Asian Development Bank

Zonibel Woods' commitment to gender equality spans over 25 years of working with governments, foundations, international organizations, and civil society on developing policies and implementing programs to support women's empowerment. Since 1992, she has worked on gender and the environment and has increasingly focused on gender and climate change. Prior to ADB, Zonibel worked for the Ford Foundation and the International Women's Health Coalition in New York.

Asian Development Bank (ADB)

The Asian Development Bank is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region. Its main instruments for helping its developing member countries are policy dialogue, loans, equity investments, guarantees, grants, and technical assistance.

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