New UK PACT learning paper: Driving forward Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in climate action

6 Feb 2024

A new UK PACT learning paper has just been released. It is designed to help implementing partners, delivery partners, and donors gain more knowledge on how to integrate Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) into their projects. It also provides government counterparts with insights on how GESI integration can benefit technical assistance projects, leading to inclusive and transformative change.

This learning paper provides practical guidance, tools, and case studies to help overcome common barriers that organisations face in integrating GESI into climate action projects.

Embedding inclusion: Why climate action requires a GESI lens

Climate action and Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Considering them together can bring multiple benefits to disadvantaged groups, who are disproportionately affected by climate change, such as increased social cohesion and empowerment. This can result in wider economic and social benefits, building more equal, inclusive, and sustainable economies.

Yet, climate action projects still often struggle to fully integrate GESI. Barriers such as limited capacity and resources, and challenges identifying GESI entry points lead to missed opportunities.

It is imperative that the interconnection between GESI and climate action is recognised and acted upon. Solutions must address relevant social dynamics and deliver GESI responsive activities — given the intrinsic links between climate and equity.

UK PACT has been working to address this through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF). Since 2021, the programme has supported over 30 projects, placing significant emphasis on integrating GESI throughout their low-carbon transition initiatives in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.

In this UK PACT learning paper, we explore the vital lessons gained from integrating GESI into climate action interventions through these experiences. Detailing processes, reflections, and actionable examples, we also outline the 'six key steps to approaching GESI' which have proven successful in identifying entry points and overcoming barriers.

Integrating GESI into climate action: Key insights and lessons

The UK PACT GESI team analysed how the GRCF successfully integrated GESI throughout its project portfolio. By reviewing case studies, interviewing implementing partners, and examining approaches, we uncovered many important lessons.

The following case studies highlight a selection of key takeaways.

Challenging social norms: Training for women in electric mobility

Delivering GESI transformative change requires flexible and innovative approaches. Social norms can often define roles for different societal groups and the attitudes and behaviours towards them – restricting their ability to participate and benefit from project activities.

One project that overcame these barriers was an electric mobility training project in India. The Research Triangle Institute implemented an Institutional Capacity Building Framework Programme to accelerate adoption of electric mobility in public transport. A GESI survey revealed an opportunity: women were interested in the electric vehicle (EV) sector and preferred women drivers, yet no women worked as auto drivers in the target city of Kakinada.

The programme provided hands-on EV skills training for women and GESI sensitisation training for stakeholders. A peer network of women e-mobility leaders was also initiated to encourage job opportunities.

Despite complex social norms and power structures, the project successfully challenged assumptions creating positive, long-term change by enabling women's entry into what had been a male-dominated occupation. Read the full case study here.

Inclusive participation: Putting community voices first when designing climate projects

All GRCF projects are encouraged to bring communities into project design and implementation.

This was a key focus for The Community Greening Kaptagat Landscape project implemented by WWF-Kenya and WWF-UK, in Kaptagat, Kenya. The project aimed to establish agroforestry and clean energy solutions.

From the outset and throughout delivery, the project collaborated closely with local Community Forest Associations (CFAs) representing farmers, local producers, agricultural extension workers and government agency stakeholders.

Local GESI experts brought specific knowledge of local contexts to build capacity within delivery teams, ensuring projects facilitated meaningful participation from all disadvantaged groups. This project emphasises that continuously consulting local counterparts, especially marginalised groups, is vital to enable inclusive participation. Read the full case study here.

Partnerships for equity: A network to connect women and financing climate action

Projects are requested to partner with public and private agencies, local community groups, and stakeholders to ensure local buy-in and interest.

These partnerships also help to represent the needs of disadvantaged groups – and influence project focus.

One project that successfully addressed this was ‘InverClima,’ delivered by the Programa de Inversión Responsible (PIR) in partnership with ImplementaSur and 2° Investing Initiative in Peru.

Aimed at supporting women's autonomy and access to finance to implement climate action, the project created the Women, Investment, and Climate (MIC ) network. This enabled women working in the finance sector to connect with women vulnerable to climate change, with the aim of providing them with tailored financial instruments. Partnerships with other organisations expanded the project’s reach to more diverse groups.

By promoting women’s participation in finance to positively influence the climate agenda, the project demonstrated how strategic partnerships can lead to stronger integration of GESI, particularly in a sector where there is limited representation. Read the full case study here.

Click the button below for detailed examples and lessons for other climate action projects.

Driving forward: UK PACT’s GESI approach

This learning paper demonstrates how a range of different climate action projects were able to truly embed GESI into their practices. With intentional, collaborative efforts, climate action can equitably serve marginalised populations. Although obstacles exist, we found that a commitment to inclusion and localised, people-centred processes can overcome barriers and advance social equality.

Showcasing several methods for integrating GESI into climate action initiatives, the paper emphasises the importance of establishing clear GESI goals with accountability mechanisms to drive measurable progress. Additionally, taking the time to understand local requirements and context enables GESI interventions to be tailored.

The research also spotlights the importance of adopting an adaptable mindset to respond to challenges and that maintaining meaningful, ongoing engagement with local stakeholders helps foster inclusivity.

These lessons provide useful guidance to all stakeholders operating in this space. They are applicable beyond the GRCF and are intended to help climate action achieve equitable, and transformative change. 

Read the UK PACT learning paper to learn more from the GRCF experience