Women and Girls at the Frontline of Climate Change

By JoAnne Wadsworth, Communications Consultant, G20 Interfaith Forum

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On May 24th, 2023, the G20 Interfaith Forum, in cooperation with Islamic Relief USA and Islamic Relief Worldwide, held a webinar entitled “Women and Girls at the Frontline of Climate Change,” looking at the findings and recommendations of a recent report by Islamic Relief Worldwide focusing on the effect of climate change on women and girls, specifically in Indonesia.

Speakers included Ade Sudiarno, HOP of Islamic Relief Indonesia; Dr. Baiq Yulfia Elsadewi Yanuartati, Konsepsi gender expert and lecturer at University of Mataram, Indonesia; Dr. Suryani Eka Wijaya, Urban Development and Regional Planner for the Provincial Government of NTB Province, Indonesia; and Sevval Oz, Islamic Relief Worldwide. Christina Tobias-Nahi, Director of Public Affairs at Islamic Relief USA, moderated the discussion.  

Tobias-Nahi began the discussion by welcoming all participants, introducing the speakers, and giving a brief overview of the topic at hand. She mentioned Indonesia’s recent G20 Presidency and their continued influence in global affairs, citing this case study on women and girls in Indonesia as pertinent to G20 Interfaith Forum focuses in India and global policy issues. She then reminded everyone present of the importance of advocating for leaders to include faith voices in policy development and decision making. Each speaker was then invited to present their thoughts and comments.

Sevval Oz

Oz focused her comments on why climate change affects women and girls so dramatically. She said women and girls in Indonesia have less access to resources, skills, and decision making, so they’re the first impacted by and the last to recover from climate change related crises. Climate change also significantly affects women-led industries, including agriculture, gathering water, caring for animals, and more. Girls are the first to be taken out of school when disaster strikes or income decreases, and unmarried women, who are already marginalized due to social stigmas, are suffering from increased insecurity about their futures due to climate concerns.

She said that money spent on adaptation systems and disaster plans could save billions—including training farmers in climate literacy and enhancing the capacities of women to adapt to climate change—but very few countries have such systems in place. Women are also often prevented from participating in decision-making on community and household levels when it comes to adaptation.

“Evidence-based and locally-led research is the key to producing policy solutions that lead to the equitable and effective approaches we’re looking for. We need the participation, the leadership, and the knowledge of these people who are at the frontlines of climate change if we want to create policy and solutions that enable effective adaptation in these communities, especially for the most vulnerable.”

Dr. Baiq Yulfia Elsadewi Yanuartati

Dr. Yanuartati focused her comments on the results of gender mapping research that has been performed in Indonesia, looking at the different domestic and public affairs related to climate that men vs. women can access, participate in, control, and benefit from.

Across the board, men were shown to have more access and decision-making power than women, but women were the key drivers in many important areas related to environmental decision-making and lifestyle choices.

Yanuartati said that climate-based interventions should be location-specific and contextual, with gender mapping helping to create even more effective interventions that take different roles and responsibilities in homes and communities into account.

Ade Sudiarno

Sudiarno looked at a recent project to build community resilience against climate change through the lens of the “Six A’s Approach.” The project’s goal in using the Six A’s Approach was to increase gender equality while carrying out the climate adaptation program.

They collected disaggregated data on sex, age, and disability, then formed plans and strategies according to that data so that the support provided could address challenges and obstacles in access, participation, control, and benefit. Meetings seeking participation and feedback were held around the house so that women, the elderly, and those with disabilities could attend. Local feedback led to the identification and revival of local agricultural wisdom, including terracing techniques and more.

Sudiarno said they made progress using the Six A’s Approach, in implementing gender equality into the adaptation program, but that there is still much room for improvement in the future.

Dr. Suryani Eka Wijaya

Dr. Wijaya focused her comments on an analysis and case study of the NTB Province in Indonesia, where she lives and works. The province is in a disaster-prone area, highly susceptible to earthquakes. As such, it is committed to the SDGs, specifically Climate Action (SDG 13), with a vision from the governor of achieving a prosperous and independent NTB.

However, any plans to implement effective climate change adaptation in the province were met with various challenges, including the area’s relatively high poverty rate, low Gender Empowerment Index, and Low Gender Development Index. Local government initiatives also faced challenges in the form of lack of technology, lack of infrastructure, limited development funding, and limited regulations. Dr. Wijaya saw the way forward for NTB Province as an overhaul of current systems, integrating sustainable development with accountability, better funding, and regular evaluation.

Q&A Session

Tobias-Nahi then opened the floor to questions from the audience.

These problems aren’t unique to Indonesia. Is Islamic Relief planning other studies in other countries?

Sevval Oz: We don’t want this research to exist in a silo. Islamic Relief Worldwide has these projects in many different countries. Even when we’re writing about other things, we’re thinking  about how gender plays into it.  We want to draw a line through all of these things happening in different contexts but dramatically impacting women worldwide. For example, with the flooding in Pakistan, women were more impacted because they were less likely to be able to swim, climb, or navigate as effectively outside the home.

Has the Indonesian government done anything in lieu of the research just presented?

Ade Sudiarno: The government is implementing the Carbon Resilience Framework at a national level. Islamic Relief Worldwide is ensuring that this is integrated at provincial levels, etc., too.

Baiq Yulfia Yanuartati: In working with a provincial government in designing budget transfers and addressing the issue of gender, I’ve found that there is a challenge of bringing the issue of gender into top-level action.

Suryani Wijaya: Climate change issues have been the main concern of the central government’s planning—designing the Green Economy Index, moving the capital city, etc. We’re getting lots of great help from organizations like Islamic Relief. We need to better develop data and information systems to communicate these crises and methods, but this is for the long run. Adaptation will be part of our daily life, and litigation will only become more dramatic.


In conclusion, Tobias-Nahi thanked all participants, humanitarians on the ground, academics doing research, and government policy people assisting with change. She said it was very important to bring issues like this from the local to the global stage, and encouraged everyone to review the research report in full.

The report can be found in its entirety here.

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JoAnne Wadsworth is a Communications Consultant for the G20 Interfaith Association and acting editor of the “Viewpoints” blog.