Women Building Resilient Cities in the Context of Climate Change Lessons from Freetown, Sierra Leone

  • Citation: Kellogg, Molly. “Women Building Resilient Cities in the Context of Climate Change.” Georgetown Institute of Women Peace and Security, 2020.
    • Topics:
    • Transnational Issues
    • Keywords:
    • Sub-Saharan Africa
    • climate change
    • gender inequality
    • local governance
    • Freetown
    • Sierra Leone

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2242 recognized climate change as an important consideration for the peace and security of women and girls. Women – marginalized in economic, political, and social spheres in many contexts – have even fewer available resources to cope with climate-related disasters as they face unique and often disproportionate risks.Yet despite the challenges posed by climate change and gender inequality, evidence shows that women are actively contributing to building resilient cities. In urban contexts, women are carving paths to inclusion across multiple levels of local governance and helping communities become safer and more prepared to cope with disasters. Field work in Freetown, Sierra Leone, reveals that women engaged in local governance are leading the charge for resilience building. This report distinguishes two key modes of engagement: formal representation, and community-based organizations or civil society networks. Local government shapes how residents experience risk, through providing services such as water or waste management, or planning future land use. In informal settlements, where local government is less reliable, informal structures of organizing can help build resilience, as through designing community-based early warning systems or forming savings cooperatives that allow households to bounce back after a disaster. Interventions from NGOs can fill gaps in service delivery and help link community-based initiative to government planning. While the gender narrative for climate-related risks in urban areas has focused on women’s vulnerabilities, this report illustrates that women are also making important contributions to building resilient cities. Its findings point to five key recommendations for policy-makers and development practitioners to empower the voices and actions of women in local governance: Invest in community-based organizations in informal settlement communities.Promote collaboration between formal and informal governance bodies.Design projects that are climate-responsive and gender-responsive.Amplify the voices – and actions – of women change agents. Conduct gender-responsive data collection in informal settlements.This research was supported by the Laudato Si’ Fund.Key findings from this report are featured as a chapter in new UN report published jointly by UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Women, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNDPPA).

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