Exploring Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation from a Gender Perspective

Insights from Ladakh, India

Authored by: Virginie Le Masson

Categories: Human Rights
Sub-Categories: Climate and Environment, Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), Economic Recovery, Human Development, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health
Country: India
Region: South and Central Asia
Year: 2020
Citation: Le Masson, Virginie. "Exploring Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation from a Gender Perspective

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Both Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) aim at reducing the vulnerabilities and enhancing the capacities of men and women when facing natural hazards and climate change. Despite conceptual bridges existing between both sectors, the literature suggests a lack of practical integration of objectives and approaches in the design and implementation of climate change-related and DRR initiatives as well as a lack of attention to gender issues. In parallel, studies repeatedly stress the necessity to (i) provide more empirical studies that re-contextualise climate change as just one of many issues faced on a daily basis by local communities, and (ii) emphasise the gender dimension of vulnerability to understand differences between men’s and women’s realities in relation to disasters and climate change. This research explores the local dimension of the (lack of) integration of DRR and CCA through using gender as a lens. It uses the case study of the Himalayan province of Ladakh in India where the predicted impacts of climate change could seriously undermine inhabitants’ access to water. Embedded within the theoretical frames of DRR and feminist political ecology, this research draws on concepts of gender, marginalisation, vulnerability and capacity in order to understand the local impacts of environmental degradation and the implications for policies and development projects. When analysing the ways in which Ladakhi communities experience climate change and natural hazards in relation to their everyday risks, the vulnerability and capacity assessment conducted in this research shows that men and women face different everyday constraints which shape their views of their environment. The gender sensitive methodology and analysis also contribute to focus the attention away from hazards to emphasise the way people’s vulnerabilities are inherently linked to unsustainable development which stresses the importance of designing integrated responses. Yet, when examining current interventions to tackle disaster risk and climate change in relation to Ladakhi communities’ contexts, priorities and needs, a focus on gender and DRR highlights the gap between theories, policies and practices. Evidence from Ladakh contributes to show the dichotomy between the ineffectiveness of top-down interventions targeting climate change and disasters, and the gendered experiences of local communities in the face of a multitude of everyday risks that extend beyond climate change and natural hazards. Current DRR and CCA policies and projects reproduce a dominant focus on hazards and do not challenge established development models that are male-dominated and which promote people’s (and disproportionately women’s) vulnerability. However, development interventions, in the context of Ladakh, appear more adequate to improve people’s livelihoods with greater scope for inputs from the community level, which contribute to enhancing their capacities. Therefore, this thesis argues that emphasis should be placed on sustainable development practices in order to better address disaster risk and climate change as well as communities’ everyday risks. It finally underscores the need to recognise and assess the interconnection of different structures and their impacts on people’s daily lives at the onset of development strategies and to ensure that these are part of a sustainable, holistic and integrated approach to reducing vulnerability.