Accelerating gender mainstreaming within climate responses: the role of Green Climate Fund Direct Access Entities

by: Blaise Dobson and Michael Gerhard 


Climate change is one of the most pressing global challenges we face today, with far-reaching impacts on people, economies, and ecosystems. To tackle this challenge, countries worldwide have developed Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to outline their climate mitigation and adaptation goals and inform their implementation plans and strategies. However, gender considerations have often been overlooked in these plans, even though climate change affects men and women differently, and women often bear disproportionate impacts.

In Africa, over 85% of NDCs refer to gender, yet there is still a long way to go in mainstreaming gender into climate responses. Hence, there is a need to carry out systematic gender analysis, collect sex-disaggregated data, establish gender-sensitive benchmarks and indicators, and develop practical tools to support increased attention to gender perspectives. This is an intervention area where the Green Climate Fund (GCF) can play a transformative role. As the largest multilateral fund serving the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, the GCF has its own Gender Policy and Action Plan, which sets out expectations for how funding should consider gender. By offering practical opportunities for countries to execute gender-responsive programs, the GCF enables them to learn from their implementation and strengthen their NDC commitments.

One group that is particularly well-placed to drive a gender transformative agenda within NDCs is the GCF’s Direct Access Entities (DAEs). These entities are responsible for identifying, developing, and executing GCF-funded projects within countries where gender mainstreaming is necessary. They have a critical role in transferring knowledge and emerging gender mainstreaming practices into policy and priority-setting processes related to climate change. NDC policymakers and DAEs need to connect on these issues to share lessons about what has worked and, more importantly, what has not worked concerning implementing the aspects of GCF projects that involve gender mainstreaming.


Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia (EIF) and Namibian the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) Round Table Discussion on Gender Mainstreaming and Climate Finance. Source: Triple Capital (2022).


These practical lessons and practices are crucial to prioritising gender mainstreaming within NDCs and climate finance more broadly. By taking gender considerations into account, we can ensure that climate responses are more effective and equitable. An excellent example of this learning loop is noted by the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia (EIF) while implementing the GCF project entitled Empower to Adapt (Creating Climate-Change Resilient Livelihoods through Community-Based Natural Resource Management in Namibia. As part of the GCF’s project approval, the EIF compiled a gender assessment and a corresponding gender action plan. In this way, there was a baseline (assessment and action plan) followed by four years (2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021) of annual reporting. 

The reports express the constant challenges the project had with female representation at critical meetings throughout the project’s lifespan. While the representation of females improved following the inception meetings, it remained well below the target of 50% throughout, despite the hope that it could be enhanced by female representation in project implementation committees, vital managerial positions, and targeting female-headed households. Gender mainstreaming expectations were stated in each of the sub-grant memoranda of understanding. 

The EIF created partnerships with the Ministry of Gender Equity and Child Welfare, Non-Governmental Organisations and other relevant stakeholders for input in projects or assistance in achieving increased gender integration through the lifecycle. The project also ran training for the EIF, National Determined Authority, Independent Technical Advisory Panel and Project Steering Committee (August 2019). This training was extended to those receiving grants in Kavango East, Kavango West and Zambezi regions. The experience is summarised in the 2022 learning review published by the EIF, where it was noted that” the integration of gender equality considerations into the project has proved challenging, as cultural norms tend to entrench traditional gender roles. Although more women than men have benefited from the small grant projects, women tend to be less represented in project decision-making structures”.

A takeaway reflection could be that Namibia’s prevailing cultural norms have tended to entrench traditional gender roles, influencing women’s representation in decision-making structures in climate change projects. The questions, then, for colleagues within the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (and the various transversal committees involved in NDC formation) are; Assuming this lesson, what is the response measure to see that the next edition of the country’s NDC foregrounds the issue and offers proactive, practical guidance (and requests for support) to build on the lived experience in the in Kavango East, Kavango West and Zambezi regions through the small grants offered by the Green Climate Fund?. What are the practical interventions the EIF learned that could counteract the prevailing gender bias within Namibian society that will exacerbate inequality through the impacts of climate change? What could these response measures be? What training elements conducted under the EIF’s GCF funded-project could be utilised in a national rollout (e.g. inclusion in the national school curriculum)? 

The EIF also took the time to publish academic papers reflecting on the proposed approaches to complement the reporting outlined. Closing the feedback loop, the CBNRM project provides excellent examples of how the Namibian structures are now integrating these lessons and sharing their discussions pursuant to updating their Nationally Determined Contributions in a manner that builds in GCF-informed mainstreaming practice. Likewise, the EIF’s own Gender Policy and Action Plan have been involved by these lessons.


Watch here


Through examining examples such as these, we note the opportunity to explore questions regarding the relationship between gender mainstreaming in GCF funded-projects and NDC setting processes, including the development of NDC implementation and/or financing plans or strategies). For example, what are the mechanisms to transfer knowledge from DAEs into policy and priority-setting processes related to climate change? How do GCF country programmes and activities form emerging gender mainstreaming practices that can enhance the ambition of the upcoming NDCs?

In the coming months, the South African Climate Finance Partnership (SACFP) will contribute to the literature on this topic by highlighting some of the experiences of attempting to implement gender mainstreaming using perspectives garnered from key informant interviews of GCF DAEs in southern Africa. By examining the mechanisms used to transfer knowledge from DAEs into policy and priority-setting processes and the emerging gender mainstreaming practices enhancing the ambition of upcoming NDCs, SACFP hopes to contribute to the broader conversation on gender and climate finance.

This blog is published under the Southern Africa Climate Finance Partnership (SACFP). This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the IDRC or its Board of Governors, or of the entities delivering SACFP.