Ensuring gender equality and inclusion in climate research 


Climate change is jeopardizing global development efforts as it increasingly impacts every aspect of a healthy, inclusive and prosperous life. The commitment to gender equality and broader inclusion in research paves a path toward a future where climate solutions focus on the needs and voices of all, especially the most vulnerable. An inclusive approach is essential for tackling inequalities and the unique challenges faced by marginalized groups in a changing climate.  

Some research related to gender equality and inclusion goes even further and aims to strengthen individual and collective action, transform formal and informal institutions and policies, and rebalance gender power relations at various levels, from local to national. This type of research strives to be transformative.  

The Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE) initiative is seeking to advance this type of transformative gender-equal and inclusive research through a portfolio of projects that are now underway in Africa and Asia. Jointly funded by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and IDRC, CLARE is a framework research programme that aims to enable socially inclusive and sustainable action to build resilience to climate change and natural hazards for people across the Global South.   

Leaving no one behind  

Effective climate solutions must consider, and be created together, with those who bring diverse perspectives, especially those of women and marginalized groups. To this end, a must-have for CLARE’s research projects is to consider gender equality and broader inclusion at each stage: when forming the research teams, developing the research questions, objectives and methodologies; and monitoring and communicating on project activities. The teams include many women researchers, as well as early-career researchers from marginalized groups.  

The team behind the CLARE WOSFER project in Uganda, for example, is engaging with and empowering women smallholder farmers to adopt climate-smart farming practices and women-friendly digital innovations. The project is also engaging with the community and policymakers on systemic change towards gender equality and inclusion. The aim is to enhance the adaptive capacity of women smallholder farmers in the cattle corridor of Uganda, where average temperatures have increased by 1.3°C since the 1960s. 

“We are promoting sustainable solutions by giving a voice to everybody,” said Brenda Boonabaana, co-investigator of the project. “From a qualitative perspective, it’s about being intentional and ensuring that no one is left behind as we adhere to this sustainable development principle, recognizing that every voice counts”.


The leave-no-one-behind principle is a cornerstone of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It emphasizes combating discrimination and addressing the root causes of rising inequalities within and among countries. A significant aspect of this agenda involves tackling persistent forms of discrimination, including gender discrimination, which often results in individuals, families and entire communities being excluded.  

Among those often excluded from climate research and policy are people living in informal settlements. To help tackle the climate burden faced by residents of these settlements, the CLARE RURBANISE project is involving them directly in research in the Philippines, which is highly impacted by climate change, including sea-level rise and extreme weather events like typhoons.  

“Any research project focused on the well-being of people has to be led by the people themselves,” said Vanesa Castán Broto, co-investigator of this research that acknowledges the life experiences and capacities of the informal settlement residents. “Through the Homeless People’s Federation in the Philippines, we are enabling the communities to advance their knowledge of practical climate adaptation actions.”  

As residents of informal settlements are particularly vulnerable to climate change, the research aims to boost their resilience by strengthening adaptation responses in nine such settlements and developing pro-poor innovations, with opportunities for communities, practitioners and academics to work together.  

Meaningful engagement with marginalized groups in research involves working closely with communities through participatory methods and decolonized approaches, including by actively supporting people to drive the research and speak in their own voices, and by including different voices.  

This approach is demonstrated in the CLARE SUCCESS project. This project seeks to change the narrative around migration and support policies that ensure the well-being and resilience of all the communities affected – the migrants, the immobile and those left behind, as well as those in urban migration destinations. While migration is a common and often effective strategy for people, it is frequently portrayed as a failure to adapt. 
This project seeks to generate new knowledge on the evaluation of adaptations that involve migration, mobility and immobility across Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. The project will contribute evidence-based best practices to enable successful adaptation for immobile populations and facilitate safe mobility for populations who aspire to move into other places. 

Nitya Rao, GEI expert with the project, explained that engaging with the marginalized communities affected by climate problems is key to developing effective adaptation solutions. “It is really about how we value people, how we conduct the research, what is our attitude and approach,” Rao said. She also emphasized the need to engage with policymakers and the media to shift how vulnerable communities are portrayed: “Are they depicted as victims, or do their stories reflect their agency and struggles? Our goal is to transform this narrative, advocating for respect and recognition of these marginalized groups.” 

Inclusion beyond gender 

Inclusion is not only about women. Sex and gender intersect with other identities such as class, race, caste, ethnicity, religion, age and mental or physical ability – what is known as intersectionality. Women, girls, LGBTIQ2+ and other marginalized groups experience persistent, structural barriers to equality in the developing world, and they have a right to equality.  

Recognizing the importance of intersectionality, our research seeks to examine the experiences of individuals with multi-layered identities.  

A case in point is the CLARE PALM-TREES project being implemented across six countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It aims to understand how vulnerable individuals with complex social identities beyond gender are impacted by climate extremes, and to include their views in local climate adaptation plans. For example, while focusing on women’s farmers’ groups in Central Africa, the project also looks to identify and include others that could benefit from social inclusion. Similarly, in Kenya, it assesses who’s included in disaster risk response initiatives, with a goal to broaden participation. In South Africa, it will focus on the dynamics of heat stress on violence against women. 

Overcoming systemic barriers through research  

Research for impact can contribute significantly to changing negative social norms. Yet, the path to considering gender equality and inclusion in climate research is filled with significant challenges, including resistance to change.  

Despite challenges, through co-creation of evidence and solutions, whilst strengthening capacity of all involved, research can create an environment that is more inclusive. Such endeavour can in turn help foster a world where the most vulnerable contribute to and benefit from sustainable and equitable solutions. 

By using transformative approaches, intersectional perspectives and co-creation, climate research like that being carried out under the CLARE framework can not only address climate challenges but also dismantle the systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality. It is “a journey of learning, adaptation, and humanity,” said Broto. For Rao, this ambition goes beyond individual success stories to a collective, scalable transformation that redefines narratives and promotes lasting change. 

Learn more about CLARE