How Côte d’Ivoire Is Accelerating Gender Mainstreaming in Climate Change Action: Building the capacities of national actors

An interview by Julie Dekens with Florence Tanoh, Director of Gender and Equity at Côte d’Ivoire's Ministry of Women

Our latest synthesis report evaluates the progress made toward gender-responsive NAP processes. This analysis has identified several areas requiring additional investment over the years to come. 

One of these areas focuses on capacity building to understand the linkages between gender and climate change and the tangible tools and approaches that encourage gender-responsive adaptation. Adaptation actors do not necessarily know how to recognize gender-responsive approaches on a practical level, while gender actors can be penalized by gaps in knowledge when it comes to getting involved in processes focusing on climate change.  

Côte d’Ivoire has identified capacity building as one of the four priority areas of its National Gender and Climate Change Strategy for the 2020–2024 period. Between 2020 and 2021, a series of training sessions on the gender–climate nexus began with the support of the NAP Global Network. These training activities were led by the National Climate Change Program (NCCP) of the Ministry of the Environment in collaboration with the Ministry of Women, Family, and Children. 

We had a conversation with Florence Tanoh, Director of Gender and Equity at the Ministry of Women, to gain a better understanding of how capacity building helps to take better account of the linkages between gender and climate change. 

How did you become involved in capacity-building activities focusing on the gender–climate nexus?  

The NCCP approached my Directorate to tell me that it would be worthwhile to integrate climate change issues into our gender activities. We therefore took part in a meeting, and it opened my eyes. At the time, I had a vague idea of climate change. I thought that this topic was open only to a few experts. But during this meeting, I understood that it was everyone’s business and that it related to my daily life as well: every day, my actions can have an impact on the climate. This helped me understand that climate change is also my responsibility. I cannot wait until someone helps me to adapt to, or to mitigate, the impact of climate change.  

Florence Tanoh, Director of Gender and Equity at Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Women (Photo: ©ABIDJAN.NET PAR FN)
How was this sharing of knowledge and capacity building on the gender-climate nexus carried out?  

After this awareness-raising meeting, my Directorate took part in many activities, including training exercises for members of the National Gender and Climate Change Platform (including the “gender” and “climate change” focal points) along with journalists and media professionals.  

Throughout these activities, my team was able not only to build its capacities in the area of climate change but to share our knowledge of gender issues. And in this way, by working closely with the NCCP, we were able to establish a clearer connection between the two subjects. The approach that the NCCP used enabled us to gradually increase our ownership of the topic through teamwork over the long term.  The training sessions mobilized a variety of experts through presentations, discussions, film screenings and participatory exercises.   

Following these training sessions and expert discussions, my team and I were tasked with building our Minister’s awareness of the topic. This was not an easy task. We had to convince our cabinet director and then the minister herself. But the two ministries eventually signed a memorandum of understanding in October.  Training will always be the central component of our partnership with the Ministry of the Environment. My Directorate has been in charge of implementing “gender units” within all ministries since 2019, and these gender units must undergo training on the gender–climate nexus.  

More in this series | How Côte d’Ivoire is Accelerating Gender Mainstreaming in Climate Change Action: Working with national gender advisors

What has changed in your work since these training sessions took place? 

Interest in climate change is growing rapidly among experts working on gender issues. For example, some gender units, like the one in the Ministry of Hydraulics, have started to organize activities about the gender–climate nexus that relate to their sector. Recently, the Minister herself has been asking me to take the gender–climate nexus into account in our ministry’s operations. 

The Minister is now systematically equipped to speak of climate change in relation to gender when she makes her presentations. Finally, as of recently, my Directorate is no longer the only one to come to terms with climate change. Other directorates within the Ministry of Women, like the Directorate of Women’s Entrepreneurship and the Directorate of Planning, are also starting to take an interest and participate in the climate change activities organized by the Ministry of the Environment.  

More in this series | How Côte d’Ivoire is Accelerating Gender Mainstreaming in Climate Change Action: Collaboration between the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Women

What have you learned about the best way to build the capacities of national actors to take better account of the gender-climate nexus?   

Talking about the gender-climate nexus makes the issue of gender equality more tangible. The Ministry of Women is a ministry of key importance, but gender issues are often tackled in a relatively theoretical, even mechanical, way (“We need eight women and eight men”), so that nobody really pays attention. To make gender issues concrete and build commitments, gender equality must be addressed in connection to other subjects: for example, this can mean talking about gender in connection with poverty, corruption, education, employment, or climate change. Otherwise, you usually don’t move beyond rhetorical questions. 

When you can combine the issue of gender equality with these topics, you can use very concrete examples and arguments and highlight the challenges facing the country and the ministries (“If the gender–climate nexus isn’t properly addressed, dealt with, and financed—who loses out?”). After the training sessions, we wrote an advocacy note about the gender–climate nexus with the Ministry of the Environment. Thanks to this document, the ministers have seen how they can advance the cause. In fact, I always say that we should no longer talk about “equality of the sexes.” Because in Côte d’Ivoire, and in Africa in general, saying this just doesn’t work. It creates division during our meetings and puts up roadblocks that hinder the possibilities. One should instead refer to “equal chances” or “equal opportunities” for men and women. The end result is the same. 

Finally, in the various ministries, we are generally all a little bit selfish. We don’t want to share our funding opportunities with each other. But here, the Ministry of the Environment has suggested that we work differently. They are coaching us and giving us tools so that we can access the financial and technical resources that we need to work on the gender–climate nexus. This way of working and collaborating is really new.  

Workshop on gender-responsive NAP processes in Abidjan (Photo: ©ABIDJAN.NET PAR FN)