Climate Change and Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR)

Toward realization of rights and resilience
Climate resilience and gender equality are inextricably linked, and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are an essential element of gender equality. How can we ensure that climate action works hand in hand with efforts to realize SRHR?
The impacts of climate change« negatively affect people’s SRHR«.
Climate change is an increase in the average global temperature caused by increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities. The impacts of climate change include rising temperatures, sea-level rise, more frequent and severe extreme weather events, and changing weather patterns. These impacts have implications for both natural and human systems.
The realization of SRHR enables people to achieve a state of well-being in relation to sexual and reproductive health. This is grounded in human rights, including the right to make decisions about sex and reproduction and to freely define sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to live free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. SRHR comprises issues such as maternal and newborn health, access to contraception, safe abortion and post-abortion care, and gender-based violence (GBV).
Direct impacts include disruptions in sexual and reproductive health services caused by extreme weather events, as well as the effects of climate-sensitive diseases, heat stress, and extreme weather events on pregnant women. These affect maternal and child health outcomes.
Indirect impacts include the increased incidence of gender-based violence—including early marriage, sexual violence, and sex trafficking—during times of scarcity and crisis. Financial difficulties caused by climate shocks and stresses may also act as a barrier to accessing sexual and reproductive health services.
These impacts affect people who already face barriers to realizing their SRHR more significantly than others.
Girls and women face greater barriers to realizing their SRHR due to persistent gender inequalities that limit their decision-making power and access to information and services.
People of underrepresented sexual orientations, gender identities and/or expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC)« face barriers to realization of SRHR due to social stigma, as well as legal discrimination and criminalization.
Racial discrimination and denial of rights have a negative impact on the sexual and reproductive health of ethnic and racial minorities and Indigenous peoples.
Sexual and reproductive health information and services may not be accessible to people with disabilities—and they may be more at risk of gender-based violence.
Climate change compounds other crises, including conflict and fragility, making it even more difficult for people living in humanitarian settings to realize their SRHR.
Realization of SRHR can support climate resilience.
When people are not able to realize their SRHR, they cannot live their full potential, as they have decreased opportunities to pursue education and improve their livelihoods. They also tend to have reduced access to resources and services, and are less able to participate in politics and community affairs. These barriers are particularly high for girls and women, people of underrepresented SOGIESC«, and those who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and oppression, such as Indigenous peoples and refugees.

On the other hand, when people have realized their SRHR, their capacity to engage in climate change adaptation actions is greater. They can make decisions to better manage risks, pursue new livelihood strategies, and participate in politics and collective action. This enables them to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change and active contributors to climate solutions.
Gender equality and realization of SRHR are closely linked.
The realization of SRHR is essential for girls, women, and people of underrepresented SOGIESC« to exercise their agency, to make choices about their bodies and their lives, to access services and opportunities, and to participate in political life—all essential elements of gender equality.
Gender equality
Many of the barriers to realization of SRHR are grounded in social norms and unequal power relations that derive from gender inequality.
Gender-responsive approaches to climate action provide an entry point for addressing SRHR.
Element of gender-responsive adaptation
How can SRHR be addressed?
Recognition of gender differences in adaptation needs and capacities SRHR
Gender-disaggregated analysis of adaptation needs and capacities should address particular groups, including pregnant women, people living with HIV/AIDS, adolescents, and people of underrepresented SOGIESC«. Analysis should consider how gaps in realization of SRHR represent a barrier to adaptation.
Gender-equitable participation and influence in adaptation decision-making processes SRHR
Involve gender, women’s health, and underrepresented SOGIESC« actors and advocates in adaptation planning, implementation monitoring & evaluation to ensure that SRHR issues are addressed.
Gender-equitable access to finance and other benefits resulting from investments in adaptation SRHR
Design funding mechanisms and implementation strategies for adaptation actions in ways that recognize the barriers faced by people who are denied SRHR, for example by channeling funds to women’s organizations working to address GBV in the aftermath of climate-related shocks.
We have seen how this can work in Kiribati, where a gender analysis was completed to inform the update to their national plan for climate change adaptation. The analysis highlighted a number of SRHR-related issues, such as the fact that high fertility and low rates of contraceptive use contribute to population growth, which in turn exacerbates vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. As a result, the plan includes activities focused on women’s health. This example demonstrates how a gender-responsive approach to adaptation planning can support increased attention to SRHR issues.
National Adaptation Plan (NAP) processes present an opportunity to address the impacts of climate change on SRHR.
Governments around the world are engaging in NAP processes to build resilience to climate change. This includes identifying adaptation actions for the health sector to address the impacts of climate change on human health and well-being.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has called for NAP processes to be gender responsive and address the needs of vulnerable groups and communities. If these principles are followed, NAP processes can support investments that strengthen health systems toward the mutually supportive outcomes of increased climate resilience and realization of SRHR.
What is needed to better link climate change adaptation and SRHR?
Strengthen the evidence base on the linkages between climate change and SRHR. Collection and analysis of disaggregated data are needed to build a more convincing case for linking climate change adaptation and SRHR.
Use gender analysis to inform adaptation planning. Applying a gender lens in adaptation planning helps to highlight SRHR issues that inhibit resilience and ensure they are addressed in the design and implementation of adaptation actions.
Promote collaboration among actors focusing on gender, women’s health, and adaptation. Having the right mix of actors at the table increases the likelihood of SRHR issues being addressed in discussions about adaptation.
Support development of resilient health systems. A holistic approach that emphasizes resilience of health systems can address climate risks while also addressing other health concerns, including SRHR. This is even more important in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Address SRHR in mechanisms to prepare for, respond to, and recover from climate-related disasters. Access to SRHR is even more critical in times of crisis—continued provision of sexual and reproductive health services throughout the disaster response and recovery must be a priority for planning.
Strategically combine different sources of finance to promote integrated approaches to resilience. To maximize the impact of adaptation finance, it must be supported by other sources of finance—for example, health funding—that address the underlying causes of vulnerability, including gender inequality and the denial of SRHR.
Integrate gender and SRHR in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems for adaptation. Applying a gender lens to M&E can identify impacts—both positive and negative—of climate change and adaptation actions on SRHR. This can help to build the evidence base on the linkages between SRHR and climate resilience.
Align adaptation planning processes with other gender- and health-related policies. Promoting greater alignment of adaptation planning processes with gender- and health-related policies can help to ensure that adaptation actions connect with and build on efforts to promote SRHR.
Want to learn more about climate change and SRHR?
Check out Women Deliver’s synthesis of the evidence, as well as a joint report on SRHR in NAP processes by the NAP Global Network and Women Deliver.