Three pillars to empower women in climate and disaster risk financing: Bridging the gender gap

“Natural hazards, such as floods, droughts, and earthquakes, are gender-neutral, but their impacts are not.” This statement from the World Bank highlights the inequalities women face when experiencing climate hazards, especially when it comes to finance. With 742 million women excluded from financial services worldwide and half struggling to secure emergency funds within a month, crafting resilience-building policies becomes challenging for local governments. From raising awareness, and collecting sex-disaggregated data to encouraging women’s participation, understanding gender differences can help them develop more effective policies improving resilience without leaving anyone behind.

This blog was written by Nida Bilgen and edited by Barbara Riedemann from ICLEI World Secretariat


As the world experiences yet another summer with record-breaking temperatures, correspondingly it has also witnessed a concerning increase in natural disasters. Here is where a key fact becomes relevant: “Men and women, boys and girls, are affected differently by disaster, even if they live in the same household” (World Bank, 2021). Why? Social expectations designate women as caretakers in many societies, limiting their mobility during hazards and affecting their health and safety​. Economic disparities also factor in the financial aspects because, in many regions, women have less access to economic resources, making it harder for them to recover after a disaster. Lastly, women’s exclusion from decision-making processes at community and household levels hinders the consideration of their specific needs during disaster response and recovery. 

The disparities women face are embedded in every aspect of their lives. For instance, women rely on public transport services more than men and are more likely to make multi-stop trips due to household responsibilities, including taking children to school and grocery shopping. Despite their different mobility needs and patterns, public transportation often fails to fulfill women’s quality, safety, and comfort requirements. In addition, experiencing lower rates of financial inclusion and access to financial instruments is a familiar experience for women, particularly in developing economies, where local governments find themselves disproportionately affected by climate hazards despite contributing very little to climate change.

Even though progress has been made in the last decade, according to the World Bank Global Findex Database 2021, 742 million women are still excluded from financial services. Financial independence and economic empowerment are especially crucial for resilience in the face of extreme weather events. Research suggests that it is difficult for almost half of women worldwide to access emergency money in 30 days. Thus, it is key for local governments to integrate their strategies with gender-responsive actions to overcome the inequalities women face. Three crucial pillars should be considered to strengthen women’s inclusivity: Raising stakeholder awareness, collecting sex-disaggregated data, and implementing gender-sensitive policies. These inputs were given during Daring Cities 2023 Virtual Forum’s session called: “Who gets what in a climate disaster?” which gathered experts from the InsuResilience Global Partnership along with city representatives to discuss the importance for local governments to integrate gender considerations into their risk financing initiatives.

1-. Raising awareness

This is a stepping stone to closing the gender gaps in disaster risk financing. Women are often on the frontlines of climate change impacts, from managing household resources to caring for their families. Increased awareness of such gender-specific issues may result in enhanced policy building. Decision-makers can design policies that more effectively address these problems when they know the particular requirements and difficulties different genders experience. Additionally, communities can be empowered to actively participate in resilience-building if they are aware of the issues. An example of building women’s resilience is the World Food Programme’s risk-layered approach, which utilizes the different levels of climate risk insurance strategies to empower women financially, thereby supporting them to protect and strengthen their livelihoods.

2-. Sex-disaggregated data

Even though natural hazards do not target a specific group, their impacts are not felt the same. That is why collecting and utilizing sex-disaggregated data is crucial to understanding how the hazards affect different genders in order to create effective disaster risk financing mechanisms. Sex-disaggregated data can reveal gender-specific vulnerabilities and inform targeted interventions. For example, data may show that women are more likely to have lower access to resources and face economic hardships in the aftermath of disasters, making it imperative to design financing solutions that address their specific needs. Such data should inform initiatives like the International Loss and Damage Fund, established during COP27, that aims to ensure inclusivity.

3-. Gender-sensitive policies

Local governments can play a pivotal role in fostering inclusivity by implementing gender-sensitive climate and disaster risk financing policies and the application of gender-smart climate and disaster risk finance and insurance (CDRFI) solutions. It is essential to introduce a gender lens into every phase of policy-making, from initial analysis to monitoring and evaluation activities, thus ensuring coordination and integration for the implementation of gender-sensitive policies. Gender-related challenges transcend borders, and international cooperation enables the exchange of resources and expertise to address challenges such as gender-based violence, unequal access to education, and economic disparities, leading to more effective and comprehensive enforcement of policies. Moreover, the active participation of women in all aspects of policy-making and implementation is fundamental to achieving sustainable and equitable outcomes.

As the world faces an increasing number of natural hazards, it is critical that women are not left behind in disaster risk financing efforts. Women’s unique experiences and perspectives are invaluable in developing efficient adaptation and recovery solutions. Awareness building, sex-disaggregated data collection, and policymaking for inclusivity are essential steps toward a more equitable and resilient future. As an example of an ICLEI project taking this into account, the Urban Infrastructure Insurance Facility (UIIF) supports local governments to include a gender agenda while designing insurance products to increase the financial resilience of vulnerable groups, especially women. Bridging the gender gap in disaster risk financing and urban planning paves the way for an inclusive future in which all voices are not just heard but are instrumental in shaping policies that protect and empower all communities, especially those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.