Climate Justice & Women’s Rights

A Guide to Supporting Grassroots Women's Action

Made possible by the Ford Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund and Global Greengrants Fund.

Photo Credit: Rucha Chitnis / Global Greengrants

Thank you for your interest in “Climate Justice & Women’s Rights.”

About This Report

In August 2014, nearly 100 grassroots leaders and representatives from environmental and women’s funds gathered for an international Summit on Women and Climate Change, hosted by Global Greengrants Fund, the  International Network of Women’s Funds and the Alliance of Funds.

Lessons and case studies from this initiative were captured in a report intended to seed collaboration between the environmental and women’s movements. This site presents some of the practical guidance found in the report on how to support local women who are standing up to activities that degrade their rights and contribute to climate change.


Why Women & Climate?

5 Ways To Building Common Cause

Grantmakers often miss the intersection between women’s rights, environmental justice and climate change. Only 0.01 percent of worldwide grant dollars support projects that address women’s climate projects. Escape silos by following these five key principles.


Know Each Other’s Basic Concepts

Understand funding priorities, basic climate change concepts and gender dimensions that impact women’s rights. Climate change impacts women’s fund grantees, and gender and women’s rights are key to effective, comprehensive approaches to climate justice.
Photo Credit: Global Greengrants

Build From Common Values

Environment and women’s funds share core values: prioritizing diversity and inclusion, transforming power dynamics, promoting flexible grantmaking, respecting grassroots autonomy, committing to collaboration and providing opportunities and resources to the underfunded.
Photo Credit: Yacouba Sangare / Global Greengrants

Get to Know Global Climate Change Policy and Finance

How are policy decisions made and by whom? Encourage—and support—grassroots women leaders to get involved in funding mechanisms’ design and governance.
Photo Credit: Kris Abrams / Global Greengrants

Examine Your Grant Portfolio

Look at your existing grant portfolio with fresh eyes to see links between women’s rights and climate change funding. When evaluating projects to support, ensure you are supporting women’s rights and equality.
Photo Credit: Rucha Chitnis / Global Greengrants

Seek Partnerships that Complement Your Strengths

Other funders may work with grassroots women leaders who are addressing human rights and climate change. Connect with them to broaden the support you can provide. Partner with networks that can connect local groups to resources, expertise and policy deliberations.
Photo Credit: Rucha Chitnis / Global Greengrants

Case Studies: Women Climate Leaders

Collaboration between environment and women’s funds
can grow funding opportunities for grassroots women implementing
sustainable, scalable solutions to climate change’s immediate challenges.


Climate Change Policy

Critics argue that rather than incentivizing responsible forest management, REDD+ allows carbon polluters off the hook and triggers scrambles for land that favor well-connected capitalists over local people.

Selected Lessons

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  • Women are directly impacted by policy decisions and have the right to be included in deliberations.
  • With modest support, women can identify and articulate their interests during policy discussions.

The Organization for the Development of Human Rights


Decisions made under REDD+ will affect indigenous Niari women, who farm and collect forest products. With a small grant, the Organization for the Development of Human Rights taught indigenous women about climate change, forest degradation and the REDD+ process to ensure their voices and interests were incorporated into negotiations.

Francish 7 / CC BY-SA

Climate-Induced Migration

Extreme weather events displaced 20 million people In 2008. In 2012, that ballooned to 32 million. Many countries have disaster-management plans with degrees of gender responsiveness, but few, if any, have policies for climate change-induced migration.

Selected Lessons

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  • Preserving cultural integrity is as important as physical and economic security.
  • Communities need to be supported as they consider options for their most vulnerable members.

Ursula Rakova

Executive Director, Tulele Peisa

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea’s Carteret atoll is being swallowed by the rising sea. But the government has provided only limited food aid. Tulele Peisa used a small grant to develop an 18-step resettlement plan that paid close attention to the socio-cultural structure of the community. So far, seven island families have moved to mainland Bougainville.

Global Greengrants

Deforestation & Extraction

People who depend on forests for their physical, economic or spiritual well-being are under assault by the expansion of mining, drilling and agribusinesses.

Selected Lessons

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  • Women mobilize through informal groups that may lack a typical infrastructure.
  • A resistance strategy should include both women and men.

“Mama” Aleta Baun

Founder, Pokja OAT

West Timor, Indonesia

Mama Aleta is defending the Mollo people’s sacred mountains using peaceful tactics. In 2010, she led 150 women to spend a year sitting a marble mine, weaving traditional cloth in protest while men took over household duties. Community action tipped the scales and the mining companies abandoned four mines in the area.

Goldman Environmental Prize

Hydroelectric Power

Hydroelectricity is touted as a major source of clean energy, but methane from dams account for nearly 4 percent of human-caused greenhouse gases. Dams also create gender disparities. Women’s protests highlight the need for gender equity.

Selected Lessons

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  • Extreme power differentials exist between dam proponents and dam-affected communities.
  • Climate change offers women a platform to voice concerns about hydroelectric energy development.

Lam Thi Thu Suu

Coordinator, Vietnam Rivers Network


Lam Thi Thu Suu works with local people to document dams’ impact on Mekong River communities and analyze women’s situations. After years of work, she is seeing a gradual shift in public opinion and government attitudes. The government revoked two dams’ approval after her group challenged their environmental impact assessments.

Katy Neusteter / Global Greengrants

Solid-Waste Management

Improved management and recycling of solid waste reduce greenhouse emissions, lower demand for new resources and improve communities’ health. Women leading solid-waste management play key roles mitigating climate change.

Selected Lessons

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  • Adding value to women’s work can improve their economic situation and social position.
  • Community waste programs that grow incrementally are likely to be embraced locally.

Cendela Lopez

Leader, Miskitu Indian Mairin Asla Takanka


To help support her community financially and environmentally, Cendela Lopez, an indigenous Miskita woman, organized local women to collect and recycle the solid waste that has long littered the Moskitia region. Today, the group is largely self-financed, has expanded to four additional towns and employs 60 women.

Allison Picher / Global Greengrants

Urban Industrial Emissions

Burning coal accounts for one-third of global carbon dioxide emissions—and the industry is growing. Women are often the first to recognize the impact, especially when their children suffer from pollution-related illnesses.

Selected Lessons

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  • Grassroots groups in highly polluted areas are dedicated advocates for environmental justice.
  • Small grants that increase in frequency and size can help maintain scrutiny of the worst polluters.

Caroline Npaotane

Co-Coordinator, Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance

South Africa

The Vaal Triangle in South Africa is home to some of the world’s highest carbon-emitting industries. Caroline Npaotane and a group of activists are driving efforts fight the polluting industries. Their work helped usher in new air quality standards, and have the Vaal named a priority area for climate change mitigation.

Thys Dullaart

Violence Against Women Activists

A cultural of impunity surrounds violence against women. In 2012, approximately 40 percent of women human rights defenders targeted and attacked in Mesoamerica were defending natural resources.

Selected Lessons

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  • Funders should analyze violence and address institutions that perpetuate it.
  • Facilitating connections between women activists can help them support each other.

Berta Cáceres

General Coordinator, Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras


Berta Cáceres confronts government, military and corporations that want to log, mine and build dams in the Lenca Indians’ territory. She has been arrested numerous times. Some of her colleagues have been killed or seriously injured. Frequent support and funding have helped Berta withstand the constant threats.

Rucha Chitnis / Global Greengrants

Women's Health & Livelihoods

Rural women’s health and livelihoods are directly affected by the quality of their environment.

Selected Lessons

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  • Women need information about how the environment impacts their livelihoods, rights and security.
  • Media is a powerful tool for grassroots groups trying to challenge powerful institutions.

M. Dulamjav

Leader, Mongolian Women's Fund


Mongolia is home to massive mineral reserves. Mining has polluted the land and created a culture of corruption. M. Dulamjav began teaching local people about women’s rights and how illegal mining destroys their health and livelihoods. Her creative tactics worked and an illegal mine was shuttered.

Bruce1ee / CC BY-SA 2.0

Moving Forward

It is time to invest in the people
who have the most to lose and
who are acting now.

Solutions to climate change exist on the front lines of the battle to save our
planet. Grassroots women leaders are already stepping up to the challenge.

  1. Break down silos and approach issues from a community perspective.
  2. Give small grants to catalyze action. From small seeds grow big trees.
  3. Support networking and information sharing between grassroots women.
  4. Fund grassroots involvement in environmental and climate policy.
  5. Understand risks to women activists and support security measures.
  6. Support communities facing climate-related displacement.
  7. Be an advocate on issues on which you have influence.

Learn about environment and women’s fund collaborations
seeded at the Summit on Women and Climate.



Photo Credit: Global Greengrants