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TWAS Newsletter
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Women-led teams receive unique catalyst grants for climate action

Women-led teams receive unique catalyst grants for climate action

Elsevier Foundation and TWAS award seven teams grants for gender equity and climate action projects in the global South; women are disproportionately affected by climate change, yet only 4% of research in this area incorporates sex and gender considerations

Seven winning project teams for gender equity and climate action were announced today, 4 December, at an event at COP28, the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The TWAS-Elsevier Foundation Project Grants for Gender Equity and Climate Action are designed to strengthen gender equity, address the climate-related needs of local communities, and apply scientific knowledge to real-life scenarios. The focus areas of the seven winning projects’ range from mangrove restoration to sustainable land management to climate change adaptation as an empowerment tool for women. They are led by women scientists from Benin, Bolivia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe and will each receive approximately US$25,000.

A group photograph from Zimbabwean disaster risk management specialist Chipo Mudavanhu in the field. [Photo provided]
A group photograph from Zimbabwean disaster risk management specialist and 2023 project grantee Chipo Mudavanhu in the field. [Photo provided]

The projects are entirely led and conducted by women. Six grants will be supported with funding from the Elsevier Foundation, a long-standing partner of TWAS in efforts to increase support for women scientists in the global South. In addition, the Elsevier Journal Energy Economics will provide funding for a seventh grant aimed at investigating women in leadership, gender-responsive climate change adaptation, and food security in Zimbabwe.

The Climate Action and Gender catalyst grants are awarded to teams of between two and five women for scientific projects with the potential to produce tangible change. The leader of each project is a woman scientist, living and conducting scientific work in one of the 66 countries identified by TWAS as requiring assistance in strengthening research capacity. Their team members are either scientists or technical experts in a field relevant to the project, from any developing country. Sustainable Development Goal 13, which calls for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, will guide the projects.

Ylann Schemm, Executive Director of the Elsevier Foundation, said: “What makes these grants unique is their emphasis on tangible projects which provide local science-based solutions, and their focus on women, who are bearing the brunt of climate change across the global South. It is crucial that women scientists are part of the response to the biggest challenge of our time. We are extremely proud to partner with TWAS on making this vital investment in gender equality as we look to tackle climate change together.”

Quarraisha Abdool Karim, TWAS President, said: "These grants highlight that excluding half the world’s population in tackling complex global challenges is a luxury we can no longer afford. TWAS is pleased to partner with Elsevier on these Climate action grants to women in developing countries. We are delighted that the recipients of these TWAS-Elsevier project grants profile inspiring teams of women making important contributions to closing gender gaps in science and knowledge co-creation. The 2023 awards will enable seven teams of women across five countries to enhance their scientific, leadership and project management skills in addressing a diverse range of climate change challenges in their region and in their communities."

Zimbabwean industrial engineer Zviemurwi and 2023 project grantee Johnny Chihambakwe among chickens related to her biogas project. [Image provided]
Zimbabwean industrial engineer and 2023 project grantee Zviemurwi Johnny Chihambakwe among chickens related to her project related to sustainable energy and biogas. [Image provided]

A wealth of strong ideas

This year’s awardees reflect the demand for projects to address climate-related challenges in communities in the global South.

In 2022, the first year of the grants, the programme received 163 applications, and over 20 of those proposals were highly rated by the evaluators. Last year, the selection committee chose eight unique projects in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Nepal, Bangladesh to receive these grants.  Since TWAS and the Elsevier Foundation received so many high-quality applications for the grant, they opted to return to those proposals for this most recent series of awards in 2023 rather than open a new call—requesting updated proposals from the most highly rated 2022 applicants.

The review process included key input from women with climate expertise. All are IPCC scientists, and either are from developing countries or have experience with the challenges of the Global South. They were:

  • Head of IPCC Working Group I Technical Support Unit Anna Pirani of Italy,
  • IPCC Working Group II Contributing Author Shobha Poudel of Nepal,
  • IPCC lead author Aïda Diongue-Niang of Senegal, and
  • 2007 IPCC Nobel Prize co-winner Joyashree Roy, of India.

“As I read the amazingly creative proposals and see them getting funded,” said Roy, “I am becoming more optimistic about the role of ingenuity and women's power in transforming the societies of the least developed countries.”

The announcement of the winners was made as part of a side event at the Greening Education Hub pavilion, organized by TWAS and Green Hope Foundation at COP28.

Ghanaian chemist and project grantee Trinity Tagbor with samples of cooking stoves for testing. [Photo provided]
Ghanaian chemist and 2023 project grantee Trinity Tagbor with samples of cooking stoves for testing. [Photo provided]

The winners and their projects

  • Mozambican environmental scientist Albertina Alage will lead a community-based reforestation project focused on mangrove and other coastal and river-based vegetation at Macaneta in Mozambique. The goal is to reduce the impact of climate change and contribute to the plants’ ecological, social, economic, and environmental functions.

“The community-based reforestation with mangrove project aims at Community empowerment for mangrove restoration in Macaneta to contribute to the environmental and socio-economic sustainability of Marracuene District,” said Alage. “The main results are improved education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

  • Zimbabwean industrial engineer Zviemurwi Johnny Chihambakwe will lead a project to build climate resilience through knowledge sharing and sustainable-energy systems for women in areas of Zimbabwe that transition between urban and rural.

“This project will empower women involved in small-scale farming production by providing renewable energy systems that use locally available resources and weather and climate information,” said Chihambakwe. “The key outcomes of the project will be improved livelihoods, diversity of income-generating sources and increased knowledge of local weather and climate change.”

  • Beninese agricultural scientist Gisele Koupamba Sinasson Sanni will lead an environmental restoration project to create livelihoods in the Manigri District of Benin through tree planting.

“We aim to improve the ecological environment and livelihoods in the district of Manigri, Benin,” said Sinasson Sanni. “We will do this through increased knowledge and capacity building around climate change, environmental restoration and agroforestry practices, increased willingness to plant trees, and proper growth of planted trees.”

  • Zimbabwean social scientist Emelder M. Tagutanazvo will lead a project on how women can drive permaculture, which is a means to integrate land management and natural ecosystems, in urban Zimbabwe. It will focus on action-oriented research.

“Permaculture addresses climate change effects through community women-led organic practices to promote food security and sustainable livelihoods for self-sufficiency,” said Tagutanazvo. “The results are a climate change-sensitive and replicable community-based permaculture model that improves food availability and the well-being of women.”

  • Ghanaian chemist Trinity Tagbor will lead a project on using biomass pellets as an alternative fuel source for the conservation and restoration of mangroves in the Kodzi community of the Anlo District of Ghana.

“A healthy and sustainable environment is a collective responsibility,” said Tagbor. “To mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, we would require more innovative and sustainable energy solutions to preserve our natural environment. The team seeks to promote briquettes from agricultural-waste materials to reduce the over-exploitation of mangroves as fuel.”

  • Bolivian ecologist Vania Wendy Torrez Flores will lead a project using participatory land-use planning and climate change adaptation training as a strategy to empower women in the Sajama region of the Bolivian highlands.

“Increasing climate resilience in the Sajama region through participatory land-use planning and empowering women as land managers is a win-win strategy,” said Torrez Flores. “These tools enable local and indigenous communities to make informed decisions, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and facilitating climate change adaptation initiatives for a more resilient future.”

  • Zimbabwean disaster risk management specialist Chipo Mudavanhu will lead a project on women in leadership and gender-responsive climate change adaptation and food security in Zimbabwe. (This is the project supported by Energy Economics.)

“The project envisions a future where empowered women lead the way in addressing climate change and achieving food security,” said Chipo Mudavanhu. “By fostering gender equality, food security will be realized, transforming communities and ensuring a sustainable and equitable future for all.”

Beninese agricultural scientist and project grantee Gisele Koupamba Sinasson Sanni at work. [Photo provided]
Beninese agricultural scientist and 2023 project grantee Gisele Koupamba Sinasson Sanni at work. [Photo provided]

Press contacts

About TWAS

For 40 years, The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS) has been a leading force in developing crucial scientific capability in some of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. A global science academy founded in 1983 in Trieste, Italy, TWAS supports sustainable prosperity through research, education, policy, and diplomacy. With its partners, it has graduated over 1,000 PhDs and offered hundreds of postdoctoral fellowships to developing world scientists. The Academy also hosts prestigious scientific awards in the global South, has offered numerous research grants, and supports exchange visits for scientists. TWAS is a programme unit of UNESCO. More information:

About The Elsevier Foundation

The Elsevier Foundation contributes over $1.5 million a year to non-profit organizations through partnerships which incubate new approaches, highlight inequities and catalyse change toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Funded by Elsevier, a global information analytics company specializing in science and health, the Elsevier Foundation is part of Elsevier’s wider corporate responsibility program. By leveraging Elsevier’s networks and unique insights in content, data and analytics, the Elsevier Foundation is able to expand its impact in gender, health, climate action and reduced inequalities. Since 2005, the Elsevier Foundation has contributed over $16 million in grants to over 100 partners in 70 countries around the world. In addition, the Elsevier Foundation offers a special fund to support disaster relief, matching employees’ donations and volunteering to enable employees to work closely with Foundation partners and support their communities.