We’re delighted to announce a new partnership supporting an international research programme at the University of Cambridge on community-led climate resilience. 

Two international female researchers have been awarded British Council early-career fellowships linked to the Ecologies in Place research cluster at Cambridge, which is exploring examples of climate action globally that draw on local tacit knowledge and collective action. Working under the supervision of Professor Shailaja Fennell, both these year-long fellowships have a focus on the intersection of climate action, gender equality and female empowerment in South Asia. 

Introducing our research fellows

Nazneen Khan is examining the impact of climate change on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women in Bangladesh. Her research interest is in the relationships between gender, local governance, climate change, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Non-economic Loss and Damage within development settings, with a particular emphasis on young people, especially women and girls in Bangladesh. She joins the research team from the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, where she coordinates the Climate Change and Health programme. 

“The Fellowship is exciting in that it allows the researchers to set the research agenda and work alongside incredible people to understand and address the challenges of climate change.” – Elilini Hoole

Elilini Hoole is looking at the intersectional experiences of women farm operators in Sri Lanka navigating the challenges of aridification and male-centric agricultural marketplaces. Elilini researches development-oriented climate policies in support of vulnerable communities and has advised on and designed developmental strategies for climate responses in vulnerable regions affected by conflict and climate disasters. Her wide-ranging global experience has included several years in post-conflict areas of Sri Lanka, supporting the return of displaced communities and developing innovative green growth programmes. Her current research draws on these experiences to explore how climate policies can more equitably and efficaciously benefit marginalized groups. 

The fellowship in Cambridge offers exciting prospects, including access to libraries and resources and engaging in discussions with scholars from diverse backgrounds. Representing my country on an international platform is a great honour.” – Nazneen Khan

Advancing our knowledge base for climate action

This research collaboration will promote knowledge exchange between UK institutions and international partners, including the Indian Institute of Technology, India; the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Bangladesh; and the American University of Cairo, Egypt. Over the next twelve months, the research team will engage closely with the British Council in the UK and South Asia, and more widely across our global network – informing our own programming and strategy within (and across) the areas of climate action and gender and inclusion.

The partnership is foregrounding the role that educational partnerships can play in enhancing the impact and visibility of existing forms of female- and community-led climate resilience. This aligns with our commitment to placing gender equality at the centre of climate action and policy efforts in the countries and regions where we work. It also reinforces our own cultural relations approach to climate action, as we work to promote girls’ education and empowerment and women’s leadership in science and research, whilst supporting young women to lead collective action.

Supporting COP 28 priority themes

The projects being conducted by Nazneen and Elil are part of a wider research agenda addressing questions about sustainability, about human-environmental interactions, about the differential impacts of climate change in diverse global cultural and social contexts.

These are timely and pertinent questions to consider in the context of the COP28 United National Climate Change Conference in the United Arab Emirates this December, speaking particularly to the cross-cutting themes within the conference programme of Inclusion and Frontline Communities, and the commitment to promote a gender-just transition. The research partnership is also part of our own commitment, building on The Climate Connection, to promote greater inclusivity, more dialogue and fewer barriers in climate action. It will deepen our understanding of forms of climate resilience being developed by communities that are on the frontline of climate change – such as community generated forms of nutrition or delivery of water that successfully navigate gender and age structures. And it will give the local tacit knowledge on which this resilience is based wider global attention and understanding. 

Next steps

Over the months ahead Nazneen and Elilini will be sharing their research findings, insights, and experiences in academic fora at the University of Cambridge as well as through research articles and knowledge exchange with British Council colleagues working on climate action and gender inclusion programmes. Their projects include plans for consultation and collaboration with community partners in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. This will help to bring local knowledge to the fore in developing more nuanced and contextualised understandings of women’s challenges, motivations and aspirations in participating in climate action. It will support stakeholders to design and deliver climate action interventions that are tailored to support female empowerment and inclusion.