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KENYA: Kenyan Grassroots Women to Champion Sustainable Development

Source: Africa Science News
Women leaders across the 47 Kenyan counties have resolved to mobilize their counterparts in the grassroots to lobby for greater inclusion in processes that promote sustainable development in the country.

The leaders underscored the critical role of grassroots women in promoting social and economic development, environmental justice and political cohesion.

Cecilia Kibe, the Coordinator, Kenya Climate Justice Women Champions, a women lobby group rooting for women issues on climate change debates, stressed that greater participation of grassroots women is crucial to advancement of sustainability agenda in the country.

She however regretted that “the role of women in promoting all facets of progress in the country is yet to be recognized. Majority of women in the country are still confined to the fringes of poverty, exclusion and under-representation”

Kibe spoke during a two day workshop on addressing marginalization of women in climate change issues and their vulnerability to climate change.

The workshop took place in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi and brought together representatives of civil society organizations championing rights of women at the grassroots level.

During the workshop, the women leaders pledged to embolden efforts aimed at combating climate change to accelerate attainment of millennium development goals and Kenya`s vision 2030.

Kibe noted that “climate change has adversely impacted on the grassroots women who bear the full brunt of recurrent drought, floods and epidemics yet little attention has been devoted to their role in climate adaptation and mitigation.”

According to Kibe, the rural woman in Kenya is grappling with a myriad challenges that include poverty, preventable ailments, female genital mutilation, illiteracy and under-representation in decision making.

She cited “domestic violence, lack of financial resources, and ignorance on climate change issues alongside absence of a platform to air views as huge impediment to advancement of MDGs on gender parity, poverty and sustainable development.”

The Kenya Climate Justice women champions is coordinating a national network of grassroots women organizations to pressure the government to implement gender friendly policies that empower marginalized women across the country.

“We intend to scale up advocacy targeting policy makers in government to achieve equity and inclusiveness in processes leading to sustainable development”, says Kibe.

She adds that “we will conduct thorough research and documentation on the impacts of interventions that grassroots women have rolled out to empower themselves. Later on, we are going to upscale these initiatives in an effort to realize sustainable development goals.”

Kibe revealed that capacity building activities are in the works to “enable grassroots women fully participate in Rio +20 processes. The target is to have eight women in every province to at least participate in the forthcoming summit in June.”

Kibe reiterated that “women should unite towards a fair, transparent, equitable and inclusive Rio+20.We need to build strong partnerships among women to secure climate justice while stressing their role in sustainable development.”

Grassroots women are concerned about rapid environmental degradation that has impacted on food, water and energy security while worsening poverty and diseases burden in their localities.

Stella Wanjala, Head of a Grassroots network in Western Province, said that “biodiversity loss, deforestation, destruction of wetlands and other fresh water ecosystems has reversed progress on poverty reduction.”

Her organization has kicked off activities that include indigenous tree planting, use of energy saving stoves, production of bio gas and use of water filters to address climate change and poverty.

Wanjala emphasized on the “critical role of women in boosting community resilience in the face of climate change.”

Rael Lordia, a gender activist from West Pokot County, Rift Valley province, noted that “food insecurity and malnutrition, child labor, deforestation due to charcoal burning, floods and landslides are some of the challenges we as women leaders are grappling with daily.”

She challenged the government to include women in efforts aimed at combating climate change vagaries that has worsened marginalization of women in Rift valley.

There is need to boost the capacity of grassroots women to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Emma Bowa, the Project and Advocacy Officer, Care International, Kenya Chapter, stressed on the “need for continuous education targeting grassroots women to make them an integral part of green agenda in the country.”

She endorsed the “push for recognition of the potential of women as catalysts in climate mitigation and adaptation.”

Women have enormous practical know how on environmental and resource conservation.

Grace Mukasa, the Regional Coordinator, Practical Action, underscored the need to “reach out to the grassroots woman with climate message and empower her economically to tackle this challenge in her backyard.”

Mukasa observed that “Kenya is at the epicenter of climate change. Droughts are a common feature in a country that is 80% arid and semi arid.”

She remarked that climate change has impacted negatively on Kenya`s GDP.