Written by Henry Neondo
Despite existing evidence of the impact of climate change on women, there is a very poor gender aspect in the Kenya government responses in terms of policies and legal framework.
The threat of climate change, manifested in the increase of extreme weather conditions such as, droughts, storms or floods is a sustainable development challenge which has been recognized as a global priority issue.
According to Cecilia Kibe, the Coordinator, Kenya Climate Justice Women Champions, the effects of climate change although capable of threatening attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Kenya’s goal to industrialise by 2030, is receiving lackluster responses.
Speaking at a recent workshop by Climate Justice Women Champions from across Kenya, Kibe said it is not enough to talk gender in the climate discussion tables but more of how women vulnerabilities are addressed in climate response strategies.
She said the effects of climate change vary from regions and social groups.
Due, in part, to their lower adaptive capacities, developing countries and people living in poverty are likely to experience significant impacts.
Women form a disproportionately large share of the poor in countries all over the world.
Eunice Warue of Gender CC, said the climate change affect women differently ----in the African set up, 80 per cent of women take charge of arable farming. “They depend on Natural resources for livelihood. They fetch firewood for cooking, heating and also water, food from nature which when it is affected suffer, they get badly hit in drought,” she said.
Socially, she said cultures hinder women to play any role in decision making, and thus lack voice in debates.
This, according to Warue is made worse given that women do not own resources---save in few countries where the law allows. Where such legal provisions are absent, women lack resources to adapt and mitigate climate change.
Bahati Mwita Karinga, OPM, environment and climate change Unit, said the impact of climate change on women must be addressed given that the woman is the engine of Kenya and indeed Africa’s economy.
Kenya’s economy is largely agro-based with agriculture contributing to 47 per cent to the GDP. According to the ministry of Agriculture, women constitute 80 per cent of farm labour force.
While most Kenyan communities are yet to fully grasp the magnitude of climate change, the magnitude of exclusion is greater in women. Women are also affected by poor industrialization policies that affect the level of carbon in the atmosphere.
Mrs Dina Nakuwa from Turkana says today, she can no longer predict the rainy seasons, a key issue in food production cycle as this affects farmers’ decision when to begin planting.
“While the effects of climate change, including drought, uncertain rainfall and deforestation, make it harder to secure these resources, yet in comparison with men in poor countries, women face historical disadvantages, which include limited access to decision-making and economic assets that compound the challenges of climate change,” she said.
Pro-gender voices say decision-making role is still largely dominated by men who still control access to social and physical resources and quite often the decisions do not favour women.
Warue said gender differences must be considered---not just in terms of vulnerability only—women are also good in adapting to climate change even where they do not know.
She said women play a key role in managing households; they have been strong advocate of preparedness at household level and many have capacity to contribute to adaptation in disasters---within their set up.
John kioli, Chairman of the Kenya climate Change Working Group said the voices of the women are not heard because of social cultural discrimination. “But the Working group and the government of Kenya are putting measures in place to counter this,” he said.
Kibe however said what needs to be done is create clear policies and efforts to help build capacities of women to advocate for climate justice and mobile green champions without being dependent on any factors.
Such a move, she said will help bring up grassroot women to the fore in key debates on climate change.
Warue agrees with Kibe. She said often policy makers do not consult women but they have knowledge. She adds that women need to be consulted when dealing with climate change within their set up.
“It is important that the government recognises the intricacies of women’s experiences in all her policy formulations and programme implementation on matters touching on climate change and sustainable development because women have a much closer interaction with the earth than the other gender,” said Kibe.
She urged the government to create room for qualitative and quantitative representation of women and other marginalised groups (grassroots, technical, elite) at all discussions on the environment, climate change and sustainable development discussions.
At the global level, the Commission on the Status of Women considered the issue of climate change at its 46th session in 2002.
The agreed conclusions on “environmental management and the mitigation of natural disasters” adopted by the Commission called for action to mainstream a gender perspective into ongoing research on the impacts and causes of climate change, and to encourage the application of results of this research in policies and programmes.
Bahati motivated women to seek for entry points for green interventions like in energy efficient cookers, water points and urged them to use adaptive research.