Women and Girls at the Centre ; The Inequalities of Climate Change

By Benta Moige

Kenya has experienced unprecedented impacts of Climate Change for a while now,  from flooding across the country, especially in the Rift Valley, where rivers have been swelling, breaking banks, displacing hundreds, and destroying livelihoods, to extreme drought in Arid and Semi-Arid areas (ASALs). The consistency of these changes has slowed down the socio-economic development of the affected areas and people. In South Nyanza, River Nyando has been breaking banks during most rainy seasons, displacing hundreds of people, destroying property and exposing populations to health hazards. In the course of these adversities, individual and community human rights  have been intersectionally violated. 

Kenya is yet to be exempt from the biting rage of drought, locust infestation and now some new species of mosquitoes, especially in the Northern part of the country. Over four million people faced acute starvation by the end of 2022, and many lost their livestock, their only source of livelihood. 

At the centre of the Climate confusion are women and girls. Women and girls bear the brunt of climate change differently but more severely. Realising their socio-economic, cultural,  civil and political rights becomes harder, given their primary societal role. Women are expected to fend for food, water and shelter for children and care for older people even when they can’t achieve this. With the adverse effects of Climatic conditions, they must walk hundreds of kilometres in search of water, food and pasture, exposing them to health and security hazards.  

Women and girls are also exposed to gender-based violence when they cannot meet these needs.  

Constant movement disrupts access to quality education and healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, exposing them and children to preventable diseases.  

It is disheartening to see that the declaration made during the 2023 Africa Climate Week Summit Declaration(The Nairobi Declaration) does not acknowledge and/or address the intersecting and disproportionate impact of climate change on women and girls or even human rights in general. The discussion on how Climate Change affects women differently yet so intensely should be included in all development agendas and  discussed in detail as a priority. 

70% of people living in poverty are women. Women head the poorest households. This makes it difficult for them to adapt to the impact of climate change, therefore exposing them to the elements.

Given the existing social service inequality and unfair distribution of resources against women, discussions around Climate adaptation should have women and girls at the centre to mitigate the current shortcomings. 

The government of Kenya must implement the recommendations in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Gender Action Plan, which calls for women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in the international climate process and to ensure a prominent role for women in decision-making and climate action. To achieve this, there is a need to balance gender parity in delegations and bodies tasked to address and devise ways to adapt to climate change and apply an intersectional lens which addresses the  urgent needs of women and girls. 

Benta Moige is the Country Researcher at Amnesty International Kenya. She writes in her personal capacity. Email: [email protected]