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Gender Mainstreaming in Climate Change Policies Long Overdue

The role women play needs to be supported by strong policies

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As the World prepares to mark World Environment Day on June 5th, there is need to focus attention on one critical aspect – the involvement of an acknowledgement of the role women and girls play in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Women and girls in most Kenyan homes carry the burden of unpaid care and domestic work which increase in changing climate. The role women play needs to be supported by strong policies as research has shown that people who are socially, economically, politically or institutionally marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change. As the world heats up, oceans shrink, sea levels rise and animal species become extinct the world environment day serves as an important day to step back and reflect on what we are doing right and what areas we can improve on.

A quick glance at current climate change policies indicates that Kenya, like many other African countries, is yet to mainstream gender in her climate change policies. During the 2014 Conference of Parties (COP) countries adopted the Lima Work Program on Gender which aims to advance implementation of gender-responsive climate policies and mandates across all areas of the negotiations. During the COP 21 in 2015 in Paris, Governments adopted the Paris agreement. A year later, at the COP 22 in Marakech Governments discussed the means of implementation of the Agreement. It was at this meeting that governments also agreed to extend the duration of the Lima Work Agreement by 3 years. However, all these political commitments are yet to be translated into action and specifically local action. There is a need for concerted efforts to ensure that the interests and voices of women are protected by strong policies and action. The media being the strongest agenda setter in this country can lead to this transformation.

Photo by J Wakibia
The war against climate change can only be won if supported by clear information dissemination mechanisms. The media have a huge role to play in ensuring the public is aware of climate change policies and actions they can take to save mother nature. Women and girls being the primary providers in most Kenyan homes and depending on agriculture need to be well informed on different aspects of climate change. Women and girls at a grassroots level should be made aware of the Kenya Climate Change Act, the Paris Agreement, The Sustainable Development Goals and many other climate change policies so they can ensure their needs are captured in these documents and can also demand accountability from the government. This can only happen if the media can dedicate programming to educating the public on these policies.
From decision making on what energy is to be used at home to managing available resources to fit family needs, women in Kenya play a huge role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. However, in many instances, the media tends to overlook these roles and instead portrays women as a vulnerable group waiting to be saved in times of disaster. This portrayal of women as passive and vulnerable to climate change emphasizes on their needs while their participation and leadership in climate change is ignored. This in effect makes it impossible to include women in policy decision making processes as they are viewed as recipients and not actors. If the media, being opinion influencers, changed their portrayal of women from passive recipients to active influencers who have a say in climate change adaptation matters this would go a long way in ensuring their voices are heard on matters climate change.
To fill the gender gap on climate change issues, we need to first fill the data gap. Kenya lacks comprehensive data on the different initiatives started by women to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In many arid and semi-arid areas, women have formed chamas through which they have pooled resources to build water pans thereby reducing the amount of time taken in the search for water. This is just one among many other initiatives started by women as adaptation measures. If all these initiatives were captured and documented it would make for an easier case to lobby for governments to include such initiatives in policies. The media can help change this by working with civil society groups who are already documenting this to highlight these data and in effect make policymakers aware of the great contribution by women in climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
Following Brexit and Trump’s move to pull out of the Paris deal, it is clear nationalism and protectionism are becoming a trend as countries choose localization over globalization. Kenya needs to look deep within for what resources she has at her disposal. One such resource is her women and girls who have been implementing climate change adaptation initiatives since time immemorial. It is time to tap into these through effective policies.

 

The Writer is the Founder of Lets Do It Kenya, an organisation that uses technology to map waste and the convenor of the 21 September World Cleanup Day Celebrations in Kenya.  Feedback and comments can be emailed to letsdoitkenya2018@gmail.com

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