SheRises Foundation

Women and Climate Change- Tana River County

Women’s Leadership in Climate Resilience: Empowering Communities in Tana River County

Climate change has presented the world with unparalleled challenges, though its effects have not been uniformed to every community. Women and young girls, especially from areas like Tana River County in Kenya, bear the greatest burden of environmental degradation, natural disasters, and socio-economic disruptions exacerbated by climate change. This comprehensive blog is a foray into the intersectionality of gender and climate change in Tana River County, examining the peculiar vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities and empowerment opportunities for women and young girls in the face of environmental uncertainty.

Understanding Climate Change in Tana River County:

Tana River County, located within the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya, is largely a hotbed of climate change impacts such as increased duration of droughts, erratic patterns of rainfall, and increased temperatures. Such climatic stressors exacerbate the region’s already existing vulnerabilities, including lack of enough water, food insecurity, and conflicts over resources, which disproportionately fall on women and girls. This also means their reliance on natural resources for their livelihood, health, and well-being, coupled with the confluence of gender inequalities, poverty, and cultural norms, has further exacerbated challenges women and girls face in accessing resources and decision-making processes, including adaptive strategies to cope with climate change impacts.

Women as Agents of Change:

Despite facing multiple barriers and constraints, women in Tana River County are key change-makers in climate change adaptation and resilience-building efforts. Through their roles as caregivers, food producers, water managers, and community leaders, women bring knowledge, skills, and innovations that are valuable in addressing climate-related challenges and sustaining livelihoods amid adversity. Moreover, the empowerment of women and gender equality are prerequisites that foster effective climate action, for they enable women to participate in decision-making, access resources, and advocate for their rights and priorities in climate policy and planning processes.

In the heart of the pastoralist community in Kenya, girls are becoming beacons of climate action, shirking century-old traditions as they advocate for sustainable solutions to environmental challenges. Set against the enormous and rugged landscapes of Kenya, the story narrates the memorable journey that girls are making through the intricate web of climate change and forging a path towards a resilient future.

Traditionally, pastoralist communities in Kenya depend on nomadic herding practices, and their lives are in a synchrony of nature. However, due to the intensification of climate change, the previously expected systems of rainfall and grazing patterns become unreliable and are increasingly a threat to pastoralist ways of livelihood. Faced with these changes, it is the girls who are coming forward with determination to change and protect their future within the communities.

Leading this revolution are these fearless girls who do not want to be passive witnesses to the problem. Equipped with knowledge and a sense of purpose, they are mobilizing their peers and communities to take action against climate change. Through grassroots initiatives and advocacy campaigns, they are sensitizing people on the significance of conserving the environment and adopting sustainable land management practices.

Among them is Mary, an enterprising teenager from Tana River County pastoralist community, in Kenya’s coastal region. Despite being defined by a traditional female gender role that bounds her place in society, Mary refuses to be a captive of expectations. She plants trees under community-led conservation initiatives, actively planting with other youths and restoring degraded land to curb climate change effects.

Mary’s story is a classic example of a bigger movement sweeping across Kenya’s pastoralist communities. It is a movement that gets its energy and passion from young girls like herself, who do not accept the status quo, and are very determined to forge a better future for themselves and their communities. In this collective action, they are not only engaging with the immediate challenges of climate change but also challenging deep-rooted gender norms and inequalities.

Their journey, however, is not devoid of challenges. The reaction has come from traditionalists suspicious of their activism in a society where gender roles are so ingrained. But with no thought of the challenges ahead, they struggle on, their strength harnessed by the shared vision of a more sustainable, equitable future.

As the sun sets over the expansive savannah, casting the long shadow of the day on the land, Mary and her fellow activists huddle around a crackling fire. In the warmth of the glow, they reflect on how far they have come and how much further they have to go. For these young girls, the journey toward climate resilience is just starting, yet their dedication and resolution shine bright as a lighthouse for those who come after them.

Challenges and Vulnerabilities:

Women and girls in Tana River County face an immense number of challenges and vulnerabilities worsened by climate change. These include:

Water Scarcity: The drying up of water sources as a result of erratic rainfalls and increased demands for water heighten the workload of women in fetching water for household use, agriculture, and livestock, and culminate in time and energy poverty, as well as deteriorated health and wellbeing.

Food Insecurity: Agricultural production is hampered due to climate-related disruptions through crop failures, livestock losses, and soil degradation, hence undermining the food security and nutrition levels of women and girls, resulting in the increased malnutrition, poverty, and vulnerability to diseases.

Health Risks: The risk of diseases among women and girls from sources including, but not limited to, waterborne diseases, malnutrition, and maternal mortality, is higher since they are the ones taking care of the health needs of most families and communities.

Vulnerability of Livelihoods: Impacts from climate change, such as crop failures, livestock deaths, and natural disasters, pose threats to the livelihoods and economic opportunities of women, in particular, those that depend on small-scale agriculture, livestock rearing, and the informal sector, increasing poverty, inequality, and social exclusion even more.

Adaptive Strategies and Resilience-Building:

In response to climate change impacts, women and young girls in Tana River County adopt a variety of adaptive strategies and resilience-building measures to mitigate risks, build livelihoods, and promote sustainable development. These strategies include:

Diversification of Livelihoods: Women participate in small-scale farming, rearing of livestock, keeping of poultry, and making handicrafts in order to expand their income base, reduce dependency on climate-sensitive sectors, and build economic resilience to climate-related shocks.

Harvesting and Conservation of Water: Women participate in water harvesting techniques like rainwater harvesting, the building of sand dams, and the installation of water storage tanks to improve access to clean water for use at the household level, irrigating farm produce, and watering livestock, thus improving security in water and reducing the burden of work.

Agroecological Practices in Farming: Women promote agroecological farming practices like organic farming, agroforestry, and permaculture that enhance soil fertility, conserve water, and improve crop yields; these practices also conserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change, and promote sustainable land management practices.

Community-Based Adaptation Initiatives: Women participate in community-based adaptation initiatives such as community forestry groups, water user associations, and women’s cooperatives for the collective response to climate-related challenges, knowledge and resource sharing, and gender-responsive policies and programs at the local and national levels.

To conclude, women and girls in Tana River County are the most affected by climate change, though they are at the same time resilient, resourceful, and can participate as agents of change in climate mitigation and adaptation strategies in their respective communities. The acknowledgment and redress of the gender-sensitive vulnerabilities, adaptive capacities, and empowerment opportunities of women and young girls should be considered by stakeholders toward the realization of gender-responsive climate action, increased resilience, and achievement of sustainable development results that are beneficial to all members of the society. Targeted investment, capacity development programs, and inclusive decision-making processes can serve to position women and girls as change drivers in Tana River County, leading to a more just, resilient, and sustainable future for generations to come.

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