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Gender equality the secret to fast climate action

OPINION
By Lynet Otieno | November 12th 2021

One woman in Nyando became famous following her incessant cries for Serikali to help whenever it flooded. And it always did. She brought to the fore the plight of families in flood-prone areas. It sounded funny that she could not trace her children, pans or goats, but those are what mattered to her.

One may ask where Jane Anyango’s husband, if she had one, always was, and if she knew of climate change. One evident thing in Anyango’s cries was that climate emergency does not affect different people the same way, considering gender norms, social and economic status. Images showing displaced persons after a disaster are often women and children.

In camps, women and children are the easiest targets and victims of sexual, gender and other violence. Unaccompanied children moving without documents may also never be traced.

While reports quickly indicate loss in climate disasters as houses, infrastructure, land and livestock, rarely are women’s property captured. They are negligible. Besides, they rarely have a say on some assets. But they are the caregivers. Some furnish their houses, buy utensils, tailoring machines, farm equipment or livestock. They till the land or run small shops in their houses. These are rarely considered lost or damaged in disaster assessment or compensation.

Yet women are easy to work with in line with Nationally Determined Contributions to climate action. Giving them more rights to land, especially the communally owned, will ensure they are involved in decisions on how the same is used, and reduce bad practices like tilling of sloppy land or clearing bushes for charcoal, excavation of agricultural land, which can exacerbate disasters and worsen food insecurity. A 2020 UNDP report shows women got only 10 per cent of agricultural land titles, making them more vulnerable and less empowered to adapt or mitigate climate change

But devolution exists, and counties can create gender-inclusive action plans to cater for women’s and men’s climate concerns while exploiting their unique abilities and locally available remedies. Help women to organise and align themselves to receive climate funds, and be represented in climate policies formulation and review processes. They also need information and more exposure to technology.

The national and county governments must ensure more women get adequate space to contribute, especially through capacity building on clean energy access, use of natural resources such as rivers, forests and riparian land.

Not all can be as lucky as Anyango, yet they must not be spectators in climate action. Share these opportunities equally.

-Lynet is Quality Assurance Editor at the Standard Group  

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