How our women are leading Africa's fight against climate crisis

Activist Noel Koki signs a message board during the recent Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The recent Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi offers great promise in addressing the pressing climate crisis.

The unified stance of African governments signifies a crucial step toward collective climate action. This unity should translate into meaningful support for the most vulnerable groups. Among these are women.

Women in Africa are celebrated for myriad things, including their strengths in face of adversity. They represent 50 per cent of Africa’s population and are responsible for 80 per cent of the continent’s food production.

Yet, they remain underrepresented in climate leadership and have been left behind in regional and global climate action.

If you look back at the climate disasters in Africa over the past five years, the plights, needs, roles and contributions of women are hard to miss. Take East Africa’s drought crisis as an entry point, communities are fending for their lives.

Crucial to their survival has been recurring efforts of women (and girls) who ensure their families and livestock have food (no matter how little) and water – placing community needs above their own needs.

The Africa Climate Summit sought homegrown solutions to the climate crisis and enable Africans access finance for Africa-designed solutions. This is a milestone in Africa’s global strides and beginning of more efforts in the on-going development of a climate-positive strategy for the world.

Subsequently, the African Union and African heads of states should include gender lens approaches into our regional climate action plan. They should prioritise and fully support women’s participation in climate action. A key recommendation is to provide climate financing in form of grants.

Grants acknowledge the distinct challenges women face and enable them implement sustainable climate solutions without the added burden of repayment. This not only empowers women but also recognises their invaluable contributions to building climate resilience within communities.

Women-led climate initiatives in Africa have demonstrated remarkable results at the local level: women farmers have pioneered sustainable agricultural practices, advocated for sustainable land management, and championed community-driven initiatives.

To further empower women in climate action, we should scale up these initiatives. Not only do they bring tangible benefits to communities, they also serve as models for effective climate resilience strategies.

In governments and regional leadership, women have complimented the strengths men have previously brought to the tables of decision-making rooms. At the First Lady’s Pavilion at the Summit, stories of women as change agents in different African countries abound. This was a show of the historical and continued commitment of women in resolving the climate crisis.

The Nairobi Declaration represents a significant stride forward, but it must not remain as words on paper. It is time to translate these declarations into concrete actions that enable women – in all their diversity – and pave the way for a more sustainable and equitable future.

-The writer is head of communications at SHE Changes Climate