Happy international women’s day 2022. It is yet another year that on March 8th we get to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It has been over a century since we started celebrating women’s day, the first one was in 1911. This day also offers an opportunity to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
Every year UN women give out a theme and this year’s theme is Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow. In a press statement, UN women said that the year 2022 is pivotal for achieving gender equality in the context of climate change and environmental and disaster risk reduction. “Without gender equality, today, a sustainable future, and an equal future remains beyond our reach,” it added.
Climate change and environmental and disaster risk reduction are some of the greatest global challenges of the twenty-first century. We, therefore, need to appreciate women and girls who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation and response to honor their leadership and contribution towards a sustainable future while encouraging more women to come in and help.
In Kenya, we have women and girls who have been and are at the forefront of protecting our environment. And today we want to highlight some of the women who have been so gracious enough to offer themselves to serve humanity.
One Kenyan woman by the name of Habiba Tadicha has taken charge of protecting nature during this climate crisis. She was initially the chair of Biliqo Bulesa Community Conservancy (the first woman to be elected to the position), a protected area near her home village Biliqo in northern Kenya. But she is now an elder in her community. In her role as chair, she ensured that the conservancy was protected at all costs which caused her to be shot a number of times. During her time as chair of the conservancy, she used revenues from the protected area, as well as donations, to build two additional classrooms in the village secondary school. Tadicha also established a cultural center with other local women.
Wangari Mathai is one Kenyan woman who will never be forgotten for being an environmentalist and her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace. Even against oppressive regimes, Mathai fought to ensure a sustainable environment and better quality of life for women and the citizens of Kenya.
Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti is another Kenyan environment and climate activist and founder of the Green Generation Initiative, which nurtures young people to love nature and be environmentally conscious at a young age and has now planted 30,000 tree seedlings in Kenya.
It is also wonderful to see young girls being at the forefront in fighting for the protection of our environment. One Tumiso Mathenge is a 14-year-old environmentalist whose main focus is to stop poaching in Kenya and its environs. She started her activism at the age of 10 years and practices it through the Kijani Gang and her club, Wildlife Savers.
For decades, land and natural resource governance systems across the continent have marginalized women, forcing them to rise and be at the forefront of the fight for their rights and their families, children, and communities. It is however sad to note that there are women who have died in the fight of defending our environment. In fact, there are three unresolved murders of Joannah Statchburry, Esther Mwikali in Kenya, and Fikile Ntshangase in South Africa which remind us about the vulnerability of women’s land and environmental defenders.
According to data collected through the African Environmental Defenders Fund operated by Natural Justice, in Uganda, 46 women from various districts are facing threats and experiencing violent reprisals in the form of illegal detention, physical assault, sexual harassment, and attempted rape for defending their land and environment over the past three months.
We are therefore encouraged to help other women in creating an environment safe for them to carry out environmental activism. In any part of the world, it is never easy to stand up for what is true and just. Let us hold each other’s hands and fight against climate change.