Reflections by Elyse Lightman Samuels, MADRE Board Member
“We are all connected,” said Lucy Mulenkei, Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network (IIN) in Kenya and longtime partner of MADRE, who spoke earlier this year at a gathering hosted by MADRE Board Co-Chair, Anne Hess.
When Lucy meets with women from rural Indigenous communities to talk about climate change and human rights, she leans into the theme of interconnectedness. The message that we are more powerful when we work together, was woven through her remarks as she addressed a small gathering of MADRE members.
Lucy described how women experience climate crisis firsthand, such as the severe weather that causes droughts and decimates crops. IIN teaches women to plant trees around their homes and how to create and sustain small farms. Lucy’s organization also helps women create corrugated roofs and a water catchment system, so water is available for farming and livestock.
These are huge steps forward: instead of spending nearly two-thirds of their time gathering muddy water from the river, women can raise nutritious food from their family farms. They can raise money by selling vegetables and send their daughters to school, rather than trading them for a dowry in early marriage to make ends meet.
Lucy reminded us, thoughtfully and directly, that our actions in the US impact climate crisis the world over, with particularly harsh impacts on rural and Indigenous women. The need is great for policymakers in the US and elsewhere to hear from women experiencing climate crisis firsthand in their communities. Women have the solutions, declared Lucy, and we must uplift their voices.
“True partnerships begin with trust,” Lucy said, referencing MADRE’s long-term partnership with IIN. “When we began working with MADRE, it was like a sister-to-sister way. They became family. Everybody is important, and everybody has a place. That’s why we feel comfortable, and why we have worked together for over 15 years.”
As Lucy was speaking, the topic arose of MADRE’s recent delegation to Kenya. Referring to the MADRE members who had visited the local communities, she shared, “Sometimes it’s not just the material that you give, but the company that you are. For you to come to women’s homes, sit with them, see how they cook and make a living, this is powerful. When I go back, they’ll ask me about you all, they’ll remember your names. And they will show your pictures to their children, again and again.”
Many of us wonder what difference we can make, as one individual, to help communities under threat or to confront global emergencies like the climate crisis. Without question, providing our financial resources, when we’re able to do so, matters a great deal. So does listening, learning, lending our voices, and standing with one another.
When we recognize and embrace our interconnectedness, we move closer to MADRE’s vision: a world where all people enjoy the fullest range of individual and collective human rights; where resources are shared equitably and sustainably; where women participate effectively in all aspects of society; and where people have a meaningful say in policies that affect their lives. This vision starts with each of us.