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Snapshots from Kenya: Women Climate Defenders

Where we work in Kenya, climate change is wreaking havoc on the lives of women farmers who depend on the land. When MADRE recently traveled there to visit our local partner organization, the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), we learned more about the solutions women create.

With IIN, we held an exchange between 50 Indigenous women farmers from West Pokot and Transmara, two Indigenous communities in Kenya located roughly eight hours apart by car. We brought them together for two reasons:

  • To participate in MADRE- and IIN-led trainings on women’s human rights and ways to resist climate change
  • To give Indigenous women from different communities the opportunity to visit each other’s farms, share strategies to combat the impacts of climate change, and build new alliances together

Here are snapshots and highlights from that work!

Indigenous Women Gain New Knowledge

We conducted a series of trainings on human rights, women’s leadership, economic empowerment and climate change.

Lucy Mulenkei, leader of MADRE’s partner group the Indigenous Information Network, goes over the day’s agenda. Lucy, a Maasai woman herself, is an expert in the sustainable development of Kenya’s Indigenous pastoralist communities.

Natalia Caruso (center front), MADRE Director of Partnerships, led an interactive training on women’s strategies to raise money for their families and become financially independent. When women earn their own income, it increases their decision-making power within their families and within their communities, helping them to step up as leaders.

During the training, Indigenous women from Transmara and West Pokot had the chance to learn how each raises money to meet her needs, to see what new strategies they can use in their own communities. Above, a woman from West Pokot shares with the group how, with seeds, she can plant vegetables to sell in the market and earn income for her family.

Building Friendships, Creating Solidarity

The exchange between Maasai women from Transmara and Pokot women from West Pokot offered more than just an opportunity to learn from one another. For many, this was the first time they traveled outside of their own communities, and the first time they gathered with Indigenous women from a different People. Currently in Kenya, resource scarcity due to climate change coupled with tensions surrounding the upcoming August elections have pitted communities against each other. In this context, it was special to see the meaningful friendships and solidarity that was forged between these women -- a vital way to build trust and prevent future outbreaks of violence.

A Maasai woman (left) and a Pokot woman (right), embrace after exchanging gifts, Indigenous beadwork from each others’ communities. The friendships formed by the exchange were inspiring to see! One moving example: after Maasai women learned that some of their Pokot sisters were struggling to grow enough food for survival due to drought, they decided to give a portion of their upcoming harvest to their new friends.

Selina (left), from West Pokot is a strong, energetic community leader! Throughout the exchange, she took every chance she could to lead the women in unifying song and dance. Watch below: 

Beadwork is an important traditional activity for Indigenous women from both Transmara and West Pokot, with unique designs representing different Indigenous communities. Above, women from West Pokot admire the beadwork of their new Maasai friends.

Surviving the Impacts of Climate Change

The exchange also provided an important opportunity for the women to learn new strategies to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Here are just a few examples.

Christine from West Pokot shows off her new energy-efficient jiko stove, provided with MADRE support! It’s an updated Indigenous design that uses 80% less wood. Christine told us she loves her new stove because it also produces less smoke and cooks faster… and she says it even makes her food tastes better!

In the Naramam community of West Pokot, the rainy seasons are getting shorter and shorter due to climate change. Access to much-needed water for both drinking and for crops is scarce, and women have to travel farther and farther to collect it. MADRE trains women how to collect and store rainwater during intensifying drought. Above, your support helped us deliver 4 new rainwater tanks to the women from Naramam! They couldn’t wait to install the tanks in their community.

Trees provide an important natural protection for water sources. Their roots help prevent the soil from eroding and spreading contaminants in water. But people in these women’s communities are cutting down too many trees for firewood and other home uses. To combat deforestation and protect water sources, the women are growing tree nurseries, with MADRE’s support. Above, a Maasai woman from the Enooretet community in Transmara waters her seedlings.

Stay tuned for more updates and stories from our visit to Kenya! To learn more about our work with Indigenous women in Kenya, click here. You can also join our email list, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter

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