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Women and Children at risk of climate change

Written by Duncan Mboyah
A woman working in a horticultural farm in Thika. More women need to be involved in the discussions around climate change in order to improve food security. A woman working in a horticultural farm in Thika. More women need to be involved in the discussions around climate change in order to improve food security. Picture: Carolyne Oyugi

Women and children’s survival and development in sub-Saharan Africa is under threat because they have been overlooked in their countries’ and international climate change agenda, a new report reveals.

The report by Plan International and Practical Action shows that the implication of food shortage, mostly on women and children, leads to the increase of malnutrition, dehydration and poor health that forces children to absent themselves from school.

“There is urgent need to translate funding to climate change programmes to target women-oriented programmes in energy, water and health,” Grace Mukasa, Practical Action’s Regional Director says.


She observed that that practical development in the region could only be realised once serious attention was paid to gender sensitive programming in word and deed.

The director is now calling for the promotion and support to civil society organisations that were visible in rural areas to engage communities in environmental and energy conservation measures.

Mukasa noted that communities need to be educated on how new technologies like improved energy-saving-stoves work so that they could stop over relying on charcoal and wood fuel through illegal logging.

“Climate change poses the greatest risk to vulnerable members of the society and women and children pay a high price as often they are involved in looking for water, firewood and child labour,” Plan International Director for East and Southern Africa, Roland Angerer, said.

He also expressed concern that climate change threatens women and children’s access to food, clean water and energy, and called for the interventions of regional governments.

“Governments need to review policies and strategies and invest in water and energy development to relieve the burden on women and girls who trek for long distances in search of water and firewood,” the director says.


Angerer said that the study was informed by the impact of climate change that has become visible through the shortage of clean water, lack of energy and shortage of food.

The report was done in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi and South Sudan and recommends that children’s rights need to be integrated into national climate change responses. It further says that there was an urgent need to integrate climate change into national child rights agenda.

It also challenges policy-makers and donors to ensure that the voice of the voiceless are heard and form part and parcel of development agenda for the success of the programmes.

According to Willie Tuimusing, governments in the region must act with urgency to prioritise women and child sensitive programmes in the national development agenda.

“Deliberate increase in development funding is essential to accelerate the uptake of appropriate technologies that is critical for vulnerable households to build resilience and adaptive capacity for survival and the welfare of women and children,” the official says.

Tuimusing says that serious micro schemes on renewal energy, such as solar, wind and water, should be initiated in regions where the resources are available in abundance to help communities with cheaper energy away from diesel sources.

He says that with the many water falls in many parts of the countries, development of simple turbines is enough to generate power for domestic consumption where they are metered and people pay for it instead of leaving the population to the mercy of logging for survival.


Tuimusing notes that donor’s recommendation of supporting only mega solar farms is not possible and they should support micro schemes that could be managed by communities with ease.

The findings reveal that effects of climate change have a tendency of being accompanied by other human induced impacts such as over-exploitation of natural resources.

It found out that during crisis, most children do not go to school due to lack of food, poor health and lack of school fees. Access to electricity is also blamed for poor performance in schools as most children do not have the facility to extend their learning to late hours of the night.

The study also found out that 63 percent of women and 25 percent of girls were more affected across the countries by water.

On his part, Michael Muli, a primary school teacher in Matungulu, Machakos County, revealed that school dropout is almost 20 percent in his school.

“School children are affected by drought and they are forced out of school to take up manual jobs as sand harvesters and quarrying to supplement their parent’s effort,” he said.

The study emphasised on ways of improving access to sustainable energy for all to strengthen water and food security in the area.

This story was originally published in the Reject newspaper - Issue 96

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