Women in rural regions of East Africa including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania showcase a high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. These women are vulnerable because of traditional gender roles within their societies. These exposures in conjunction with gendered societal barriers and a failure in policy implementation regarding climate change led to their increased vulnerability. Their capabilities as individuals are also overlooked despite having a large bandwidth of knowledge in environmental, social, and economic impacts of climate change with untapped potential in creating innovative solutions.
The responsibilities women have in East African rural communities include water and firewood collection, distribution of resources, livestock care, food production, familial care, labor in farming, and much more. These are all components that are in direct confrontation with climate change impacts. One of the main consequences of climate change is resource scarcity, and due to the role of women focused on resource collection, distribution, and harvesting, women are overworked at times of climate and environmental crises.
Women living in rural regions in East Africa have several responsibilities that tie into their gender, societal expectations, and nurturing expectations; however, they are all dependent on natural resources. Due to this, the demand on their tasks increases as their high workload is further stretched by the consequences of climate change. In the article “Water and women in East Africa” by Annabelle Waitutu, she interviewed Veronica Nzoki, a resident of Endui in Eastern Kenya who spoke of the commitment that collecting water is, as the women in the village will “leave at six o’clock in the morning to the nearest spring. Find a long queue. By the time we draw water and get back home, it is well past mid-day”. Due to this time constraint, women are unable to pursue other forms of work, education, or discussions regarding climate impacts in the community.
It was apparent that traditional gender roles, societal constructs, and a failure of political protection created an imbalance of power in several rural communities within Eastern Africa. The cultural and social implications of gender roles were constrictive for women and put incredible pressure on their lives to continue to provide, collect, and harvest efficiently, while not being able to be involved in the decision-making process regarding climate change solutions.
Kenya Climate Ventures (KCV) continues to support women across the continent in their efforts to play a significant role in society. KCV has already supported women-led businesses and hopes to do so in the future, as women continue to play an important role in society. It is the high time for women to receive the support they require, as they play a critical role in moving the globe toward a more sustainable future.