Counting On …

Tuesday 9th November 2021

Today’s agenda at COP26 includes gender equality with a particular concern to ensure full equality for girls and women. Why might this be an important issue in combatting the climate crisis?

“A 2014 survey done as part of a push by Kenya’s government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to cut poverty in the region found that 85% of land owned in the Upper Tana River drainage, in southeast Kenya, was in men’s names.

The research also found that women worked an average of 15 to 17 hours a day, while men worked six to seven hours.

Men, meanwhile, dominated decision making on what to plant and where, how much produce was sold and for what price. Women’s decisions mainly focused on what to cook for the family, and what crops to grow for consumption at home, the survey found.

Concerned that such restrictions could be holding back anti-poverty efforts, project officials in 2016 decided to try out GALS – a Gender Action Learning System developed in settings in Latin America, Asia and parts of Africa.

The system, now being used across Kenya and more broadly, helps men and women learn how to speak more respectfully and honestly to each other, and aims to cut domestic violence, achieve more equal property rights and give women and men a more balanced voice in decision making.

Those changes, backers say, can help boost food production in the poorest households and help ensure more sustainable harvests – a particular concern as climate change brings wilder weather that threatens crops.

In Tharaka Nithi County, Albert Thirika, a retired secondary school principal, now involves his wife in family decision making after undergoing the training – and is giving his daughters a bigger voice too.

“We have embraced dialogue in the family since learning of GALS. Initially I used to think as an individual, but today I think as a family member and this has sharpened my planning skills,” he said.

By working more closely together and sharing their income, the family has managed to buy a dairy cow and expand an existing banana plantation, he said.

His wife, Evelyn Mwembe Thirika, a retired nurse, now manages the family money, she said.

Albert Thirika also has made a once unthinkable change: He has given title to some of his family farmland to his two daughters as well as his two sons, and allowed them to choose the pieces they prefer. 

Njiru, meanwhile, since going through GALS training, has offered to let his wife go back to school to earn a full degree – something she hasn’t taken him up on yet.

He also has helped train more than 420 out of 600 members of a farmers’ water management and irrigation group he belongs to about the importance of striving for greater gender equality.

The training has reached community members as diverse as school principals, teachers and students, and church members, he said.

According to Gabriel Njue, the chair of the water management association, the group’s production of crops such as maize, beans, tomatoes and other vegetables has quadrupled since members underwent the gender training in late 2016.”

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/11/kenyas-loosening-of-gender-roles-is-helping-to-beat-climate-change-this-is-how

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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