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COP 25: Kenya experience suggests gender equality is best path to achieve SDGs

By LEOPOLD OBI, Climate Tracker

Stakeholders at COP25 climate talks, citing Kenya’s example, called on developing countries to boost women’s involvement in the fight against climate change. Without gender equality, evidence suggests, African countries are unlikely to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or transformative economic growth. 

The issue emerged during panel discussion on gender and climate change at COP25, held in Madrid December 2-13. Experts pointed to data indicating that the struggle to earn a livelihood pushes many farmers to migrate to cities in search of casual work. As a result, the women left behind in the villages must care for the family while producing food and also fetching water and firewood.

Climate change is accelerating these socioeconomic shifts and magnifying their effects on many communities, particularly smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fishermen. As their livelihoods depends on climatic conditions, they are hardest hit by extreme weather.  

Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank, explained that responses to climate change must be specific because of the complex interaction between gender and climate change, citing that “it was impossible to address climate change when 50% of the population was ignored”.

“You cannot achieve sustainable development without ensuring gender equality. They are two sides to the same coin,” Nyong said. “Progress made so far is commendable but not enough.”

The African Development Bank has demonstrated its commitment to promoting gender parity by providing $20 billion over five years to promote women’s participation in agricultural enterprises in West Africa.

Mafalda Duarte, Head of the Climate Investment Fund, noted that “many of the most effective measures to address climate change and economic underdevelopment involved redistributing economic power to women”. According to  Duarte, if women smallholder farmers, who represent 43% of agricultural labour in the developing world, enjoyed equal access to land, livestock, and financial credits, total agricultural output in these countries would rise by more than 14% and hunger rates fall 17%.

Kenya is one of the few large African economies that have developed a gender-sensitive climate and energy strategy.

At COP25, Stephen Kioko, Kenya’s Deputy Director of Energy, explained that the country’s current strategy aims to mainstream women within the energy sector, and also “to increase awareness on gender in the energy sector across the continent.”  

One element of Kenya’s strategy is to improve women’s access to affordable clean cooking solutions, an urgent need. A push toward clean cooking in turn generates economic, profit making activity. According to Kioko, “Kenya’s utilization of electricity is 9%, while 60% use biomass-firewood in rural areas and charcoal in towns and 22% uses kerosene.”

“We need to go beyond the persuaded and convinced, and we need to reach them with good examples of results to build alliances so we can do a lot more. This is an urgent agenda,” Duarte said.

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