Planting a seed for women’s right and climate change

Several parts of the world's have paid tribute to environmentalist Wangari Maathai. In Kenya, marches was held in advocacy for women's right and the environment.

Today marks four years since the passing of Kenyan biology professor Wangari Maathai. “We can’t let the world forget prof Maathai was sthe 1st environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize”, twitters Aisha Karaja, executive director for the Green Belt Movement (GBM). GBM is today organiszing a march to continue to raise awareness on climate change and the environment, and to continue to carry on the legacy of Maathai who won the Noble Peace Prize for her “commitment to the sustainable development through the Green Belt Movement as well as democracy and peace through her fight against the former oppressive regime in Kenya.”

From Jeevanjee Garden to Uhuru Park

The Green Belt Movement states on its website that the march is “evidence that women are becoming the drivers of change in the communities in which they live, and they are willing to work together to move as leaders of climate justice. The march will bring many people, especially women, together as protectors of the natural resources and they will share experiences on ways they are coping with climate change.”

The march started at 10 a.m from the Jeevanjee Garden through Moi Avenue, Haile Selassie Avenue and then to Freedom corner, Uhuru Park, Nairobi.

A tree

Maathai established in 1977 the Green Belt Movement which encouraged women to plant trees throughout Kenya to combat deforestation, restore the main source of fuel for cooking and stop soil erosion. The organisation has since 1977 planted over 51 million tress. Over 30,000 women have been trained in forestry, food processing, bee-keeping and other trades that generate an income whilst preserving land and resources.

Women's charge of the domestic and livelihood activities make them most vulnerable to the aftermaths of climate change. Responsible for their families, they spend most of the time looking for food and water.

In her Nobel speech Maathai said that “although initially the Green Belt Movement's tree planting activities did not address issues of democracy and peace, it soon became clear that responsible governance of the environment was impossible without democratic space. Therefore, the tree became a symbol for the democratic struggle in Kenya. Citizens were mobilized to challenge widespread abuses of power, corruption and environmental mismanagement.”

Maathai was also hearing about women who reported that they had less food supply and that they had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel. “Women did not realize that meeting their needs depended on their environment being healthy and well managed. They were also unaware that a degraded environment leads to a scramble for scarce resources and may culminate in poverty and even conflict. In order to assist communities to understand these linkages, we developed a citizen education program, during which people identify their problems, the causes and possible solutions. They then make connections between their own personal actions and the problems they witness in the environment and in society.”

‘People’s Pilgrimage’

With todays march, referred by GBM as the “people’s pilgrimage, the organization hopes that “governments will be reminded; from local to global levels, of the need to make greater effort to connect with and support grassroots women’s groups, whose practical experiences and solutions can help ensure that the policies being adopted will be better received and make a difference at the community level if they are inclusive.”

Read also: Ugandan grassroot activist receives top environmental price

By Mapaseka Vryman and Sumbu Chantraine Temo

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Mapaseka Vryman

South African sporty analyst who loves Ashtanga yoga