The double injustice of climate change, inequality

A few wild leaves a day keep Turkana families alive. A woman and children feed on wild leaves in Kanamkuny village, Turkana County, on October 11, 2022. The arid county has seen women bear the brunt of the impact of the ongoing drought.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • President William Ruto is at the tail end of his Executive appointments. Sadly, out of his 22 Cabinet secretaries, only seven are women; the proposed list of principal secretaries (PS) has 12 women out of 51 positions.
  • We are witnessing devastating climate change effects, especially in arid and semi-arid lands such as Turkana, Marsabit, and Narok.


Two issues have bothered me this past month – gender inequality in government appointments and the ongoing drought, coupled with inflation.

President William Ruto is at the tail end of his Executive appointments. Sadly, out of his 22 Cabinet secretaries, only seven are women. The proposed list of principal secretaries (PS) has 12 women out of 51 positions; I had expected the PS appointments to have a significant number of women, but I was wrong.

These appointments do not meet the one-third gender threshold. Dr Ruto promised to make the affirmative rule a reality within three months in office. He promised women 50 per cent of his Cabinet; he is now President but has not lived up to his promise. Mr President, what happened? I am keeping hope alive with the chief administrative secretary appointments.

If we truly want a better Kenya, we need fair representation of women in government. Our country—and Kenya Kwanza coalition to be specific—has multitudes of brilliant women who can serve. No excuse, Mr President. We have, in recent years, made great strides on policies that promote gender equality. However, tangible action lags far behind the rhetoric.

Studies prove that when women participate in politics, entire societies benefit; they make for more equal and caring societies. Female policymakers prioritise issues beneficial to the most vulnerable. Their increased representation in elected office, as witnessed in countries like Rwanda, is associated with counteracting corruption and focusing resources on quality public service. Women’s and girls’ contribution to society can only be supported through political commitment.

All the same, I am glad the Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary is a woman, Soipan Tuya, from a marginalised community. She has her job cut out and I know she will deliver, given the necessary support. She comes in at a time when we are witnessing significant shifts in climate and patterns of inequality, economic crisis and poverty.

We are witnessing devastating climate change effects, especially in arid and semi-arid lands such as Turkana, Marsabit, and Narok. Women are the most vulnerable in these situations, facing the maximum risk due to their socioeconomic status. They understand what is needed to adapt to changing environmental circumstances to determine practical solutions.

Ms Tuya comes from Narok, and so as she heads for COP27 (I believe she will), which starts in Egypt this Sunday, I hope she joins in calls for countries to support women’s leadership on climate action at all levels of society and politics. As it is, women are the most affected by climate-related insecurity, yet are often absent from the conversation. We, thus, cannot fight climate change without tackling gender inequality. 

Studies show that 80 per cent of people displaced by climate change are women and children. Again, women are 14 times more likely to die from climate disasters than men, according to UN Women. For sustainable solutions, their contributions as decision-makers, caretakers, stakeholders, experts and educators across all sectors should be recognised. Their equal participation in decision-making must be prioritised in the fight against climate change.

Ms Tuya, while in Egypt, should add her voice in ensuring COP27 delivers climate justice to women, especially the rural woman. The government must ensure COP27 is a game-changer, ensuring women’s representation, leadership and participation in climate change conversations.

Be the game changer.

Blessed November.

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