My Tree.......My Responsibility
According to UNEP, women disproportionately suffer the impacts of climate change and other environmental hazards, especially in developing countries (1). In western Kenya perennial flooding caused by larger than normal rainy seasons has resulted in farmlands and homes being destroyed. In the other extreme, a lot of the same areas experience some forms of drought during the dry season resulting in lower farm yields forcing women to engage in dangerous work such as stone quarrying to earn a living. In Busia County over 60% of the population live below the poverty line and only about 20% of youth between 14-17 years are enrolled or transition to secondary school (2). Given the high levels of gender inequality and the fact that women are usually responsible for small scale farming, they also go in search of firewood and clean water sources for domestic chores makes them especially vulnerable to climate change and environment pollution.
It is with these issues in mind that the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Partnerships in Africa (WREPA) saw an opportunity to work with girls from a young age, to cultivate a sense of responsibility for their environment and ultimately their future. WREPA girls clubs were started in early 2018 with the objective of creating safe spaces for girls to learn more about themselves, their health, education and environment. The clubs are situated in 6 primary schools within Budalang’i sub- county, Busia County, each club has a minimum of 20 members with their own governing structure that allows the girls to take on leadership roles.
WREPA introduced planting of tree seedlings to engage young girls in combating climate change, improving soil and reducing waste. The project is implemented by WREPA mentors who visit the schools every school term and talk with the girls about the dangers of pollution and the role young people can play in creating healthy ecosystems not just within school compounds but their larger community. Each club was given tree seedlings to plant across their school compounds, with a few girls tasked with caring for the trees, by ensuring they get enough water and cleaning up any rubbish that was not properly disposed of. The girls took pride in the fact that even after they leave primary school, the trees will serve as markers that they contributed to their school. There was also some excitement in knowing that more trees will give students a place to seek shade or refuge during the hot days of the year.
As more girls showed interest in the activity, the clubs adopted the slogan #mytreemyresponsibility, to symbolize their commitment to improving their local environment. As the project continues into their term this coming September, WREPA mentors will be seeking to create a more overt link where girls can see how having a healthy and clean environment can translate in to them taking better care of themselves by ensuring a holistic approach that fosters overall health and well-being. The overall project is in line with the sustainable development goals 13 on “Climate Action” and 15 “Life on Land” (3).