NAIROBI, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Nuria Gollo, a livestock keeper and gender rights advocate from the vast northern Kenyan county of Marsabit that neighbors Ethiopia, said that losing nearly all her cows and goats to the raging drought in her backyard has been traumatizing.
The 50-year-old mother of five said that the worst drought to hit a large swathe of northern Kenya in four decades has upended the livelihoods of herders and subsistence farmers, pushing them to the brink of starvation and financial ruin.
Speaking at an event to mark International Women's Day on Wednesday in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, Gollo admitted that an acute dry spell linked to climate change has taken a heavier toll on the female pastoralists who have been robbed of their prized possessions, and reduced to a life of penury.
"The drought crisis is getting worse in northern Kenya. Our cows and goats are dying. Even camels that are renowned for their resilience to extreme heat are also succumbing," Gollo said.
She was among a group of women and girls from Kenya's arid lands that are currently ravaged by drought who attended an event to mark International Women's Day convened by Plan International, a development and humanitarian organization which works in over 75 countries across Africa, the Americas, and Asia to advance children's rights and equality for girls.
Gollo, in her captivating speech, painted a picture of a dire humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in the drought-affected counties, with women and girls bearing the brunt of hunger, malnutrition, water stress, and displacement.
She described the devastation that the climate crisis has brought to the nomadic communities in Marsabit, Kenya's largest county, saying that women, despite being the victims, have also taken the mantle to confront the phenomenon.
According to Gollo, as nomadic women and girls face a bleak future due to climate change, a good number of them have also risen to the occasion to offer solutions by leveraging indigenous knowledge to help boost the resilience of grassroots communities and their ecosystems.
Gollo said the tenacity and resilience of pastoralist women in the face of the climate crisis has manifested itself prominently as they initiate projects like reforestation, and conservation of watersheds to boost the adaptive capacity of households.
She added that women and girls in Kenya's northern frontier districts have been on the frontline of climate response, motivated by the desire to bequeath a green, hopeful and prosperous future for their children.
Kenya marked International Women's Day with pomp and pageantry, as senior officials acknowledged the critical role of the female gender in the realization of the sustainability agenda, peace and stability.
President William Ruto reiterated his administration's commitment to achieving gender parity in all spheres of public service, to ensure Kenya becomes a modern, prosperous and inclusive society.
Ruto noted that women's contribution will be key to helping the country confront pressing challenges like climate-induced hunger crisis and economic downturn that threatens long-term stability.
Sadia Hussein, a grassroots mobilizer from the coastal county of Tana River which is also reeling from an acute drought, said that women's active involvement in confronting the climate crisis has provided some respite to nomads and subsistence farmers in her backyard.
Hussein cited female-led mangrove restoration projects in the wider coastal region as game changers, strengthening communities' resilience to climate change through stabilizing fisheries and agriculture.
The 34-year-old mother of three regretted that the climate crisis has escalated poverty, hunger, gender-based violence, and fragility of coastal ecosystems, adding that women's involvement will be key to finding durable solutions.
Hussein said that coastal women and girls are already promoting awareness of climate change besides implementing some resilience projects including small-scale irrigation, bee-keeping, and ecosystem restoration.
George Otim, Kenyan country director for Plan International, noted that the climate crisis had perpetuated gender inequalities in northern Kenya and the Horn of Africa region, adding that providing women and girls with digital tools, knowledge and innovations to respond to the phenomenon was paramount.
Otim added that as primary food producers and custodians of vital ecosystems like forests, women's role in helping local communities respond to climate emergencies like droughts cannot be downplayed.
He added that the government should address technological, policy, knowledge, and cultural barriers that have inhibited the full participation of women in climate mitigation and adaptation.
Rehema, a 19-year-old gender rights advocate from Kenya's coastal county of Kwale, said that young girls in her backyard have taken up the search for climate justice, having borne the brunt of food insecurity and water scarcity that has worsened in the current drought season.
"It is us girls who are dropping out of school or trekking many kilometers in search of water and have therefore resolved to be champions of a climate-resilient future," said Rehema. ■