Mercy Njoroge, JHR’s Gender Media Trainer; Teresa Abla Sintinyi, the founder of Wang’an Women Initiative in Marsabit; Kennedy Mugochi, East Africa Regional
Director for Hivos and Tebby Otieno, reporter at the Daily Nation (L-R)
JHR-Kenya, in collaboration with Hivos East Africa and the Office of the First Lady of Kenya through the Mama Doing Good initiative, convened a media breakfast event on the sidelines of this week’s Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi. The event enabled grassroots climate activists to share their stories of challenges, impact, and resilience with the media to ensure that climate solutions from grassroots-led initiatives across Africa are in the headlines and heard by governments and the public.
JHR-trained journalist Tebby Otieno says that despite financial constraints in newsrooms, journalists have been telling climate stories, sometimes under challenging circumstances, to help the public understand the impact of climate change and draw attention to communities’ actions to adapt and address climate change. “We tell these stories, but I also want to say that journalists face several challenges. One such challenge is transportation, as the roads to remote communities are often rough and impassable. Additionally, language barriers can make it difficult for journalists to communicate effectively with some communities, poses a challenge as journalists strive to put the stories into context,” says Tebby.
Tebby Otieno, Daily Nation reporter and a grantee of JHR.
Teresa Abla Sintinyan is the founder of Wang’an Women Initiative in Marsabit. She traveled approximately 500 Kilometers from her home to deliver a pivotal message to journalists in Nairobi-perennial droughts, and the drying up of Lake Turkana are causing untold suffering for communities. Teresa’s community hosts Africa’s largest wind power project, Lake Turkana Wind Power – a Government of Kenya initiative and an example of Kenya’s 90% ‘green’ energy, which was much lauded at the Africa Climate Solutions Summit.
The Wang’an Women Initiative, in the Loiyangalani area near Lake Turkana, represents the community not benefitting from this wind power project, which has been built on their ancestral land. Ms Sintinyan says the community still needs to be connected to Kenya’s power grid despite providing electricity to the country. They are impacted by climate change, with this part of Kenya hit hardest by the recent drought, the worst in 40 years. Flash floods recently followed, and the village was cut in half, with schools and healthcare infrastructure rendered inaccessible.
Teresaabla Sintinyan, Founder-Wang’an Women Initiative in Marsabit County, Kenya.
New energy projects often fail to deliver on their promises of job creation, community wealth, and power accessibility. Companies are self-regulating, and jobs that do arise are often menial and dangerous, with little regard for health and safety. The community had no say in the construction of the power plant on their land, and fundamental human rights like access to water, food, energy, education, and decent shelter are still lacking.
The Wang’an women’s initiative helps to amplify the voices of indigenous women, persons with disabilities, and girls and ensure they are better represented in crucial climate justice discussions such as those around loss and damage and climate finance.
Climate change continues to inflict adverse effects on communities, particularly impacting vulnerable groups such as women, children, youth, older people, and marginalized populations. Factors like low literacy levels, poverty, gender-based violence, and limited access to climate information further exacerbate their vulnerability. Communities in arid and semi-arid regions face prolonged droughts, floods, water scarcity, resource conflicts, and livestock deaths. The burden falls heavily on women and girls who must trek long distances for water and sustenance. Relief efforts by the government and well-wishers only offer temporary relief and compromise the overall quality of life.
The media’s role is critical in reshaping the narrative and amplifying time-tested climate solutions in Africa. “It is important that we have the local communities and the media play a role to harness some of the solutions,” says Kennedy Mugochi, East Africa Regional Director for Hivos. He continues that grassroots communities will have a say on the global stage as local voices find their way into their platforms.
Mercy Njoroge, JHR’s gender media trainer, highlights that JHR acknowledges journalists’ crucial role in amplifying communities’ actions in addressing climate change. “To effectively tell the stories of these communities, journalists must go down to the grassroots and highlight their efforts in combating climate change. This means not only talking about the impact of climate change on people but also showcasing the actions taken by communities.” However, Mercy observes that for journalists to do this effectively, they need support from stakeholders through training and financial assistance. She concludes that this will inspire and motivate them to report on grassroots actions against climate change.
The theme for the media engagement event, “From Grassroots to Headlines,” thus clearly serves as an essential reminder for journalists to amplify the voices and stories of communities.
JHR’s Canada World-Voice for Women and Girls Rights-Kenya works with media and civil society, providing grants, training, and long-term mentorship to journalists to tell compelling climate stories with gender consideration.