• Loading

Climate change devastating women's lives, says Christian Aid partner

Leading Kenyan Aid worker Esther Musili is speaking alongside Foreign Secretary David Miliband next Tuesday (September 23) at a fringe meeting of the Labour Party Conference in Manchester.

Musili sees the devastating effects of global warming every day and – as the UK’s Climate Change Bill approaches its final parliamentary reading – she will tell the MPs and party stalwarts how it is destroying lives and directly impacting upon women.

She is the executive director of  Christian Aid partner organisation UCCS (Ukamba Christian Community Services) which helps more than 24,000 people in Eastern Kenya where global warming has contributed to desertification and water scarcity..

She explains that the lives of women are being decimated by climate change: Mothers are struggling to feed themselves and their families – some even reduced to prostitution; whilst girls’ chances of education are being reduced or even eliminated.

Women and young girls who previously walked two or three kilometres to fetch water now walk triple that distance. Some even have to walk 15 kilometres or are forced to queue overnight, she says.

Long walks to fetch water leave women physically exhausted and vulnerable to rape - with the inherent risk of contracting HIV-Aids.  It also means mothers can be away from their families and young children for almost the whole day, so are unable to cook and support their young ones, says Musili.

Daughters – who traditionally carry water from the age of seven onwards – are missing school or unable to do their homework. Those who still go to their classes may have to carry water there – because there’s no water at the school.

The knock-on effects of disruption to education are long-term. Musili says: ‘when you educate a woman you educate a nation’. Without education, women have reduced employment possibilities and no understanding of written information, including leaflets on vital health practises or notices on life-saving drives such as vaccinations.

Musili’s organisation is working to help communities mitigate the effects of climate change by improving access to water closer to villages, providing sub-surface damns to store ground water in geological strata,  and trapping sand and water in riverbeds. It also provides advice on ways to alleviate and conserve water through tree nurseries and small gardens.

In addition, UCCS works with community elders to hammer out agreements that will help reduce the risk to women going for water – seeking consensus on a female dress code for water collection and the hours when women would be safest if they must walk long distances.

The organisation also distributes seeds to particularly vulnerable households.

The experiences of people in Kenya, who are supported by Musili’s organisation, demonstrate powerfully how poor people are suffering the most from climate change when they have done the least to cause it.

So, Christian Aid says in the Climate Change Bill the UK government must increase its commitment to reduce carbon emission from 60 per cent by 2050 to 80 per cent, if it is to demonstrate real global leadership.

In Copenhagen in December next year (2009) a key meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change takes place. A new climate deal must be agreed here, to come into force at the end of the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

Christian Aid says it is crucial that countries agree a serious and equitable response to climate change at Copenhagen, with the rich required to pay billions to help poor countries develop in a sustainable low carbon manner.

- ends -

For more press information please contact Gillian Sandford, +44 (0) 27523 2419 and email address gsandford@christian-aid.org

Musili is available for interview in London from Tuesday 16 September to Thursday 18 September returning to London and available on the morning of Thurs 25 and Friday 26. She is in Manchester from Monday afternoon to Tuesday 23 September.

The panel event: Environment: Hitting the global poor hardest in which David Miliband and Esther Musili are taking part is organised by the Climate Clinic and takes place on the evening of 23 September.

Notes to Editors:

Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in more than 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.