Young African Women Leading for Climate Action and Equality

Young African Women Leading for Climate Action and Equality

Throughout Gender Equality Week, CCIC will highlight the work that some of our members are doing to advance gender equality. This blog post was written by Catherine Boyce, Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), and presents their Climate-Smart Agriculture Guides which won the UN Global Climate Action Award this past week.

Can you imagine toiling all day in the heat; getting your children to help you in the fields, and still not growing enough to feed your family and earn a living? This is a reality today for millions of women across rural Africa who shoulder the burden of farming to feed their families but who are hit by the double whammy of a female resource deficit and the impact of climate change.

On the female resource deficit – women farmers are typically 20-30% less productive than men. This is not because they work less hard – in fact they work longer hours on average. However, they don’t have access to the same assets – land and water – training, finance, information services and quality inputs such as seeds that male farmers do. Address that inequality and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that as many as 150 million people will be lifted out of hunger worldwide.

Meanwhile, however, agricultural productivity is diminishing and under further threat in the face of more extreme weather which manifests as droughts, floods and the recent, devastating Cyclones Idai and Kenneth; destroying lives and livelihoods. For communities in rural Africa, climate change is not a theoretical concept or a risk that lies many  years in the future. It’s happening now. Rural African girls and women contribute negligibly to greenhouse emissions but are the first to feel the effects of climate change as they struggle to cultivate the land to produce enough to feed their families. They are particularly vulnerable to hunger, early marriage and violence in the context of resource scarcity.

We need a global response to this global threat. Like so many others, I’ve been tremendously inspired by young people’s action on climate change. Much of that action is taking place in sub-Saharan Africa, headed by young women living in some of the poorest rural communities. They are leading grassroots community action to safeguard food cultivation in the face of climate change, to manage water resources, and to protect trees and soil quality.

The Campaign for Female Education alumnae network – CAMA – is a movement of 140,000 educated young African women. Together they are spearheading action on climate change. This week they received the UN Global Climate Action Award in recognition of the effectiveness and potential for scale of CAMA’s climate action. Recipients of this UN Award represent some of the most practical, scalable and replicable examples of what people, businesses, governments and industries are doing to tackle climate change.

I first met Annie N’gandu in Zambia in 2008 when she was helping to run a leadership and enterprise initiative for other recent school graduates. Her positivity belies the tragedy of her childhood; she was orphaned at a young age and poverty meant that she missed many years of education. With support from the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), however, Annie was trained in entrepreneurship and launched and grew a successful agricultural business. For the last five years, Annie has been championing climate-smart agriculture in rural Zambia:

“I explain the spacing of maize and beets for example, so that they grow well and how to make compost from manure. I teach people how to build a clean cook stove, which uses less wood and produces less smoke. I also train people on waste management. Now they recycle or sell waste for money.” 

Annie N’gandu, Agriculture Guide in Zambia

Annie has reached hundreds of other smallholders, young people and women’s groups with the skills they need to protect their farms from the more extreme weather that climate change has brought, and to improve productivity. She has won the confidence and support of local government agricultural officers, who invite her to train alongside them, and of traditional leaders, such as Chief Nkula who has been inspired to award a land grant of 300 hectares to cultivate a climate-smart demo farm. She’s also increased productivity on her own farm, provided a home for three abandoned children and supported more young people to go to school.

Annie isn’t alone in her climate leadership. From Eva Damasi who is building support for agroforestry in Tanzania to Clarah Zinyama in Zimbabwe who is working with mothers’ groups to boost the productivity of the smallholdings used to cultivate food for school meals; CAMA members are leading action on climate change across rural Africa.

These young women – known as Agricultural Guides – promote both traditional and innovative techniques for climate-smart agriculture. They were supported to develop their skills by the Toronto-based Mastercard Foundation, and EARTH University in Costa Rica, who, together with CAMFED and CAMA, developed a tailored course in sustainable agriculture. Helping to shape the content, the women leaders ensured it would be relevant to the context they live and work in, and in keeping with indigenous traditions.

Clarah, for example, has re-introduced intercropping – growing two crops on the same plot of land – on her farm. It’s a technique formerly practised by her grandmother that reduces soil runoff, preserves soil nutrients and helps with pest management. She re-uses old plastic bottles for affordable drip irrigation, setting them in the soil with tiny holes in the cap to steadily release water. Clarah also trains community groups to construct simple solar dryers to preserve food and reduce waste.

The results are clear to see in increased yields, family nutrition and income. To date Annie, Clarah and Eva and a small team of CAMA Agricultural Guides have reached over 8,500 people across rural Africa with knowledge and techniques to build farming productivity and build resilience in the face of climate change. These include affordable methods of irrigation, crop-rotation, organic composting and mulching which improve soil nutrition and carbon storage, water management and productivity. They are raising awareness in their communities of waste management and how to build cleaner cook stoves from local resources which use less fuel and reduce further carbon emissions. The Agricultural Guides are seeing the results in improved yields and profits on their own farms, have increased standing in their communities and have created an average of four new paid jobs each.

They’re also helping girls to succeed in school and beyond. Last year, for example, CAMA members used their own resources to help over 700,000 children go to school. They help each other to navigate the transition from school and build fulfilling livelihoods, moving up the value chain and seeing agriculture as a business opportunity. When girls stay in school and women generate an income they can avoid early marriage, gain decision-making power and take control over their life choices. These are top priorities in their own right which also have positive climate effects. They result in a later age at marriage and smaller, healthier families and cumulatively reduce both population growth and greenhouse emissions.

As Annie, Clarah and Eve’s experience demonstrates, it’s critical that our global climate strategy builds the strength of vulnerable communities to adjust to the effects of climate change, while urgently reducing further greenhouse emissions. At the Campaign for Female Education we’re working to get more resources into the hands of these young women on the frontline of climate change. Clarah sums up what this week’s UN Global Climate Action Award means to her and her peers:

“We are so excited about this global recognition of CAMA’s leadership in climate-smart agriculture. As a network, we are developing and sharing expertise that ranges from better land management and tackling deforestation to the use of climate-smart crops, solar heating and traditional refrigeration techniques. Our network enables us to cascade our knowledge to farmers across numerous rural districts, helping to build resilience to climate shocks while improving productivity, reducing emissions, and nourishing school communities. This award celebrates what is possible when we all work together to tackle two of the most urgent issues of our time: girls’ exclusion from education, and climate change.”

Clarah Zinyama, Agriculture Guide in Zimbabwe

Let us all endeavour to match her activism on climate change and stand together on this global challenge.

Catherine Boyce

Catherine Boyce

Director of Enterprise Development, Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED)

For 25 years, the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) has united communities in a collective effort to secure the right to education for the most excluded girls, resulting in more than 3.3 million children receiving support to go to school across Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana and Malawi.

As Director of Enterprise Development, Catherine works to connect young, educated women – members of the CAMFED alumnae network CAMA – to the resources and support they need to play a leading role for climate action, jobs and prosperity in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to joining CAMFED in 2008,

Catherine was a strategy consultant specialising in entrepreneurship. She studied history at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford.

KAIROS’ Women of Courage Empowers Women Peacebuilders

KAIROS’ Women of Courage Empowers Women Peacebuilders

The Women, Peace and Security Group – Parliamentary Visit (Photo submitted by KAIROS)

Throughout Gender Equality Week, CCIC will highlight the work that some of our members are doing to advance gender equality. This blog post was written by Rachel Warden of KAIROS Canada.

“Knowing the Organización Femenina Popular has allowed me to recover my life project, to believe in myself again, to give myself the right to feel joy, to heal emotionally and psychologically. Now, I also believe that I can help other women so that they might not experience violence and so that they believe in peace.” – Nancy, who participated in a training on Colombia’s Peace Agreement, spoke about the impact of the Organización Femenina Popular, a KAIROS partner, on her life.    

This is one of many stories of change we heard during the first year of KAIROS’ Women of Courage: Women, Peace and Security (WPS) program. Participants in the program spoke of claiming their rights to heal and take legal action. 

In just one year, the program undertook critical steps towards transformative change for women victims and survivors of violence in the Global South – despite regional difference, escalating security threats and political challenges.

The WPS program is based on solid evidence that women victims and survivors of violence in armed conflict and post conflict situations are empowered through psychosocial and legal support. This support helps them heal, restore their self-esteem and realize legal rights, becoming key voices in peace building processes.

Partners include: Héritiers de la Justice, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; National Council of Churches in the Philippines; South Sudan Council of Churches National Women’s Programme (SSCC-NWP); Organización Femenina Popular (OFP), in Colombia; and Wi’am: Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center, in the West Bank.

During the first year, KAIROS and its partners achieved significant results despite challenges. Partners reported that a total 4,700 direct beneficiaries were reached: more than 1,000 women survivors of gender-based violence received psychosocial, over 600 women and men participated in gender awareness training and more than 1,100 women and men participated in training sessions on national and international frameworks. 

Furthermore, close to 800 women were trained as human rights facilitators and 109 campaigns were organized, advocating for legislation, law reform and implementation that related to women, peace and security, including campaigns directed at male allies in government, multilateral organizations and media.

 “These lessons on human rights have certainly opened my eyes to see the imbalance not only in our households, but also in our institutions,” said Captain John Jeremiah, a Chaplain who participated in SSCC-NWP’s training on gender justice and human rights.

A unique component of this program is the focus on South-South and South-North gatherings and exchanges. In November 2018, an inaugural South-South gathering brought all partners together in Toronto to share experiences and strategies. Partners later travelled to Ottawa for important meetings with Parliamentarians, government and other civil society organizations.   

Key international days and events such as the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women (November 25-December 10), International Women’s Day (March 8) and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) provided opportunities to highlight the partners’ work and advocate for women peacebuilders. 

KAIROS launched the WPS program in 2018 in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada, which injected $4.5 million over five years to support the work of these grassroots women-focused organizations. This support is made possible with matching funding from KAIROS member churches and development agencies, religious communities and individual donors.

KAIROS’ partners are a testament to the courageous and effective work of grassroots women-focused programs in peacebuilding and are a concrete example of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy in action.

Rachel Warden

Rachel Warden

Partnerships Manager, KAIROS Canada

Rachel is KAIROS’ Partnerships Manager. She has been involved in the human rights and social justice work of the churches for more than 20 years and in solidarity and social justice movements for much longer, starting with the anti-apartheid and divestment movement and the Nicaraguan solidarity movement in high school and university.

She holds an honours degree in International Development Studies from the University of Toronto, and a graduate certificate Gender and Peacebuilding from the University of Peace of the United Nations in Costa Rica.

Rachel is an experienced Popular and Adult Educator and fearless flute player and member of the Fallen Angles musical group. Finally, but most importantly to her, she is the mother of two beautiful, wise, compassionate and independent young women.

Bridging the Gap in Gender Equality and Adolescent Nutrition Education

Bridging the Gap in Gender Equality and Adolescent Nutrition Education

Nutrition International launched a free online course titled Adolescent Nutrition and Anaemia to help fill a gap in available training and education and to support action in this very important area.

Throughout Gender Equality Week, CCIC will highlight the work that some of our members are doing to advance gender equality. This blog post has been written by Dr. Marion Roche, Senior Technical Advisor for Adolescent and Women’s Health and Nutrition, with Nutrition International.

After the first 1,000 days, adolescence is the most rapid period of growth and development. It is also a period when lifestyle and dietary habits can be formed and offers a window of opportunity for interventions to improve nutrition at this critical period. Despite this, adolescents are often missed by health and nutrition interventions, as until recently they had not been viewed as a priority.

This is especially true for adolescent girls, who are particularly affected by malnutrition, partly due to their specific biological needs.

Iron deficiency anaemia is recognized as the number one cause of disability adjusted life years―defined as lost years of optimal health―in adolescent girls 10 to 19 years of age globally.

Anaemia is an indicator of both poor nutrition and poor health and results in negative health consequences, including decreases in potential school performance in children and adolescents due to slowed cognitive and socioemotional development and difficulties in concentration. For adolescent girls, this can mean challenges focusing in school and a lack of energy to participate in community or household activities, therefore disrupting their educational opportunities and economic empowerment. In addition, should an adolescent girl become pregnant, iron deficiency anaemia can put both the mother and her baby at great health risk.

Although the importance of adolescent health and the devastating impacts of iron deficiency anaemia have been acknowledged globally, there is currently no one-stop-shop for information about adolescent nutrition and anaemia. There is a need for greater focus on, and more resources allocated to, improving nutrition for adolescents around the world as this is a critical period of growth and development. Nutrition International’s online course on Adolescent Nutrition and Anaemia helps bridge this knowledge gap.

We worked with experts in the field, learning specialists and course designers to develop this thorough course for more than a year in order to bring the highest caliber information in an easy-to-use video format for use by adolescent nutrition program officers, implementers, partners, nutrition graduate students, health providers, policy makers and decision makers.

We’re thrilled at the enthusiasm that has been shown for the course already, as well as the positive feedback we’ve received. The knowledge acquired through this course will build the capacity of individuals and organizations to better understand and address the nutrition of adolescents, ultimately working to overcome gender inequalities and to improve nutrition for adolescents.

We must build our global capacity to support girls to feel empowered to have access to adequate health and nutrition, to have equal opportunity to receive quality education and to eventually participate in the workforce.

More information on the free registration and the Adolescent Nutrition and Anaemia Course full syllabus is available at our website here

Marion Roche

Marion Roche

Senior Technical Advisor for Adolescent and Women’s Health and Nutrition

Marion Roche joined Nutrition International in 2011 and is the Senior Technical Advisor for Adolescent and Women’s Health and Nutrition. In her role, Marion supports and provides strategic direction to Nutrition International’s programs that advocate, build capacity, and generate evidence to improve adolescent girls’ and women’s health and nutrition.

Marion leads the design, introduction, scale-up and evaluation of adolescent nutrition interventions – a growing area of interest and investment, globally.

Marion works with national governments and partners to strengthen access to delivery platforms for adolescent and women’s nutrition interventions, including weekly iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation to prevent anaemia. Her goal is to support adolescent girls and women to thrive and be valued.

With over 12 years of experience in public health nutrition program implementation, and implementation research, Marion has worked extensively to improve maternal, infant and child nutrition with a focus on innovative interventions.

Marion has expertise in behaviour change communication, community and global nutrition, infant and young child feeding, intervention design and evaluation, implementation research, qualitative research and social marketing. She has a PhD in Nutrition, a MPH in Global Health and a MSc Nutrition.

Empowering Women in Unexpected Ways – The Interconnection Between Gender and Blindness

Empowering Women in Unexpected Ways – The Interconnection Between Gender and Blindness

With limited access to clean water in her small village in Kenya, Anne contracted blinding trachoma. She lost all vision in her right eye and some in her left. Through Operation Eyesight’s SAFE program (which stands for Surgery, Antibiotics, Face washing and hygiene education, and Environmental improvement), Anne received surgery to treat the trachoma. Her pain is gone, and her remaining vision in her left eye has been preserved, allowing her to continue to provide for her nine children.

Throughout Gender Equality Week, CCIC will highlight the work that some of our members are doing to advance gender equality. This guest blog post was written by Dr. Mary G. Alton Mackey, Board Director of Operation Eyesight Universal.

Blindness is a gender issue. Blindness discriminates. Fifty-five per cent of the world’s blind are women and girls. More than 20 million women and girls are blind, and 120 million are visually impaired. Four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be.

And this injustice is magnified in developing countries. Women face additional barriers to accessing eye care that men don’t: lack of education, limited decision-making power, restricted access to financial resources and a lower perceived priority.

One reason for the disparity is that women live longer than men so they are more likely to develop age-related, non-communicable eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration. But despite the fact that more women than men are affected by the condition, cataract surgery rates are lower for women.

And this is only part of the picture.

Women and girls are at greater risk of contracting trachoma, an infectious eye disease that leads to irreversible blindness. Seventy per cent of those affected by blinding trachoma are women. Very young children are at risk for trachoma, and three times as many girls as boys suffer from it.

Women and girls are at increased risk for infectious eye diseases because of their traditional roles. Women and girls carry the burden of taking care of their relatives who suffer from trachoma or other eye conditions. Not only does this increase their risk of contracting trachoma themselves, but it often limits their opportunities to go to school or find employment.

Women who are blind carry the double burden of discrimination because of their disability and their gender, which can lead to social exclusion. This impacts their ability to do day-to-day activities, increases their risk of injury, and leaves them more vulnerable to violence and depression.

To achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the World Health Organization’s VISION 2020 goals, eye care programs must eliminate all forms of inequity in access to eye care for women and girls. Eye care programs must recognize that women and girls have different needs, preferences and constraints, and women and girls should be at the centre of eye health programming.

Organizations must work with local communities to understand the barriers women face, take affirmative action in training and human resource development to ensure there are more women in the health care system, and remove the barriers to access to services. In addition, programs should integrate eye health services into maternal and reproductive health facilities to give pregnant women access to eye health screening that is not provided routinely, and provide outreach to villages where eye disease remains largely undiagnosed and untreated.

Operation Eyesight works with local hospital and government partners to provide quality eye care services to everyone – regardless of gender, age, ability to pay or other personal circumstances – while working to address the many root causes of avoidable blindness and remove barriers to health care, specifically and deliberately targeting the barriers for women and girls. I’m especially proud of Operation Eyesight’s focus on community outreach and education. We train community health workers – women who live and work in our target communities – to conduct door-to-door eye screenings and educate families about eye health and general health topics such as prenatal care, nutrition and immunization. This approach allows us to reach women and girls who might otherwise go unreached, ensuring those with eye health issues are referred to a partner hospital or vision centre for treatment. Community health workers also refer women and their families to primary health care facilities for pre/postnatal care, vitamin A supplementation, immunizations, etc. These are just a few examples of how Operation Eyesight is embedding SDG 5: Gender Equality into our everyday work.

Dr. Mary Alton Mackey

Dr. Mary Alton Mackey

Operation Eyesight Universal donor and Board director

Dr. Mary G. Alton Mackey is an international consultant in food and nutrition with extensive national and international experience in health, food, and nutrition policy and program areas. Her expertise includes bilateral project management, project identification, proposal development, project implementation and evaluation (for both bilateral and non-governmental organizations).

It was Operation Eyesight’s community-based, sustainable approach that enticed Mary to join the Board.

“Integrating high-quality clinical activities with community outreach that encourages healthy behaviours through water, hygiene and sanitation is exactly the approach needed in the fight against avoidable blindness.”