By: Mmabatho Motsamai |Storycollector | Botswana

Kaiso Women’s Shelter

On the eastern shores of Lake Albert in the heart of Africa lies Kaiso, a small village in Uganda’s oil hub, Hoima District. In this village, some people work tirelessly to advance the autonomy of young women. This is the Kaiso young women’s group. Boasting sixty members, forty women and twenty men, the group works to advance the rights of young women amidst challenges related to the oil industrial development. The group primarily focuses on increasing knowledge on diverse environmental and gender issues in and beyond its community.

Since 2012, the group has contributed towards the improvement of income for young women in Kaiso through resource mobilization, sensitization, and training. There are certainly challenges in Kaiso, however. Speaking to Sylvia Kemigisha, the main coordinator of Kaiso women’s shelter, she shared that young married women who want to become part of the movement face the challenge of their husbands refusing them to attend group meetings. Additionally, there is a high level of illiteracy among women in the community, as well as apathy.s. The group further finds government engagement a rocky process, as bureaucratic processes constantly require permission from the government to carry out tasks.

Kaiso Women's Group

However, Kemigisha shared that these are hurdles that the group has been able to mitigate. The inclusion of men in the space has allowed more understanding and empathy towards young women has created easier ways of working for the group. While external challenges remain a challenge, there is  strong consideration for self-care within the group. Kemigisha believes in the ideology of good feeding. “Being a fishing community, we encourage our members not to sell all the fish so that we preserve our source of food,,’’ she says, further adding that the women in the group are also engaged in growing nutritious vitamins

Kaiso Women’s group also hosts music and drama performances to help the community relax their minds after stressful days.“Through our work, we want all our homes to be food and energy self-sufficient. We want women’s efforts to be recognised and supported. This is already beginning to happen in our community.” Kaiso women’s group proves  that the nurturing of the body through good nutrition and supporting the arts contributes to self-healing and self-care – benefiting the community at large.

By: Thokozani Amanda Chimasula | Storycollector | Malawi

Teaching care for a better future

ThokoShe wants to be different in her approach. She understands that hatred, discrimination and abuse for women stems from childhood. She knows girls have been made to believe that they are subjects to their male counterparts at such a tender age, and so they are incompetent to do what boys can do. She has come to realize that of the so many consequences of climate change, girls are more susceptible to vulnerabilities, and their society regulates what’s good for them divergent from what they would want.

Being a young woman in a similar situation, Guiness Muliya feels that targeting the very young girls is important, as many interventions on climate justice have focused more on the larger group of people. Living in that community where these girls are, she is among the few that made her way to the university where she studied a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Extension. She is determined to prepare the young girl at that age so that she is empowered enough to know her rights and what she can do to attain climate justice. She loathes seeing girls climbing hills and mountains in search of firewood, while boys are at home waiting for the very same girl to come back home, fix their breakfast and then go to school.

Her clock analysis of what a girl child has to go through every day in her life, informs her that the girl is so subjected to different abuses and violations from day break through dusk. She detests this so much, that she decided to work with school girls so that they no more jump classes just to access firewood, a responsibility that has been placed on them just for being female.

Because firewood is the only dependable source of energy for many communities in Malawi, many women and girls have been made punching bags to carry this responsibility amidst many challenges. Guiness wants to help rewrite the stories of the innocent girls who she foresees their dreams are soon going to be curtailed because society is demanding that they stay at home. Looking at the many situations in most rural areas, she works with primary schools in Mitundu to mentor and motivate the girls in climate justice work. Currently she has empowered girls and engaged communities to plant fruit trees in schools for the benefit of the school girls. With many girls not focused on their studies, the idea is that with the fruit trees, they can be able to pick the dropped firewood pieces for a day as they go back home and that this will no longer be the duty of a girl child but a boy child too.

With the same notion, she believes that the more fruit trees to be planted, the more the girls will have access to nutritious fruits that will sustain them in times of need and hunger. As she also mobilizes mothers to elect their fruit tree homesteads, she believes that the fruits can be sold to generate income for their households that will enable the girls to be well-fed and taken care of. The idea is to generate a social-enterprise for the girls’ needs to be sustained in the face of climate change.

She thinks the bottom line to counter the effects of climate change lies on the strength of both self and collective care. She says: “I first had the desire to act on addressing climate change issues for the benefit of that poor and vulnerable rural Malawian school girl. That was my drive and I am wholeheartedly sustaining it. But I realized I could not make this work had I not involved other willing young feminists. I had to join my efforts with those of other willing individuals so that together we can positively and largely impact on climate change. I had to involve the young girls themselves so that we collectively care for the environment”.

However in collective care Guiness has encountered challenges where it has been difficult for her to mobilize other people to join her great efforts especially where incentives are not provided. As is a tendency, people usually expect to get refreshments or lunch allowances. Again, it was hard for people to believe in her efforts the first instance. This is because most people in her community have grown up to believe that solutions have to come from outside and not from among themselves. And being a young woman made it worse; coming from that patriarchal society.

She has thoughts to include digital care in her work. With her colleagues, they are developing content to be uploaded on their website that is yet to be developed. She is eager to have this up and running because she desires to have her initiative known across the world so that it is appreciated and where possible replicated in other countries as a way of sustaining it towards addressing climate change. That, she hopes will also be a learning platform for her to refine her strategy so that it is sustainable enough. The challenge however is that, it is not easy to mobilize her own resources for her initiative, but she is trying her best and eventually will get there.