For three years, the pastoralist Maasai community of Kajiado County, Kenya, went without rain. The community, which depends on livestock for its livelihoods, experienced the longest drought in 40 years. As water and food became increasingly scarce, women and families suffered, and livestock and wildlife perished. ‘Climate change is a huge challenge,’ explains Semerian Sankori, Founder and Executive Director of Patinaai Osim, an Indigenous organisation in Kenya. ‘A major issue for us is environmental justice. We work in a community that’s very patriarchal. Women’s participation in land use and environmental management is very limited. Everything belongs to the men.’

Two years into the drought, Patinaai Osim was able to raise the funds for a bore hole, which now provides some 12,000 people with water. Designated water points were built for the exclusive use of women, who in the past would have to wait in line for hours, behind the livestock, to access water. The water points have become a space for women to meet and socialise. Patinaai Osim also ensured that women representatives serve on the area’s water management committees. 

Strengthening climate change resilience 

Patinaai Osim is involved in GAGGA (see page 46), an alliance that works at the nexus of gender, climate, and environmental justice. The group attended the 2023 UN Water Conference in New York and took part in GAGGA’s ‘We Women are Water’-campaign. ‘Women in our community have had to walk as many as 20 kilometres a day to retrieve water,’ says Sankori. ‘Women really are water!’ 

With the support of Mama Cash, Patinaai Osim was also present at the 2023 UN Climate Conference (COP28). ‘The opportunity to go and collaborate with others in a global space – I’m very thankful for that. We met with other Mama Cash grantees and were also able to interact with key people from Kenya,’ notes Sankori. Attending COP28 enabled Patinaai Osim to strengthen its collaboration with the Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG). Women from the Patinaai Osim community took part in a KCCWG training of trainers’ programme on climate change adaptation and sustainable energy. ‘We’re working to strengthen climate change resilience among women,’ says Sankori. ‘The programme will make our work even better. 

‘It’s about who benefits’ 

Although much work is still to be done, the results of Patinaai Osim’s work is increasingly visible. Sankori has seen a shift, both at the local government level and in the community. ‘Women are standing up and taking charge of land use. Men are ceding more

decisionmaking space to women over land, especially widows… and land can no longer be sold without the consent of the spouse.’ Patinaai Osim works to ensure that the law is implemented both in letter and in spirit: ‘We’re fighting to ensure that it’s not just about a woman’s signature. It’s about who benefits,’ explains Sankori. 

‘Without the support of Mama Cash, Patinaai Osim wouldn’t be where it is right now,’ insists Sankori. Mama Cash was the group’s first funder. ‘I call Mama Cash my Covid blessing. Through Mama Cash, we’ve been able to get other funders. Mama Cash has supported our capacity building. They’ve offered strategic guidance, and networking and collaboration opportunities. Now we’re a community where women can stand up and say: this is right, and this is wrong.’