Leaders’ Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action

Ms Cecilia Kibe, the Executive Director of Kenya Climate Justice Women Champions (KCJWC), which has been a partner of Heinrich Boell Stiftung (HBS) for the last 2 years, participated in the forum dubbed "Leaders’ Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action" in her capacity and represented grassroots women in Kenya. The forum was co-hosted on the 22nd of September by the UN Women and the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, in New York City to highlight on effective climate actions. Current and former women heads of state and government, ministers, leaders from grassroots, youth and indigenous organizations, civil society, the private sector and the scientific community, and the UN System came together to demonstrate women’s leadership on climate action and highlighted gender-responsive actions at all levels.

In order to shed more light on the Forum, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS) interviewed Ms Cecilia Kibe and this is part of what she had to say:

HBS: What was the main aim of this forum?

Kibe: The Forum took place a day in advance of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Summit, which aimed at mobilising action by governments, business, finance, and civil society in areas that will enable the world to shift towards a low-carbon economy. It was welcomed by the Secretary-General’s office as an important contribution to the objectives of the Summit. The Forum was being used to amplify the voices of women leaders and it was anticipated that an increased sense of urgency could be injected into government efforts to develop innovative, sustainable and inclusive responses to the climate change challenge.

The Forum was an important contribution to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing+20). The Beijing+20 review is a critical opportunity to position gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment at the center of the discussions on climate change and sustainable development in the post-2015 development agenda and the elaboration of Sustainable Development Goals.

HBS: Why was this meeting important for women?

Kibe: The Forum brought together women leaders from a variety of backgrounds and constituencies to demonstrate women’s leadership on climate action and highlighted gender-responsive actions at both the local and national level. The invited women were leaders from grassroots, youth and indigenous organizations, presidents and prime ministers, ministers, scientists, civil society organizations and the private sector, who are successfully overcoming obstacles to design and implement effective actions on climate change.

HBS: As a leader of Women Organization (KCJWC) working on climate justice issues in Kenya, what message did you carry with you to the summit?

Kibe:  My experience in mobilizing women in the community to address climate change has been invaluable and will help to encourage and inspire innovative thinking and solutions.  Women do not necessarily come from the point of vulnerability but they do have potential that is often under-utilized, and hence their participation is central to development in any country and even in tackling climate change. Experience has shown women are custodians of indigenous knowledge that have helped them to adapt to extreme climate condition especially in dry areas of Kenya where KCJWC works in. Technical knowledge of women in practicing proper farming methods that works when rains are erratic, use of efficient cooking stoves and simple water harvesting techniques are some of the ways in through which women contribute to addressing climate change and need to be enhanced. In the two panels that I participated in (‘transformative leadership’ and ‘partnerships’) I championed the need for increased capacity enhancement of women and for a climate fund (Green Climate Fund) that is responsive to women and support women-led climate change action from the point of their strength and not vulnerability.

Further to these, Ms. Cecilia Kibe revealed some of the many issues discussed in smaller learning groups, which she preferred to call learning circles and included:

  1. How women leaders are working in partnerships to maximize the positive impact of climate actions on people’s lives and the steps KCJWG are taking to ensure participation by those most affected by the impacts of climate change. On this she was able to narrate how KCJWG are Partnering with HBS to empower grassroots women by organizing them and building their capacity. She also brought out the challenge Kenya women are facing to achieve the 30% representation in parliament to promote participation of women in decision making. All parties within and without the forum agreeded that there is need to intensify capacity building for women to understand the constitution and the provisions that they should take advantage of. The Executive Director of UN Women remarked, ”We cannot afford to lose these slots in Kenya.” and indicated the forum expects more action from Climate Justice Women Champions and Green Belt Movement.
  2. How women leaders are designing climate responses to address climate change from understanding that men and women are impacted differently by climate change. She indicated how KCJWG are trying to lobby for mainstreaming of gender mainstreaming in the County Integrated Development Programs.
  3. Analysis of the risks that climate change poses to development and to business and whether there is a role for the post 2015 development Agenda in addressing these risks. The forum agreed there was need for the climate vulnerable countries to develop plans to deal with future weather extremes which should include adaptation projects based on a cursory assessment of vulnerability in different sectors of the economy and different parts of the country.


In closing, the conclusion of the forum could be summarized as follows:

  1. For women voices to be amplified, both the numbers and technical Knowledge is critical. There is therefore urgency to inject capacity assessment and push for climate funding window for the women.
  2. If we address barriers to women leadership, we would solve climate problem a lot faster
  3. Reaching a meaningful climate agreement during UNFCCC Cop21 goes hand in hand with agreeing on a post 2015 sustainable development agenda.

Ms. Cecilia Kibe was invited to attend a Climate Smart Agriculture as a panelist where she facilitated about climate change impacts on food security and what this means to the grassroots women of Kenya.

Kenya Climate Justice Women Champions (KCJWC) is a registered National women network in Kenya that unites the women voices and actions on climate justice through advocacy to spearhead and transform policies, projects and resources allocation as well as provide empowerment support actions to women. http://www.kcjwc.org