Climate change is a sexual and reproductive health issue for women with disabilities.
Kenya, a country in the East part of Africa was vastly a savanna grassland area, with climate ranging from cool and wet in the highland’s areas, hot and wet in the lowland areas and hot and dry in the arid and semi areas. Between 2020 and 2022, 16 of the 23 arid and semi arid areas have experienced a drought, this led to a Presidential declaration of a national disaster in 2021.
At least 2.1 million people are severely food insecure and adopting irreversible coping strategies to meet their minimum food needs. The counties affected include Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Kajiado, Marsabit, Wajir, Mandera among others.
According to the 2019 National Census, 2.5% of women in Kenya had a disability. Stereotyping, stigma and unemployment are some of the challenges women with disabilities face every day. This Ability Trust and UNFPA Kenya understand these issues and developed responsive interventions from a holistic approach. Our goal was no woman with disability be stripped of their SRR and dignity because of the drought. We teamed up to donate dignity kits to over 100 women with disabilities in Kilifi and Kajiado County and provide mental health support for survivors of GBV.
Our experience was that many women with disabilities often relied on informal employment such as farming. In Ganze, Kilifi county, communities have not experienced rain in 3 years making it impossible to farm. One of the women in our community meetings, recounts how they have lacked water for prolonged periods meaning when they get water one has to debate whether to drink, farm or share with the animals.
In pastoralists communities like Kajiado, the drought has led to increased cases of insecurity that has led to sexual gender-based violence on women with disabilities whose husbands have left their homes in search of pasture for the cattle. Water scarcity has limited access to safe water for drinking and for practicing basic hygiene at home, in schools and in health-care facilities. Health providers in Kajiado also attributed an increase in diseases such as urinary tract infections among women with disabilities.
In pastoralist communities, the responsibility to fetch water is a woman’s task. Most of the time, having to trek long distances and experiencing long queues, this becomes hard for women with physical disabilities. Additionally, when they get to the site, it is not always assured that one will get water. The introduction of eco-friendly dry toilets that used sawdust instead of water, is part of the innovations This Ability has implemented for women with disabilities.
The culmination of inaccessible infrastructure, insecurity, drought and lack of income by women with disabilities has seen an increase in cases of boda-boda riders sexually exploiting women and girls with disabilities in exchange for sanitary towels or food supplies.
In parts of Kajiado that have access to salty water the option of reusable pads as an alternative to curb using dirty linen during menstrual cycle was offered. The pads are safer and minimize risk of leaking hence ensuring the girls continue to access school despite being on their period.
Our Mama Siri representatives in these counties hold regular community meetings to offer mental health support, sexual and reproductive and gender-based violence referrals and access to dignity kits to women with disabilities.