In the heart of Kenya, where the awe-inspiring landscapes harmonize with the captivating pulse of wildlife, an extraordinary event blossomed, akin to a radiant bloom unfurling in all its splendor. Welcome to the Rethink! Space, held in Kenya on May 3rd and 4th 2023 under the theme, “From Rhetoric to Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Climate Finance”, an exceptional convergence that transported participants on an exhilarating odyssey through the boundless plains of ingenuity and cooperation. Set against the backdrop of Kenya’s resplendent majesty, this event emerged as a flourishing sanctuary, igniting the spirit of transformation within the realm of climate finance.
The Rethink! Space was a captivating and dynamic workshop that brought together visionary thinkers, activists, experts, and policymakers from across the continent. With a focus on reimagining the current climate finance architecture, the space took a nuanced and multidisciplinary approach to explore new ways of thinking about reshaping the current approach to climate finance and ensure that it is gender responsive, anti-colonial, debt free, sustainable, flexible, and anti-capitalistic in its structure and mode of delivery. From a thought-provoking keynote speech to engaging panel discussions, the event proved to be a tremendous success, providing a platform for diverse voices, and fostering collaboration. It ignited innovative ideas and spurred actions towards a more equitable and sustainable future.
The workshop kicked off with a warm welcome from Eunice Musiime, the Executive Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika, who infused the event with enthusiasm and set an engaging tone. She emphasized the importance of nurturing and fortifying the feminist movement on the continent, aiming to dismantle intersecting systems of oppression and propel climate justice, gender justice, and social justice forward. Recognizing that women’s organizing and the resilience of our autonomous movement are instrumental in driving the creation of gender-equitable laws and policies across various domains, she highlighted their pivotal role in shaping a fair and sustainable future.
This warm welcome was followed by remarks from Johnstone Kuya, representing the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Kenya, who expressed the Kingdom’s commitment to go beyond mere financial support and actively address the crisis. Additionally, Josphat Ireri on behalf of Veronica Nduva, the Principal Secretary of the State Department of Gender and Affirmative Action, Ministry of Public Service, Gender, and Affirmative Action, urged the audience to advocate for climate finance conversations at the national level and prioritize gender-responsive climate actions. Their message resonated powerfully: “Let us unwaveringly advocate for financing modalities that embody gender justice, persistently questioning how our current global-to-local financial mechanisms genuinely serve the vulnerable.”
One of the highlights of the event was the keynote speech delivered by Dr. Lyla Latif, which captivated the audience and set the stage for meaningful discussions. Dr. Latif emphasized the need for a transformative approach to climate finance, focusing on key principles such as gender responsiveness, anti-colonialism, debt-free funding, sustainable perspectives, flexibility, and an anti-capitalistic stance. The speech delved into the historical context and trends of financing in Africa, shedding light on the disproportionate impact on African women and the urgent need for a feminist decolonial climate finance agenda.
During the session, Dr. Lyla cited statistics from a report titled “Landscape of Climate Finance in Africa.” Where, in 2020, the entire African region received a total of $29.5 billion USD in climate finance. However, out of this amount, only $4.7 billion was allocated specifically for climate mitigation and adaptation activities that were gender responsive. This indicated a significant disparity between the funds designated for addressing the needs of women and the overall climate finance received which were inadequate in meeting the diverse requirements of African women and marginalized communities. She attributed this insufficiency to the underlying colonial and capitalist origins of the existing climate finance structure.
Dr. Latif also acknowledged the role of the private sector in climate finance but urged alignment with global feminist perspectives on wealth distribution. She discussed the limitations and inflexibility of current climate finance delivery mechanisms, including international institutions and funds, and raised concerns about private finance and foreign direct investments that prioritize profit over community interests.
The structure of climate finance in Africa came under examination due to its perceived reliance on developed nations and its preference for capitalism and production methods at the expense of local community priorities. Dr. Lyla advocated for African countries to create their own solutions and resist the influence of hegemonic stakeholders. She also highlighted the negative impact of debt financing on African economies and women’s livelihoods, proposing the need for official development assistance instead.
Following the keynote speech, a panel discussion further enriched the workshop, focusing on various aspects of climate finance and its impact on women and girls, particularly in Africa. The experts discussed several key topics related to climate finance and its impact on women and girls in Africa, bringing unique perspectives to the table, leading to insightful conversations.
Thowaiba Ben Slema, a Tunisian climate activist, highlighted the lack of climate finance awareness in Tunisia and stressed the importance of educating young people about climate justice. She called for unity between climate activists and feminists to achieve gender-responsive climate finance and expressed concerns about the imbalance between mitigation and adaptation efforts, particularly in relation to the needs of local communities, especially women and rural women.
Medhin Mekonnen, representing the Global Green Growth Institute, emphasized the need to redefine values and inclusiveness in investment decisions rather than focusing solely on empowering women. She shared Ethiopia’s efforts in promoting gender-responsive climate action, including strategies for gender mainstreaming and budgeting. Mekonnen stressed the importance of translating policies into practice and called for enhanced gender-responsive climate action to address the challenges faced.
Claire Nasike highlighted the support required for women farmers in Africa, who play a crucial role in the agricultural workforce and food production. She emphasized the need for financial resources to help women farmers adapt to the climate crisis but cautioned against resources that come with harmful directives. Nasike criticized organizations from the global North that claim to provide solutions but end up benefiting themselves while leaving communities worse off. She called for climate finance advocacy that prioritizes women’s land ownership and the utilization of indigenous knowledge for community benefit.
Njoki Njehu addressed the issues of inequality and injustice in climate finance. She highlighted the persistent problems faced by African women in agriculture, including underpayment, undervaluation, and disregard for their needs. Njehu argued that the impact of colonialism still affects climate finance approaches and solutions, often neglecting the knowledge and agency of women and indigenous communities. She criticized the use of gender sensitivity and responsiveness as mere gestures to make capitalist and development-focused approaches more acceptable, without fundamentally changing the system. Njehu questioned the effectiveness of nature-based solutions and carbon credits, as they may perpetuate pollution caused by global powers. She emphasized the importance of demanding redistribution, preparedness, and resilience in climate finance.
Overall, the panelists collectively expressed frustration with the prevailing narrative of African women’s resilience and stressed the need to focus on African resistance for substantial change. They opposed the financialization and commercialization of Africa, pointing out the extraction of knowledge, resources, finances, and profits from the continent. They highlighted specific examples, such as Bridge Schools in Liberia and past instances of unequal aid distribution, to illustrate the need for scrutiny when considering climate finance in Africa and the global South. They urged for a shift away from extractive and capitalist practices towards transformative and equitable approaches to climate finance.
The workshop also featured a presentation by Mwanahamisi Singano on the state of climate finance governance and decision-making. She focused on the lack of alignment with the experiences of women and marginalized groups, challenges in defining climate finance, the importance of addressing harmful investments, the discrepancy between reported and actual climate finance, the significance of adaptation finance and African-specific needs, concerns about exclusion in decision-making processes, the call for gender-responsive climate finance, and the announcement of a campaign for a Women’s Fund to support climate action, emphasizing the need for honest conversations and critical discussions to address underlying issues and move beyond income-focused initiatives..
The workshop concluded with eye-opening speeches that debunked the myth of false solutions and advocated for feminist climate justice. Dr. Melania Chiponda highlighted the intentional design of false solutions to benefit specific groups or states, leaving the survivors and victims of injustice behind. Ikal Ang’elei shed light on the geopolitics surrounding climate finance, emphasizing the influence of international financial institutions on development plans in African countries. Irene Asuwa explored the impacts of false solutions on climate action, drawing attention to issues of land acquisition and corporate exploitation.
The event culminated in a session led by Zukiswa White, focusing on building transnational power and solidarity. Zukiswa emphasized the potential for change and the ability to shape a different world. Strategy discussions for global and regional movements took place, and aspirations for a pan-African climate justice movement were shared.
The Rethink! Space was undoubtedly a remarkable and inspiring gathering. It brought together passionate individuals who were committed to challenging the status quo and forging a climate finance system that is fair, inclusive, and sustainable. Through engaging discussions, critical analysis, and calls to action, participants left the workshop with renewed energy and a shared commitment to effecting meaningful change in the fight against climate change.
As the sun set on the event, the participants departed with a sense of purpose, armed with new ideas, connections, and strategies to revolutionize the movement for climate justice. The event demonstrated the power of collective action, reinforcing the belief that together, we can shape a future that safeguards the planet and empowers all its inhabitants.
Precious Tricia Abwooli,
Programme Associate- Economic Justice and Climate Action