Becoming Grassroots Environmental Leaders The women and Youth of Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria, Kenya.

The Lake Victoria, as has been written, mentioned and taught about so many times is home to great biodiversity. It produces resources which support up to 30 million human beings. There is however gross mismanagement and utilization of these resources by these same people who benefit from it that is rendering this ecosystem obsolete.

The resources of these great Lake are managed and under the jurisdiction of designated authorities by the national government. Many a times we find that the people who are in charge of managing such ecosystems, are people who do not derive direct benefits from it on an day to day basis. On the other hand, the local communities which live in proximity to these resources, are not involved in the decisions made of the management and utilization of said landscapes and ecosystems. This is the result of indiscriminate use and continued pollution of this great Lake.

In as much as this case is true, it is even more troubling that the biggest percentage of these resource users, the women and youth are the ones who are left out in such management structures. If we take the example of beach management units which are all over the shoes of this great Lake in different regions, only about 10% or even less, of the executive office are women and the youth.

The people who are usually in power are ones who do not have an education in natural resource management, older men who have taken the seats hostage for decades and are just interested in serving their own interests. This has been a big contribution to the discrimination and gender-based violence that women resource users have had to live with over the last decades.

In order to empower these local women, Ecofinder Kenya, through grant support from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives brought lessons of Natural Resource Co-Management and Leadership to local women and youth along the Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria region.

We trained and educated the women and youth in different co management structures which they have at their disposal like the Beach Management Units and Site Conservation Groups, how they can take charge of their environment, the laws and policies which are relevant in their context and how they can adopt and transform these governance instruments into actions on the ground to better protect themselves and their great waterways.

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