Diakonia - People change the world
Annabelle Waititu is passionate about making the world more equal and just. She gathers streength and motivation by helping others that live in poverty around her. Photo: Markus Marcetic

Annabelle Waititu – passionate about organizing women

Annabelle Waititu is a passionate change maker who is working courageously alongside others so that people living in poverty can gain power over their own lives.

11/5/2013 Publisher: Gabriella Riddez

River ran dry

Annabelle Waititu is a change maker fighting for the right to clean water and for women to live good lives. She is a coordinator at the Institute of Environment & Water, a climate organization in Kenya that partners with Diakonia.

"When I was growing up, I used to swim in the river that ran through the village, but you can’t do that anymore. The river has dried up, and the little water that remains is toxic," says Annabelle Waititu.

Difficult for farmers

Annabelle Waititu has taken us to her birth town, Naivasha (around two hours’ drive from Nairobi), where most people made a living as agricultural workers when she was growing up. We now encounter a dry landscape and Annabelle tells us how difficult things have become for farmers to sow crops and harvest them.

"You can’t predict the rainy and dry seasons anymore. The result is that the men move to take up employment in the city. The women who stay here and take care of the household and their children carry a heavy load. They spend half their days fetching water and wood and planning meals. When they’ve finished, they don’t have much time or energy to spare for anything else."

Wants women to join forces

Climate change is a development issue that impacts in several different ways: economically, politically, socially and physically. Women are particularly hard hit and shoulder great responsibilities, such as for water and food provision, health and hygiene. Rural Kenya is a patriarchal society in which the women depend on their men because women are often responsible for children and the home and therefore have no opportunities to earn money of their own. If a family manages to earn some money and put it in the bank, the money is still always in the man's name.

"I want women to join forces. Solidarity provides security. Women need to understand that. They need to adapt to the times, face the challenges that exist and understand that they have control over their own lives. What I want is to create a society where everyone has equal access to water and healthcare. You can't rely on men – women need to have a better attitude towards their own abilities. They are already leaders when it comes to the family – they need to convince themselves that they can be leaders on other levels too," says Annabelle Waititu.

Organized women make a difference

By forming cooperatives, women can strengthen their position in several areas. They can support each other and build up savings. Women need to think more long-term, see the needs they have and their assets. Organize themselves and free themselves from dependence on men. The situation will then improve for everyone, including men.