•They said indigenous people were bringing their agenda to the government to be recognized and affirmatively be included in development
•The National Land Commission CEO Kabale Tache said women have often been excluded from decision-making processes and denied their rightful place in leadership
Various stakeholders are now calling for the establishment of a state department to deal specifically with issues related to indigenous communities.
This is due to the fact that indigenous communities are custodians of land, territories and resources.
It has also been acknowledged that they are holders of indigenous knowledge which contributes to climate resilience and hence should be widely recognised and promoted.
Indigenous peoples in Kenya include hunter-gatherers such as Ogiek, Sengwer, Yaaku Waata and Sanya, while pastoralists include Endorois, Turkana, Maasai, Samburu and others.
This emerged during the ongoing 8th Annual Indigenous Women Conference in Isiolo organised by Indigenous Women Council and Samburu Women Trust.
More than 100 delegates from 15 counties in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are participating in the four-day conference.
The conference has been organised under the theme ‘Strengthening indigenous women’s participation in land, governance and climate change negotiation’.
Speaking during the conference, National Gender and Equality Commission chairperson Joyce Mutinda and Samburu Women Trust Executive Director Jane Meriwas called for the establishment of a department which will help deal with challenges facing the indigenous communities.
They said indigenous people were bringing their agenda to the government to be recognised and affirmatively be included in development.
“We are asking the government to designate a state department for indigenous peoples of Kenya so that the different shades of indigenous people have a body to hold accountable,” Meriwas said.
Some of the issues the proposed state department would be involved in include communal land tenure and climate change investments that affect their lifestyles.
Mutinda supported the proposal saying a full ministry would be even better to address the issues of indigenous peoples of Kenya.
“I wouldn’t mind if there was a ministry for indigenous communities, but it would be okay if the government gives us a state department,” she said.
Mutinda said NGEC has designed programmes aimed at promoting equality and non-discrimination of indigenous people among them the ongoing development framework for marginalized communities in Kenya.
“Today as we confront pressing issues of land rights, governance and the looming spectre of climate change, the vital role of indigenous women has never been more apparent,” Mutinda said.
The National Land Commission CEO Kabale Tache said although indigenous women have for generations played pivotal roles as stewards and guardians of their ancestral lands and unique cultural heritage, they have often been excluded from decision-making processes and denied their rightful place in leadership and governance.
She said some of the historical land injustices that NLC is currently addressing were a result of injustices that indigenous women have suffered in the past.
Tache said the commission has a multifaceted role in addressing historical land injustices for indigenous communities.
“Our aim is to rectify past injustices and promote justice, equity and land rights for indigenous people in Kenya,“ Tache said.
Isiolo county Woman Representative Mumina Bonaya said indigenous women deserve a seat at the negotiation table both at national and county levels not as spectators by as equal participants.
“Indigenous women are most affected by climate crisis and it’s our duty to continue amplifying our voices to be heard, listened to and to be incorporated,” she said.
Bonaya said the women's movement in Kenya has played a key role as a change agent in advancing women's rights.
The vice-chair of Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Raymond Nyeris said the government must recognise the important role played by indigenous women.
Nyeris said the two must work together to accelerate the development, application, preservation and transmission of their scientific and technical knowledge.