Kenya - Tana River County in Kenya is known for its recurring floods caused by heavy rainfall in upstream areas. Named after the country’s longest river, River Tana, the County is one of the arid and semi-Arid (ASAL) lands of Kenya. 

Rukia Kuno, a mother of three, hails from the county and since childhood she has witnessed the devastating loss women suffer when flooding or disaster happens. A situation she is working to change thanks to the support given to her and women in her community through the IOM project empowering and promoting women and vulnerable members in disaster prone communities funded by IOM Development Fund.

“My community, Orma, are pastoralists, men are always on the move in search of water and pasture for the livestock. I have witnessed how women bear the biggest suffering when flooding happens,” remarked Rukia.

When floods strike, women are often forced to move having lost their livelihoods while some suffer physical injuries. A situation that is worsened by economic and social inequalities which makes it difficult for them to find adequate shelter, food, and portable water. Moreover, women are further exposed to challenges in maintaining personal hygiene and sanitation, preventing them from performing their roles. In addition, they suffer from domestic violence and are subjected to harassment when seeking refuge.

Despite the recurring destructions caused by floods, women are still excluded from political, community and household decision-making processes that affect their lives. A phenomenon that Rukia and her friends are questioning and challenging.

floods-displaced women in a makeshift home Photo: IOM 2023/Claudia Rosel.

I want to become the voice for the voiceless in my community. Women do not own land nor possess assets making it difficult for them to cope with the effects of climate change. With the low literacy levels among women in my community, they remain unemployed during and after floods,” says Rukia.

To increase women’s active participation and involvement in disaster risk management, IOM Kenya with funding support from the IOM Development Fund, is implementing a project that empowers and promotes women and vulnerable members in disaster prone communities, giving them a safe space to add their voice and champion for change.

Rukia was nominated as a community volunteer and a Disaster Risk Management committee member during IOM trainings. She is now championing awareness session on disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response in her community. She has reached over 500 women through creating opportunities for them by involving them in decision making processes both at household and community levels.

“Women are now more aware of their rights related to land ownership and are actively involved in decision making processes on preparedness and response to disasters,” stated Rukia.

Through the sensitization sessions, the Tana River County community members developed coping measures to mitigate the impact of climate-related disasters, especially floods, by moving to safer grounds ahead of the reported El Niño rains. The involvement of women especially at the planning stage has led to a positive behavioral change contrary to the usual norm.

IOM is committed to supporting the provision of durable solutions for communities affected by adverse effects of climate change, building their resilience, as well as increasing the capacity of the Government of Kenya in the preparedness and response to disasters and to strengthen the implementation of comprehensive policy frameworks, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 13 - Climate Action