COP27: Pokot woman makes her voice heard on effects of climate change

Many visitors have descended into Sharm el Sheikh for the COP. For some, this is just another conference on climate talks being held in the desert which has attracted many leaders and influential people from all over the world.

There are also “the small people” who also desire to be heard. They represent some of the small indigenous communities from remote parts of the world. Though they are few, they stand out from the COP crowd at the event Venue with their colorful traditional clothing.

You can hardly hear the delegates move and it isn’t just because most of them are wearing sports shoes, but because most of the walking areas are covered by large carpets.

Jennifer Kibon a resident of Tangulbei in Baringo County, is an exception as her traditional attire announces her presence as she walks. The small metal plates on her belt knock against each other to create a continuous chime. It is barely audible above the continuous chatter and noise in the convention.

However, her large traditional beaded Pokot necklace and headband of beads stand out and attract attention.

As she is walking, an Egyptian lady asks to take a picture with her. Jennifer doesn’t speak English but she understands what “picture” means. She obliges and gives her best smile.

She seems to enjoy herself as she tours the various stands set up in the Pavilion.

For this housewife from Tangulbei, this is beyond her wildest expectations. “I never thought a lowly woman like me who hasn’t gone to school could ever get into a plane with other people and be here at this venue. It is a miracle.” She says with a smile. “I survive on one meal a day, how is it that I am here?”

She was also surprised that planes could be so big. ” I used to see planes from the ground and think they are small, am surprised they are so big and anyone can get into them.”
This is not her first encounter with Egypt as before coming here, she had read of it in the bible and seen pictures.

As she tours the stands she meets up with people of different races. “I never thought I would meet so many people of different races and communities. I have met people from Asia and Congo.” She says. Egyptians have especially made an impression on her. “I used to think that Egyptians are black and huge people but I realize they are people just like us.” She says with laughter.

Jennifer is on an important visit to Sharm el Sheikh as she is here to make her voice heard on the effects of climate change on people in rural areas especially women at the Conference of Parties. The COP as it is better known is an annual meeting where the UN brings together almost every country on earth for a global climate summit.

She is here to speak at an event organized by action aid on the effect of climate change on her community.
She addresses the participants in Kiswahili through an interpreter. She gives a first-hand account of how her life has become harder because of climate change. “The men move with the livestock far from home and the girls have to walk longer to get water.” Some in the audience are moved by her personal story. At this COP, the small town of Tangulbei has been represented and their story told.

Jennifer is also taking a lot with her back home. “I have learnt that we don’t have to depend on livestock to survive. I haven’t seen any animals or shambas since I arrived and yet the people seem to be prospering. It looks like the people of this country took action to end their problems and now they live and eat well.”
She is hopeful that there will be a solution to the droughts that afflict her community back home.

The COP has had about 33,000 delegates attending so far and when it ends, it will just be another climate conference for many. For Jennifer, it will be the place she got to give a first-hand account of the effects of climate change on her people and meet people from all over the world. She came with much and leaves with much more.

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