Biden Admin Unveils $1.5 Million Effort To 'Empower' Female Climate Activists in Northern Kenya

African nation's 'patriarchal' society means women aren't involved in fight against climate change, USAID argues

Samantha Power (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
May 31, 2023

The Biden administration plans to spend $1.5 million in taxpayer funds on a program aimed at "empowering" female climate change activists in northern Kenya, documents reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon show.

President Joe Biden's U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on May 22 unveiled the funding opportunity, which is aimed at "empowering women to adapt to climate change in northern Kenya." Women in the area, the agency wrote in its notice, live in "traditionally patriarchal communities" and therefore lack the ability to steer the African nation's fight against climate change. As such, the agency is putting big money behind a program that will "empower women, improve their participation in decision making, and enhance adaptive capabilities to climate change."

The funding announcement comes roughly one year after USAID released its 2022-2030 climate strategy, which outlines a $150 billion "whole-of-Agency approach" to building an "equitable world with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions." As part of that approach, USAID pledged to help "women, youth, and other marginalized and/or underrepresented groups" increase their "meaningful participation and active leadership in climate action." The agency has since set aside millions of dollars to inspire and support overseas climate activists—in addition to its northern Kenya grant, USAID in March announced a program that will help disabled people in the Central Asian country of Tajikistan become "climate leaders," the Free Beacon reported.

Those efforts have prompted criticism from congressional Republicans, who argue that the spending is a waste of taxpayer funds. Florida Republican senator Rick Scott in March said American tax dollars "should be supporting Americans, not overseas climate activists," while Virginia Republican congressman Ben Cline hammered Biden for using public funds "to build an army of Green New Deal activists around the world." Still, USAID's northern Kenya grant shows the agency has no plans to slow its spending on foreign climate activism.

USAID said the grant will "help farmers and other vulnerable groups better prepare for climate impacts in a region hit hard by climate change."

"Women are an integral part of the solution to the climate crisis. They are typically responsible for securing the energy and water needs of their households, the managers of livestock or poultry, and the cooks in the family kitchens," an agency spokesperson said. "Women also often have fewer rights and economic opportunities in the places USAID works, and we work to ensure they benefit from U.S. assistance."

The agency’s climate-focused work in Kenya reflects the Biden administration's government-wide mandate to fight climate change. In January 2021, just one week after taking office, Biden issued an executive order calling on all government agencies to "combat the climate crisis with bold, progressive action." Federal agencies that have seemingly nothing to do with climate change responded by releasing "Climate Action Plans." Biden's Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, in August 2021 unveiled its climate plan, which pledges to respond to the "projected impacts of climate change" by making its buildings more "climate-resilient."

USAID, meanwhile, is not the only Biden administration agency working to spur climate activism abroad. Biden's State Department earlier this month announced a $50,000 effort to create a "climate action podcast" in India, the Free Beacon reported. The department hopes the podcast will inspire Indian "changemakers" to live "lifestyles with more sustainable choices" and "see the United States as a source of partnership and leadership in protecting the planet."

USAID's focus on climate change has come under former Obama administration official Samantha Power, whom Biden tapped to lead the agency in January 2021. Power, who in August 2021 declared that "climate change is sexist," has used her USAID climate work to travel the world—in March, for example, Power filmed a correspondence from a Vietnamese fish farm that she said is "already feeling the effects of climate change."

Power's climate emphasis has in some cases seemed to keep the Biden administration official from discussing more pressing humanitarian issues. In February, for example, Power met with Iraq's foreign minister. USAID's subsequent readout of the sitdown did not mention the words "ISIS" or "terrorism" but did praise Iraq for its work addressing the "impacts of climate change." Power's climate-related work in Tajikistan, meanwhile, comes as the former Soviet republic partners with China to build military bases and conduct joint military drills.