Mothers* Rebellion

A View from Kenya

Monday, January 29, 2024 by Betty Ngeno and Matilda Bergström, ed. Jon Idle

In order to get to know my fellow Mothers in Mothers* Rebellion for Climate Justice I called up Betty Ngeno in Kenya for an interview. Betty is a 29-year-old mother of two, who lives in Nairobi, Kenya. I start by asking how she ended up in Nairobi, this throbbing, modern, vibrant and violent city which wants to be known as "The Green City in the Sun" but goes by the nickname Nairobbery.

“When growing up in a rural area in Kenya, I saw a lot of challenges that women faced especially in accessing resources. In the community of Kenya, males are the head of household and they are the ones to give directions on what is to be done. Most landowners are men but the land is cultivated and taken care of by women. There are a lot of uncultivated lands and women don't have power to do that and that pushed me to study a course in gender and development studies to help rural women and empower them through education. I have a university degree in Gender and Development Studies.”

In her work she focuses on education about adaptation of farming in a climate-changed world. She advocates for the rural women since they often are the key person to provide food and water for their children although the man is the head of family.

“Personally I love farming a lot,” Betty continues, “and whenever I was home for holidays my dad could support me and I could do commercial farming for vegetables and it helped in paying school fees for my siblings. That's my motivation for working with rural women. With support from male counterparts, the issue of food shortages especially with the escalating climate crisis can be dealt with from a community level.”

Every now and then the line breaks because the internet is both unstable and expensive, which still is the reality for many people in Kenya.

“For how long have you been a Mothers* Rebellion activist?”, I ask when we’re online again.

”I have been an activist in Mothers* Rebellion for 8 months and I'm also active in the Global Wave of Climate Action. It’s a network for women in rural villages. In Kenya, as in many other countries in Africa, women are responsible for about 50% of the farming but the landowners are mostly men. Therefore, gender equality goes together with education about climate change and adaptation to new ways of farming. It’s important to lift women’s and girls’ voices but also to work with raising awareness in general about the fact that inequality doesn’t benefit anyone. Especially not the children.”

I am curious about the awareness in general about the climate crisis in Kenya, and Betty explains:

“A year ago, there was a bad drought in Kenya and Kenyans in general are quite aware of global warming and face new weather patterns on a local level, for instance it’s raining now in the beginning of November which normally is a dry month. Droughts and floods affect farming severely, and new ways of farming need to be taught.”

Since we are part of the same movement and I have been drawn to Mothers* Rebellion and the global level of involvement due to my strong belief in climate justice I want to know why she ended up with Mothers* Rebellion and her opinion of the rapidly growing movement which started little more than a year ago in Sweden, Uganda, Germany and Zambia as a branch of Extinction Rebellion.

“Mothers* Rebellion is a good movement although the word rebellion can be a bit offensive, and people wonder what you are rebelling against.”

This makes me think. I haven’t reflected on how Mothers* Rebellion, as a name, can sound different in Kenya, and other parts of the world, to how it is perceived in the Global North. Rebel means something else in Kenya than in Sweden where I come from. Due to Kenya’s history and colonial heritage rebel is a much more offensive term. Sweden has no history of rebelling, rebel armies or being convicted for uprisings. The closest to rebellion against the state I know of is the Union and mass strikes in the 1930’s. Maybe the women’s suffrage as well, but they were never called rebels.

It is legal, though, to organise and have a circle of women and allies in a public space in Kenya; it falls under the law ‘Freedom of Speech’. You only need to apply for permission from the police. To spread the word and organize, Mothers* Rebellion Nairobi uses WhatsApp and it’s a small group of friends who show up. In order to make Mothers* Rebellion grow as a movement, Betty would like to get some help to set up a Facebook page and an Instagram page. It would be helpful to get instructions and assistance from a media person in the Mothers* Rebellion global team. A homepage could also be a good start for collaboration.

When I ask what she wants to add she says firmly:

“Children are most vulnerable to global warming and all children should have equal rights to a liveable future.”

Well that's where we meet, Betty and me. Climate justice is the umbrella term which can carry our message further. We do this for the children. All children.

Betty Ngeno, active in Mothers* Rebellion, Kenya

and Matilda Bergström, active in Mothers* Rebellion, Sweden

December 4, 2023

Read more about Mothers* Rebellion here.

The year 2024 is upon us, and we need change more than ever as we approach 2025. Please consider donating to help sustain our actions and build a healthier world and future. With love and rage.


反抗灭绝是一个分散的、国际的和政治上无党派的运动,利用非暴力的直接行动和公民抗命来说服政府对气候和生态紧急情况采取公正的行动。 我们的运动是由来自各行各业的人组成的,他们用自己的时间和精力以不同的方式做出贡献。我们很可能有一个离你很近的当地分部,我们很想听到你的声音。 参与进来 ...或考虑捐一次款