Milka joined Natural Justice in May 2020 as an Environmental Justice Fellow working across programmes, but with particular focus on integrating Natural Justice’s objectives within the Community Land Action Now (CLAN) programmes. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Maseno University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Gender and Development Studies at the University of Nairobi.
Milka is a member of the Sengwer indigenous community, who for a long time have been victims of forceful evictions from our ancestral lands in the name of conservation. These evictions are carried out by the Kenyan government through the Kenya Forest Service. During these evictions, communities are harassed and arrested, and women and children are exposed to many challenges and injustices. Individual targets have been set on community elders and activists.
Our natural environment is also in trouble: our ancestral lands in Embobut forest have degraded as a result of the community being forcefully evicted more than 22 times. This is despite the fact that our community has lived in this forest, carrying out our cultural practices of hunting and gathering, which has helped in protect the forest and the environment. Although not easily recognised, women have in many ways been crucial in the conservation of the environment, through their traditional knowledge.
Milka’s particular interest on the rights of women and children pushed her to carry out research on the Sengwer women’s experience of evictions and their involvement in the struggle for land rights. Sengwer women have been introducing children to nature and teaching the young generations how to conserve nature. Through this traditionally assigned gender role, the Sengwer women have played an important role in conservation. This idea is very well elaborated in this report, which also includes testimonies from the women.
For the three years Milka worked with the Forest Peoples Programme, she fought for the recognition of Sengwer community land rights needed to sustain her community’s culture and traditional way of life. This recognition is important as it leads to the protection and conservation of the environment. Ancestral lands, including forests, have been exposed to outside parties who have taken advantage of the conflict between the community and the government to destroy the forests. Ancestral lands which were once very well forested became “naked”.
Milka’s other work experiences include time with the UN Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 2016, where she brought issues of her community to the international context, and with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights in 2017, where she advanced her knowledge on human rights and environment.