The Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center in Nigeria recently hosted an Exchange Learning and Solidarity visit with fourteen delegates from Botswana, Sierra Leone together with local activists and community members. The six-day exchange took delegates through the three Niger Delta states of Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom with visits to key sites, dialogues with traditional leaders, women groups and youth impacted by oil and gas extraction activities.
From the field experience and follow up discussions between Niger Delta women and the exchange team, there was a general consensus that natural resources have not been a blessing to Africa, especially, women because of poor and selfish leadership and that the multinationals in the extractive business play the same game across the continent using to their advantage, the heavy reliance of African governments on revenue from mining.
Delegates observed that whatever the value of the natural resource, be it oil, gold, or diamond, host Communities continue to live in abject poverty and without basic social amenities like potable water, regular power supply, good roads, health and educational facilities, noting that in a country like Botswana hundreds of children have lost their lives trying to access education as their Communities lack schools in remote areas. All these impact heavily on women and girls.
Ogoni environment has been suffering since crude oil exploitation because of the failure of to come to the aid of our communities. Our livelihood is no more there because of oil extraction. We are not included in the leadership process in our communities. And the government and oil companies do not engage with us. They do not include us in the decisions that concerns environmental issues. – Dr Patience Osarojiji, Alode Community in Eleme LGA, Rivers State
Delegates further observed that because of discordant tunes within the host community structure, getting needed reforms are difficult and companies engage in secrecy fueling distrust and crisis;
That the duty of securing better benefit from mining for host Communities can only be achieved through concerted efforts between the people, civil society and government;
That though some countries have structures in place for monitoring, there are issues with transparency on what is produced, revenue received and expenditures and the resultant corruption translates to further burden for women.
For an improved state of affairs, the delegates resolved as follows:
That African Communities host to mining operations deserve better benefits from the resources in their land and from their governments.
That host Communities must be part of decision and policy makers on mining issues to adequately protect their interest and special provisions must be made to include women.
That Governments should put host Communities’ interest first in dealings with mining companies and ensure companies respect and comply to all regulations governing their operations to reduce conflict.
That Government and Corporations and Community leaders should ensure improved information flow on mining issues between the communities, government and corporations for better understanding and proper negotiations.
That Civil Society and Community Members and women groups should increase monitoring of projects and activities to promote transparency and accountability.
That Host Community Leaders in positions of trust must make judicious and transparent use of revenue from mining to enhance member’s capacity and development.
That if corporations cannot comply with international environmental standards and respect the rights of the indigenous peoples, particularly the women they should “Leave the Oil in the Soil”.
The delegates called for a Just Transition away from fossil fuels.
That successful community development initiatives like The Bonny Development Committee, Nigeria and the Sierra Leonean Community Development Agreement be studied, be improved upon and adopted for African Mining Host Communities for capturing quality and sustainable development benefits for host Communities.
That the voice of African Women in Extractives be strengthened by exchange programmes, joint actions and other alliances.
That the struggle for improved living and benefits for host Communities is a long but necessary work that demands commitment from women as the greater burden bearers.
The group pledged readiness and commitment to keep the tempo of organizing against oppression of host Communities until success is achieved and expressed gratitude to WoMin African Alliance for continued solidarity and support for the cause and commended Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre for hosting the exchange visit.
TAWE ICO TEEMAHANE Women’s Foundation
Women on Mining and Extractives, Sierra Leone
Network Movement for Justice & Development, Sierra Leone
Botswana Climate Change Network, Botswana
Centre for Media Environment & Development Communications, Nigeria
Egi Women Human Rights & Environmental Justice Initiative, Nigeria
Pius Dukor Foundation, Nigeria
Otuabagi Women Development Initiative, Nigeria
Council of Biseni Women, Nigeria
KALLOP Humanitarian & Environmental Foundation
League of Queens International Empowerment
Gbogbia Feefeelo Organization
Obelle Concern Citizens
Clamar Development Foundation
Alauchi Women Development Initiative
Okwuzi Women Forum
Eedee Ladies of Tai
Mba Okase Women
Delta Women for Better Tomorrow
Women Initiative on Climate Change
Annie Rural Health and Development Initiative
Kebetkahe Women Dev. & Resource Centre
WoMin African Alliance
Abua Women Development Initiative