As the world converges in Egypt to further dialogue to save mother earth from man induced destruction under COP 27, African women who are direct burden bearers of the devastating effects of the plundering of Africa’s natural resources by western exploiters, have sent a strong message to the world environmental gathering holding November 6-18.
Tired of struggling with devastated lands that yield little to nothing because of decades of abuse by multi-national corporations with worsening climate conditions and the attendant poverty, displacement and ill-health they face, the women after a four-day assembly where experiences, challenges and concerns were discussed, demanded hands-off their land, healing of the destroyed land to keep their environment healthy and the people thriving again.
The women, drawn from 12 natural resource rich countries were in Igwuruta, Port Harcourt, Rivers State from October 17-20 including Mali, Guinea, Liberia, Corte D’Ivoire, Cameroon, Senegal, Niger, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Burkina-Faso, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and host country, Nigeria.
All through the Assembly, it was cries of, “Leave natural deposits, fossil fuel in the soil; don’t touch my land, don’t destroy my climate; don’t destroy my culture.”
The week-long African Women’s Climate Assembly ended with a united call for an end to gas flare and other extractive industry activities that impact negatively on the climate.
The over 150 women activists from 14 countries in West and Central Africa met in Port Harcourt, under the aegis of the Women’s Climate Assembly, with the theme: ‘African Women Unite on the Frontlines of Climate Crisis.’
Organized by WoMIN African Alliance in collaboration with Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, the event provided a platform for community women leaders and activists from Guinea, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Niger and host Nigeria to come together and share their experiences on the impact of the climate crisis.
Welcoming all to the Assembly, executive director of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, Obomowang Emem Okon noted, “We have all experienced climate change. This programme is anchored by Womin African Alliance and Kebetkache for all of us to come and discuss”.
She said multinationals have been digging crude since 1956 in Nigeria to extract oil, trade, make money for government and the companies with very little gain for the community people.
“Promised development were not understood by our fathers. They took our land lying to our chiefs. Women were not consulted and with the extraction came spills destroying our lands, waters, poisoning our air, heating us up.
“Life expectancy is now 40 because of the poison from extractive activities. Rain water is now poison, acid rain; things are more difficult for women without clean water. Global warming has changed the climate with seasons interlocking- we are all struggling to survive, to have food, water”.
Emem said how to get the African women voice heard in Egypt at COP 27 for solutions was the target of the Assembly as she urged the women to feel free to narrate their experiences, think solutions and make new friends.
The event was also said to represent “the commencement of a permanent assembly of African women for climate and development justice”.
According to Womin, “Participating women activists are impacted by destructive extractive activities such as mining, oil and gas extraction; industrial agriculture, fishing and forestry; and mega energy and infrastructure projects.
“These are the women who shoulder the worsening impacts of climate disasters in their daily lives despite having contributed nothing at all to the growing climate crisis.”
The four-day event, further provided “a critical space to centre African women’s voices and enabled women to share their experiences; build new critical knowledge to inform strategies of resistance; learn from each other; imagine a different community, society, and Africa; and deepen pan African solidarity.
A joint statement from the assembly stated:
“Participants asserted their rights to free, prior and informed consent as well as their right to say ‘No’ to destructive development agendas that harm communities and rob them of their lands and livelihoods in the name of profit for a few.
“The assembly presented a timely opportunity for women to discuss real solutions and development alternatives to the neoliberal economic model that continues to destroy our natural resources and extract benefits for countries in the global North at the cost of countless African lives.”
The Nigerian delegation to the Assembly, in their contribution to the communiqué arrived at the end of the meeting, called for an end to gas flaring in the African country, adding “We don’t want the gas burning any more. Let us have our lives today because we don’t know what will happen to our next generation and their times will be even worse than this.”
The recent floods in Nigeria have left large swathes of agricultural land under water,
reportedly displaced over a million people, with over 3,000 dead and three core Niger Delta states – Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta – heavily bearing the brunt.
Describing this as “a stark reminder to participants and the world to act with urgency to address the roots of the climate crisis,” WoMin and Kebetkache noted that “though Africa has contributed less than three per cent of all carbon emissions since 1880 and is warming faster than any other region in the world, it has contributed least to the climate crisis.
By 2050, as many as 86 million Africans will be forced to migrate within their own countries due to climate change.”
The delegation from Senegal to the African women climate assembly demanded that African governments participating in COP27, “take into consideration where the
oil and other resource exploration will happen because our communities should not suffer for this”
The Senegalese stated, “Communities’ rights matter! Give to communities what belongs
to them. Women must be involved in negotiations wherever there are decisions to
be made about oil and resources. We women are responsible for life. We handle households, livelihoods, and everything essential for daily survival and so we must be present in negotiations too.”
The African women resolution stressed that the “deepening of extensive movements of African women in countries, and at a pan-African level, resisting extractive activities, demanding sovereign debt cancellation, organizing for the climate debt to be settled by historically responsible countries and polluters, and deepening living alternatives offers Africa, its governments and citizens, is the road to a just and equitable future,” and translates to climate justice for all.