By Constance Meju with pictures from Gift Jonah
The quest for environmental justice by Niger Delta women gathered momentum December 17 as women from all parts of the Niger Delta gathered in Uyo, AkwaIbom State to tell the world how they feel about the continued despoiling of their land and waterways from decades of oil and gas exploration.
The one-day event which brought together grass-root women, elite and decision makers, had as its theme, “Building Resilience For Climate Action” under the now three-year old Niger Delta Women’s Day of Action for Environmental Justice’.
Welcoming delegates to the event, executive director of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center , conveners of the Action Day Emem Okon said the aim is to amplify critical voices of community women against pollution, food security, energy poverty and the negative impacts of fossil fuel extraction on women’s bodies, livelihood, health and water.
For that reason, women from most impacted communities like Ibeno, Gelegele, Erema, K-Dere, Otuasagi, etc, were on hand to tel their stories as a retinue of media persons were around to take note.
Emem explained that the Niger Delta Women Day of Action born in 2016, was initiated by Kebetkache and her allied organizations, “as a platform for women in communities impacted by oil extraction activities in the region, “to reflect on their experiences, expectations, concerns and challenges as regards fossil fuel extraction, climate change, food insecurity and violence.
She noted that women are directly affected by fossil fuel extraction as a major driver of pollution, poverty, diseases and death while communities suffer from impacts of climate change because of poor government response and lack of implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation policies.
According to her, through the Days of Action in 2016, 2017 and 2018, an awareness of the need for environmental justice is growing and the capacity of women leadership and mobilization is being strengthened.
“The Women’s Day of Action for Environmental Justice contributes to the building of an eco-feminist movement in the Niger Delta. It hascontributed to strengthening of women leadership capacity and in enhancing women organizing and mobilization for environmental and climate justice.
The event featured a keynote address, presentations on Climate Change and Food Insecurity, panels on Climate Change in the Niger Delta, Eco-feminism, Women and Livelihood, Ogoni Clean-Up, with side events on Women and Renewable Energy, Gender and Accountability, Climate Change and Healthcapped with interactive sessions.
Backing the growing movement were goodwill messages from respected personalities, bodies and government officials from stakeholder departments.
At the end of deliberations, the gathering moderated by Nollywoodold hand, Hilda Dokubo came up with a communiqué demanding key actions.
Delegates came from Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Benue, Abuja and from Ghana and Senegal.
The communiqué read:
Over 300 Niger Delta Women , some male supporters and stakeholders in the Climate Change and Environment section converged in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State at Endyzz Event Center on Tuesday December 17, 2019 to mark the Niger Delta ‘Women’s Day for Climate Justice, an annual event to draw attention to the plight of women in extractive communities as well as stand with Ogonis on the UNEP Clean-Up.
The programme which had as theme: “Building Women Resilience for Climate Action” received goodwill messages from several bodies including HOMEF, HYPREP ,government officials from other ministerial departments, commending the women action and advising more collaborations with government to ignite more positive action on the environment.
A keynote address prepared by Dr Chioma Worlu on Women’ s Resilience For Climate Change identified patriarchy as a major contributor to the challenges of women as it denies them access to land beyond the surface as well as access to social benefits attached whereas they suffer more from climate change and effects of oil and gas extraction.
Discussion panels covered issues on Climate Change in the Niger Delta, Ogoni Clean-Up, Women and Livelihood, and Ecofeminism and agreed that climate change has come to stay so what is needed are means of adaptation.
The panelists observed that even though climate change and its attendant negative impact on society are felt most by women and children, not much is being done to address this.
They agreed that the first step towards building resilience is individual efforts to back up
The Women’s Day of Action recommended the following:
*That there is needed, Gender and Climate Action Plans by government
* That communities adopt a plant 10 before you cut one tree policy to safeguard the environment from climate change
*That mapping and nurturing of traditional seedlings be carried out
*Rejection of genetically modified organisms, GMO plants, and animals to save both humans and the environment
*That women need to understand their power and use it to make their needs respected and society better.
*That Government should set up effective policies for the mitigation and adaptation of climate change and such policies must include women in planning and execution.
*Government should develop policies to sensitize the citizenry and encourage acts to mitigate climate change.
*That CSOs should pressurize policy makers to implement existing environmental and climate change policies.
* That women should write themselves back to relevance through good use of both the traditional and social media and,
*Continue to pass on knowledge, agitate for environmental justice until expected change comes.
* Partners for Peace and Development, Both Ends.
*The women commended Ford Foundation, Womin, for funding the programme.