Women Group Decries Climate Crisis, Global Warming
By Yemi Olakitan
About 200 women have declared in Rivers State on Thursday that they are at the frontline of the climate crisis, carrying extreme burdens not of their own making, and resisting mega development projects in mining and extractive industries which continue to fuel global warming.
The Okwuzi women affirmation took place at Okwuzi in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State in Nigeria on December 29, 2023, during a Women Convergence on previous outcomes and the current situation in the community, supported by Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre.
The said declaration was based on The Second West and Central African Women’s Climate Assembly that was held from September 24 to 28, 2023, in Lagos.
“We are the strong and true voice of women in not less than 62 communities from 12 countries in West and Central Africa,” they stated.
Like the other African women who gathered in Lagos, the Okwuzi women were able to identify some of the problems which they faced in communities where extractive industries or mining industries are operating.
Leader of the group, Mrs. Peace Mgbenwa, had earlier welcomed everyone and reminded the women of how lucky they were to be part of the convergence.
She said: “It is important for everyone present to participate in gatherings like this because you will always learn something anew.”
She stated that the convergence was informed by the need to preview the previous outcomes of Okwuzi Women Development Initiative Participation in programmes sponsored by Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, and the current situation of the community and what can be done going forward.
So, having identified themselves as the frontline women who bear the brunt of oil exploration by Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited and other multi-national corporations without getting any of the benefits accruable from the process, the women decided to say “No” to:
The exclusion of African women, like ourselves, who live through the climate crisis every day and who have important knowledge to solve the crisis, from decision making about development, climate change, and real climate solutions.
The theft and pollution of our land, forests, and water by corporations, supported by our governments. This destroys our livelihoods and makes women and their families sick.
The destruction of mother nature-her forests, her rivers, the seas, and the land by these dirty industries (which) destroys the small and large animals, the plants, and other living beings we live with and depend on for life and livelihood.
The false promises and lies of the companies and our governments, and the bribing of our traditional and community leaders which creates conflict in our communities.
The threats and use of force, including rape and murder, against those of us that are saying NO to this deathly development. We say NO to the use of our countries’ police and military to protect the companies and harm us.
The world leaders of powerful countries who stand with their dirty industries and make decisions about development which destroys our lives on the other side of the world.
These “green” projects which lead to our forests being fenced, our land being taken, and our lives destroyed so that companies can go on polluting while we suffer more.
The disasters like flooding, storms, and drought and the war, conflict, displacement and forced migration we see all around us.
The discrimination, violence, and death our country women and men face when they leave our continent in search of a better life in the rich countries, the countries that have only brought death and destruction to our continent over hundreds of years.
The seeds (genetically modified) which companies, sometimes with the support of our governments, bring into our countries which trap us in debt, destroy our soils, and pollute our waters.
The destruction of the Congo Basin, the “Lungs of Africa and the World” in pursuit of oil, gas, timber, and minerals used by rich countries and the new countries which oppress us.
The women then demanded for corporations to pay for the damage they do to the environment, health and well-being, claiming that the rich countries have long benefited from stolen land, labour, and knowledge.
“This has been happening since the ‘white man’ arrived in Africa and has not ended. Now, with the climate crisis, we are feeling most of the impacts, but we are not responsible for the damage. We demand that all these debts be paid in full by corporations and the rich in Europe, Britain and the United States.”
Additionally, the women resolved to say “Yes” to:
Development which respects community land, and the rules we have, and gives the community, and women especially, a voice in decision-making about their land and lives. We demand respect for women’s land rights.
Respect for the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) always, and the right of communities to say NO to projects which do not meet their needs. Our consent can be given or withheld at any stage of a project when we see it is taking a bad turn. Women and young people in our communities must be supported to have a strong voice.
A development which respects and protects all living beings, from the smallest ant to the elephant and all species in between. We know that humans cannot live without nature, and we demand that any development holds the same respect and care.
Protecting the forests that give us the air we breathe and the foods we need. But forests must not be turned into reserves which are fenced and guarded by armed men. These are the forests of indigenous and local people who know best how to protect them. It is the companies that must be stopped and not the people!
Restoration, control and rights to our own indigenous seeds, and support for the recovery of lost seeds, none of which may be sold for profit.
Infrastructure development projects micro-dams, roads, access to markets, and clean energy – which are at a smaller scale and meet our needs, instead of the needs of big companies.