In preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) Twenty-eighth session (COP28) which will be held in the United Arab Emirates from 30 November to 12 December 2023, a convergence of women on the umbrella of the Women’s Climate Assembly (WCA) has demanded that women are given precedence in addressing the climate change crisis.
The women, who met in Lagos said that the African continent, especially its women, are tired of talks at the UNFCCC without concrete action, even as they said that African women will not relent in their advocacy since governments and industry players continue to advance false solutions to the climate crisis.
The convergence which started on 24 September, 2023 and will run through 28 September, is the second after a similar convergence in Rivers State in 2022 with representatives of women groups, fossil fuel, and mining communities, as well as environmental activists from about other 15 African countries in attendance.
Emem Okon, Executive Director of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, which organized the summit said: “The essence of the WCA is to mobilise African women under the Africa Women Alliance and the WCA to discuss issues of climate change, where we will be discussing the major countries and corporations causing climate change globally and champion ways of mitigating the impacts of climate change.
“This assembly is part of the counter COP to brainstorm on the very devastating effects of climate change globally, even at the COP28, slated for Dubai from November 30, 2023 to December 12, 2023.
“For all African women fighting for climate justice, the WCA is a crucial political space for education, activism, camaraderie, and movement building. The Assembly will give over 100 community activists and leaders from over 15 countries the opportunity to learn, build mutual understanding and solidarity, teach one another, craft political solutions to address their interests and most importantly, make women who carry the costs of the climate crisis visible!”
National Steering Committee member of WCA from Akwa Ibom State, Glory Alexander-Thomas, said the negligence of industry players and the Federal Government regarding the plight of oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta has become a nightmare, as residents of the region continue to bear the brunt of the environmental hazards caused by oil extraction and exploration activities in the region.
A women community leader from Okwuji Community in Ogba/Egbema Council of Rivers State, Mrs. Shepherdess Peace Mgbenwa, lamented that since the Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC), started prospecting for oil and gas in the community since 1956, life has remained unbearable for the locals.
According to her, “Okwuji was a peaceful, agrarian community of mostly farmers and fishermen, but we lost that serenity to activities of oil exploration decades ago. Our yams and cassava, as well as fishing activities no longer yield the desired outcomes, as oil spillages and other pollution impacts have practically incapacitated the entire community.
“As things stand, we no longer have a means of livelihood. Worse still, the kind of change in our climate and environment makes one wonder if we still have a future. These days, we no longer have what used to be “August Break,” during which we engage in a small planting season.
“Even the flooding, which has become the order of the day, has compounded our woes in that every year now, we are buffeted by floods to the extent that our people now have to move at least three times from place to place and finally to Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDPs) before the floods recede each year.
“We, therefore, plead with the government at all levels and the oil and gas industry to do the right things before our communities are wiped away.”
Other participants came from Ghana, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroun, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, among others, shared the same sentiments with their Nigerian counterparts, insisting that the climate change challenge was becoming overbearing and needed to be tamed, as quickly as possible.