Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre and her allied community women organizations have marked this year Niger Delta Women’s Day of Action for Environmental Justice. In her address, the Executive Director of Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre, Dr. Emem Okon appreciates the presence of OXFAM county director, Comerade Tijani Ahmed and contributions of his organization for the the support and other stakeholders.
The event which took place recently in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital had the theme “Niger Delta Women’s Day of Action for Environmental Justice” was well attended by different groups of Niger Delta Women, traditional rulers, youths, scholars and others; collectively spoke in support for building a feminist economy for ecosystem restoration in the Niger Delta.
Dr. Emem Okon stated that the Women’s Day of Action for Environmental Justice contributes to the building of a grassroots eco-feminist movement in the Niger Delta. She said ‘It strengthens women resilience and builds the leadership capacity of women told lead local advocacy actions for eco-friendly extractive practices “. It continues the marking of the day of action enhances women organizing and mobilization in the Niger Delta for women’s economic and political empowerment. The Day of action has promoted visibility of community women initiatives to campaign for climate justice and hold government accountable for the degradation of the environment in the Niger Delta.
Speaking further, Kebetkache director amplified that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 2021) agrees that women commonly face high risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change.
She echoes “We are suffering direct impacts of climate crisis’s in Niger Delta, women face inequalities, human rights violations, exclusion from decision making and governance processes, poverty, lack of property ownership, poor living conditions, vulnerability to violence, lack of equal education, and poor health facilities”. Women are generally recognized to endure increased domestic abuse sexual harassment, and rape during times of conflicts, and climate change introduces additional stressors, impairing women’s vulnerability.
The director amplified that Niger Delta became the boom camp of international oil companies (IOCs) for oil and gas activities by virtue of the Petroleum Act of 1969. Without any consultation with the people who live in the Niger Delta, the federal government of Nigeria mandated the IOCs to explore and exploit the vast terrain of the Niger Delta for hydrocarbon deposits for the benefits of the IOCs and all the people of Nigeria, an act of ‘generosity’ that discounted the disposition of the real owners of the hydrocarbon deposits, the subject of ownership having been redefined by the provisions of the Petroleum Act.
It noted that of the 30% habitable land in the Niger Delta, less than 50% of land available for agriculture has been put to use while the remaining has been degraded by the oil industry, 44.2% of the people are employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing industry. Of the 27.1 million people in the region, about 75% live in rural settlements. Over 70% of the people live at subsistence level, a greater percentage of them are women.
She Maintained that only 27% of the Niger Delta populace have access to clean water and portable water due to ground and surface water pollution deriving from petroleum industry operations and other challenges in the region. In addition, 70% of inhabitants of the Niger Delta live without access to electricity and without modern energy services for industrial and domestic needs (BRACED Commission, 2021). Complicating this economic picture ii the deep-seated feeling of neglect which lies at the root of a widespread discontentment in the Niger Delta.
In his goodwill message, the country director of OXFAM, Comrade Tijani Ahmed Hamza commended the effort of the executive director of Kebetkache for constantly encouraging particularly Niger Delta Women to arise and collectively demand their rights and benefits from the oil companies operating in their region and the government. He promised that OxFAM will continue to support the organization programs for collective interest particularly of women.
Highpoint of the event were cutting of cake for 20th anniversary Kebetkache Women Development and resources center, displayed of drama by different women groups from Niger Delta, talk show and others.