Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre organized the 2022 Niger Delta Women’s Day of Action for Environmental Justice on Monday 19th December at Uyo in Akwa Ibom State. The annual Day of Action was proposed in 2016 to bring together women activists and women community leaders across the Niger Delta to reflect, discuss, share experiences and propose ways of mitigating the adverse environmental problems plaguing the Niger Delta region as a result of the deleterious effects of oil and gas exploitation and the impact of climate change on the region. Since then, the Women’s Day of Action have become an annual event that brings together women groups from every state in the Niger Delta that provides a forum to deliberate, review and reflect on the state of the Niger Delta environment, and the socio-economic impacts of oil and gas exploitation on the lives and livelihoods of women. To that end, the 2022 edition of the Niger Delta Women’s Day of Action followed the annual tradition and created a robust forum to deliberate and propose actions and strategies that will salvage communities from the disturbing impacts of perennial flooding, of which the 2022 floods were the most devastating.
The 2022 Women’s Day brought together participants from Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, and Rivers States. Participants were drawn from women groups, Non-Governmental Organizations, Community Based organizations, Faith Based Organizations, Professional groups, farmers, fisher women, traders, and civil servants. The Day of Action featured keynote presentations and questions and answer sessions on the impacts of flooding, its causes, effects, and mitigation measures. It also featured group activities from women community groups across the Niger Delta, songs, drama, storytelling, testimonies of personal environmental experiences, round table discussions and experience sharing sessions.
SUMMARY OF ISSUES DELIBERATED UPON
The Day of Action reviewed, reflected upon, and deliberated on the following issues:
· The devastating impact of flooding in the Niger Delta, its causes, effects and solutions
· The environmental and socio-economic impacts of the oil and gas industry on women’s lives and livelihoods and the way forward for sustainable actions and solutions
· The insensitivity of Niger Delta States to the suffering of women in the face of devastating floods, especially that of 2022.
· The impact of climate change and the way forward for the Niger Delta
· The failure of government at all levels to address the nagging environmental problems plaguing the Niger Delta, and the way forward to ameliorate the situation
· Strategies and steps that women can take to change the negative environmental and socio-economic situation in the Niger Delta
At the end of the deliberations, participants made the following observations:
· That the Niger Delta region does not get the right and adequate attention from the Federal and State Governments when it comes to the issues of flooding, environmental protection, and climate change mitigation.
· That government has not responded adequately to the threat of climate change and its impact on the Niger Delta region.
· That the failure of government at all levels has reduced the chances of development in the Niger Delta and in turn condemned the region to adverse socio-economic and environmental challenges
· That the Niger Delta region is at the risk of further devastating floods and adverse environmental consequences if the problems of flooding and climate change are not adequately mitigated by all government agencies, states and institutions.
· That corruption and criminal politics continue to plague and undermine the prospects and opportunities for development in the Niger Delta, and that civil society organization must undertake serious steps to fight and mitigate the impact of corruption on development in the region.
· Several development programmes, agencies and funds are available for the mitigation of environmental problems such as flooding in the Niger Delta, but that the Federal Government has failed to properly prioritize and allocate them to the issues affecting the region.
· That States and Local Government Areas in the Niger Delta are yet to prioritize and incorporate climate change mitigation and climate financing into their developmental and fiscal programmes and policies.
The following recommendations were proposed and suggested for women groups in the Niger Delta
· Women activists and organizations should intensify advocacy, lobbying and institutional engagement with governments at all levels to champion the cause of environmental justice and climate change mitigation in the Niger Delta
· Women were encouraged to harvest the outcomes of the Day of Action and turn them into actionable initiatives that will sustain the goals of the Day of Action and foster social justice for women and communities in the Niger Delta
· Women should actively participate in the political process and ensure that their voices are heard, and interests taken into consideration in all government programs and policies
· Women were also encouraged to change the narrative of patriarchy and all forms of social inequality that reinforces injustice and oppression against women in the Niger Delta.
· That the federal government should properly utilize the ecological fund to address flooding and other environmental challenges plaguing the Niger Delta.
· Local Government Councils should prioritize climate financing into their budgeting and fiscal policies to address the environmental problems in their localities.
At the end of the deliberations, the forum resolved to undertake the following actions:
· Amplify the outcomes of the Day of Action and use them to create proactive steps and actions that will foster change and social justice in the Niger Delta
· Participating groups were specifically encouraged to harvest the outcomes of the Day of Action and turn them into their organizational activities that will amplify the voices of women and add value to women environmental justice struggles in the Niger Delta.
· Work assiduously to engage with government at all levels to ensure that the issues of flooding, environmental degradation and climate change are adequately resolved and addressed.
· Demand accountability and real actions from government and the international oil and gas industry towards the issues of environment and socio-economic devastation that the Niger Delta has suffered without adequate compensation and redress.
· Articulate and develop a women charter of demands for engagement and advocacy with the incoming administration after the 2023 elections.