Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre continues to amplify women’s voices in the struggle against unjust extraction and degradation of the environment by multinational corporations operating in the Niger Delta communities. Under the Power-Up project, Kebetkache hosted women community activists from Nigeria and Zimbabwe to an exchange learning meeting under the Power Up project supported by COMIC Relief, Kebetkache hosted 22 women community activists from Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe to a regional exchange meeting from 13th – 18th August 2023 in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, Nigeria. The project is implemented by WoMIN African Alliance headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) in Zimbabwe and Kebetkache in Nigeria. The project is building the capacity of grassroots women in 7 project sites to articulate their issues and say to destructive resource extraction models of development. Over the past 4 years the project has supported the convening of women safe spaces, advocacy for women inclusion and participation in decision-making, local advocacy action for access to clean water, local campaign researches, and staff capacity building. The Power-Up project builds women solidarity on the Right to Say NO!
Women carry most of the costs of the destructive economic system and the violence it breeds. In most communities there is an unfair gender division of labor where women are expected to care for family members, put food on the table and earn income. Thus, it is usually women who must walk further in search of clean drinking water and firewood when extractives companies take their land, water, and fuel sources. When air, water, and soil pollution lead to diseases such as cancers and respiratory illness, the work of caring for the sick falls on women and girls in families. This adds to their already heavy workloads increasing the time it takes to meet basic family needs.
During the learning exchange meeting, the participants visited Ruemekpe, Okwuzi and Aluu communities in Rivers state, to see sites of gas flares and oil spills. Glaring, as the women saw a land been rendered unproductive by Oil Spill. From the field experience and follow up discussions between Niger Delta women and the exchange team, there was a general consensus that natural resources have not been a blessing to Africa, especially, women because of the destruction that comes with extraction and the heavy reliance of African governments on revenue from mining. From the project sites, the women reported engagement with community leaders and the nomination of some women into community development committees. One of the women is made a women leader. Through the power-up project women in the project sites are more organized to hold community members accountable.
Communities in the Niger Delta are militarized and community members face daily incidents of violence. Company security, with the help of state security are protecting the oil and gas installations and facilities. Fierce looking armed men threaten and intimidate local people, using physical violence. Women and girls are often subjected to sexualized violence, including sexual harassment and rape often resulting in sexual slavery, high sex trade and forced marriages.
As a group of people, resisting the expansion and extraction of fossil fuel across Africa, the women demand as follows -
1. African women say No to a destructive, harmful, and unjust economic system that creates lives of hardship and poverty for most people across resource rich African countries.
2. Law makers both at the federal and state levels should repeal laws and practices that disempowers and deprive women from getting access to land, economic resources and all other development opportunities and benefits.
3. Communities hosting mining as well as oil and gas operations deserve better benefits from the resources in their land and from their governments.
4. The voices of women in Africa on fossil fuel extraction be strengthened by exchange programmes, capacity building, joint actions, increased funding, networking and movement building.
The women pledged willingness and commitment to keep the tempo of organizing against oppression of host Communities until success is achieved and expressed gratitude to Comic Relief for their continued solidarity and support for the cause and commended Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre for hosting the exchange visit.
Endorsed by African Women from Nigeria and Zimbabwe;
Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre
Okwuzi Women Association
Alauchi Women Development Initiative
Mba Okase of Eleme
Abua Women Development Association
Sese Community Women