The recent Women’s Climate Assembly held in the Niger Delta from 17-20 October 2022 was the largest women’s climate gathering in Africa bringing together well over 100 women activists from 11 countries across West and Central Africa. The groundbreaking event co-hosted by leading women’s movements and local community organisations hosted women community leaders and social movement activists from Guinea Conakry, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria. These are the women who shoulder the worsening impacts of climate disasters in their daily lives despite having contributed nothing at all to the growing climate crisis. This represents the start of a permanent assembly of African women for climate and development justice.
Participating women activists are impacted by destructive extractive activities such as mining, oil and gas extraction; industrial agriculture, fishing and forestry; and mega energy and infrastructure projects. The four-day convergence provided a critical space to centre African women’s voices and enabled women to share their experiences; build new critical knowledge to inform strategies of resistance; learn from each other; imagine a different community, society, and Africa; and deepen Pan African solidarity. Activists asserted their rights to free, prior and informed consent as well as their Right to Say No to destructive development agendas that harm communities and rob them of their lands and livelihoods in the name of profit for a few. The assembly presented a timely opportunity for women to discuss real solutions and development alternatives to the neoliberal economic model that continues to destroy our natural resources and extract benefits for countries in the Global North at the cost of countless African lives.
“We don’t want the gas burning any more. Let us have our lives today because we don’t know what will happen to our next generation and their times will be even worse than this.” – Nigeria Delegation demands
The recent floods in Nigeria leaving large swathes of agricultural land under water and displacing over a million people, with over 3,000 dead was a stark reminder to participants and the world to act with urgency to address the roots of the climate crisis. Though Africa has contributed less than 3% of all carbon emissions since 1880 and is warming faster than any other region in the world, it has contributed least to the climate crisis. By 2050, as many as 86 million Africans will be forced to migrate within their own countries due to climate change.
“We demand that our governments at COP27… take into consideration where the oil and other resource exploration will happen because our communities should not suffer for this. Communities’ rights matter! Give to communities what belongs to them. Women must be involved in negotiations wherever there are decisions to be made about oil and resources. We women are responsible for life—we handle households, livelihoods, and everything essential for daily survival and so we must be present in negotiations too.” – Senegal Delegation demands
The deepening of extensive movements of African women in countries and at a Pan African level resisting extractive activities, demanding sovereign debt cancellation, organising for the climate debt to be settled by historically responsible countries and polluters, and deepening living alternatives offers Africa, its governments and citizens, the road to a just and equitable future.