Reclaiming the Climate- It’s Time to Prioritize Gender Sensitivity

Olanike
Posted August 14, 2015 from Nigeria
A silted watercourse: Evidence of Climate Change Impact in Nigeria
Woman washing clothes in a silted river in Dangaro village, Gombe State, Nigeria (Source: Greengirl)
A Typical Nursery Bed
A Typical Nursery Bed: Women and Children in rural communities engage in nursery gardening as a means livelihood; and this is largely threatened by flooding and erosion. (Source: Green Girl) (1/1)

NIGERIA- Devastating floods, erosion, drought, desertification, hurricanes, and various other forms of natural disasters are here with us; and the sad reality is that it is reinforcing gender inequalities in no small measure. Climate change is making access to natural resources a delusion, and women are becoming helpless by the day, as they strive to adjust to changing climate realities. Majority of women in the rural areas remain ill informed and ill equipped to help themselves, their families and communities. They constitute the most vulnerable groups, in the face of climate induced adversities.

Recent months have been the hottest in my part of the world! Concerned by the jarring heat one sun-drenched afternoon, I couldn’t help but use the Google weather application on my phone to check out the day’s weather information. It was no surprise to see that the temperature was as high as 120° Fahrenheit. I found the figure rather abnormal particularly because it was supposed to be the raining season.

I grew up with an understanding that spring time in Nigeria starts in April and ends in October, while the Harmattan (Dry) season was expected to last from November to March. Of course, in recent times, the skies seem to have lost the power to shower the earth as at when outght. It cannot be overstated that weather patterns, across the globe, have become very unpredictable in the face of climate change, traceable to man’s excesses. Speak of air pollution, deforestation, encroachment on flood plains, poor waste disposal practices etc.

The evidences of extreme weather conditions with damning consequences on man and the environment are now as plain as the nose on a man’s face. Discoveries from an ongoing socio-economic study, which I am anchoring in flood and erosion prone/affected and communities across Gombe Central Senatorial district, of Nigeria, remains eye opening; just as it unveils the tales of woe that has become the lot of the residents.

Many watercourses and vast areas of land have become silted and or gullied due to erosion and flooding. From Yamaltu to Ako Local government areas of Gombe State, the story is no different. Vast areas of land have been degraded and becoming unfit for human habitation and as is often the case in disaster situations, the women are the worst affected.

While standing by the brim of a high spot overlooking the dangerously eroded and silted Dangaro River (which could now best be described as a very wide and deep gully during the dry season), my eyes became fastened on a human figure, obviously a woman, who was washing clothes in the dry riverbed. I couldn’t stop wondering the source of water for her laundry, as the paltry pool in sight was muddy brown.

As I was soon to find out when I got close to the woman who introduced herself as Hadiza, her source of water was a bucket-sized shallow hole she dug into a section of the dry watercourse cum gully. “This is where I collect water to meet my drinking, cooking and washing needs, particularly in the dry season; as the taps in our village seldom runs” she reveals . Hadiza, a household head who lives in Dangaro village with her children says that “collecting water from the dried up river is draining as it takes so much of her time and strength”.

Though the water appeared clean to my probing eyes, it definitely could not be void of contaminants, particularly as the entire grounds remains accessible to wandering animals and humans. Worst still households in the community rely on pit latrines and just as they also practice open defecation. There were accounts of the outbreak of cholera and displacements in the community.

Binta, a housewife who also lives in Dangaro village is scared stiff that her home which has now become very close to the ever widening river Dangaro, may one day be swept away by flood waters. “The rainy season is here again and we have nowhere else to go” she laments.

Mr. Gamaliel S., an environmental expert linked the rising trend of flood and erosion situation in communities to the global climate change crisis, and acknowledges that women in rural communities are not having it easy at all”. Citing an example of the situation in Dadinkowa community in Yamaltu Local Government Area, he tells me that “women in the community are crying out for help, as flood and erosion is disrupting their livelihoods and threatening their living areas.

Majority of the women in the community engage in subsistence farming and many have lost their vegetable farms and gardens to flooding and erosion. “Now that the rainy season is setting in, their worries are becoming heightened again” he adds.

Past efforts made to arrest the alarming spate of floods and erosion have failed; however, hope beams; as the government of the day is taking novel measures to help affected communities. Even as I am aware that work has started in earnest towards developing an ‘Ecological Master Plan’ for Gombe State, towards tackling identified threats, it has become pertinent to sound an alarm that- the voices of women in the affected communities must count throughout the entire process.

Women must be allowed full representation, participation and leadership in organized activities, as this is key to building ecological ingenuity, resilience and vibrancy in the communities.I am eager to see women’s needs, abilities and solutions prioritized in the drive towards reclaiming the climate and also restoring the environment. How about you?

Comments 3

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Victoria Green
Aug 21, 2015
Aug 21, 2015

Dear Olanike (Greengirl)

It took me a while to research who is hiding behind the Greengirl. My attention was driven to the quality of the article and the language accuracy. 

Thank you so much for bringing out the informative truth about Nigeria's climate change issues.

You bring a powerfull message withing the title: gender sensitivity. Are men not involved in daily familly routine? Don't they drink from the same water? Or, by this you want to emphasize the lack of women in leadership in that area? 

Binta, Hadiza became unvoluntarilly witnesses of the climate change effects. Would you please continue the story, interviewing more people in the village about the water issue they are facing. Maybe, one day we could see a day in life of Hadiza through a photostory. 

It is a delight that you can use modern technology - like Google app to see the weather condition. In my case, I was not so lucky. I wanted mainly to learn more about the villages like Dangaro and other areas you were mentioning. I cannot even spot Dangaro river on the map. 

In the end, I invite you to explore the link "Gender and climate change toolkit" of 2010 http://nigeriacan.org/web/download/_1284374622.pdf Maybe you have a more better update on that. 

With best thoughts for good weather in Nigeria, 

Victoria, 

Worldpulse Environment Group Community Facilitator

"We won't have a society if we destroy the environment"

Olanike
Aug 23, 2015
Aug 23, 2015

Hello Veronica,

I am glad you found my article quite informative, and must thank you for reaching out with your invaluable feedback. The question you asked about men's involvement in daily family routine is striking. Well, the situation in my country, particularly at the grassroots,  is such that women and girls are the ones who bear the responsibility of cooking, collecting water and sourcing for cooking energy (e.g. firewood) among other domestic routines they are saddled with. It is however sad that it is the men that take on and dominate decision-making as it concerns these grey areas.

The bottomline is that there is a long entrenched practice of leaving women out of descision making, such that their voices are often left out of the very issues that concern and affect them. Across most communities,  women are denied their  rights, roles and responsibilities in managing natural resources. Little wonder then that they constitute the most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental challenges.

It's no surprise that you were not able to find Dangoro River on the map(s) you checked out. The river is flood induced and seasonal; as it used to be just a small stream. Even so, it is located within a remote settlement. I hope to also do some  research by first finding Dangoro village on a map.

Please be assured that I love the idea of interviewing more people and also doing a photostory; which you put forward. However, it can only happen whenever such opportunity opens up. I say this becuase the Ecological Mapping project is on hold at the moment as a result of issues that border on insecurity in North Eastern part of Nigeria. I am hoping earnestly that peace and tranquility will be restored across the region before long.

I sincerely appreciate the time you took to carry out additional research and also for sharing your findings with me. I visited the link you shared in your comment and I am sure that it will interest you to know that I've succesfully downloaded the 'Gender and Climate Change Tookkit'; which I very much look forward to reading and also making the most of. I will keep you posted, as may be neccessary.

All  the best!

Olanike

Victoria Green
Aug 26, 2015
Aug 26, 2015

Dear Olanike, 

thank you so much for clarifying this questions, I am sure our members will be also interested in. Let's make wishes for a peaceful time in Nigeria!

See you soon,

Victoria