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

Olanike
Posted August 30, 2015 from Nigeria
Woman washing clothes in a silted river in Dangaro Village, Gombe State, Nigeria. (Source: Greengirl)
A Silted Watercourse: Evidence of Climate Change Impact in Nigeria.

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 all high-120° Fahrenheit! I found the figure rather abnormal particularly because it was supposed to be the rainy 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 and 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 have 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 help but wonder what the source of water for her laundry was, becuase 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 energy”.

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, just as they also practice open defecation. It was no surprise that 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 Steven, 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 informs 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. Nonetheless, hope beams as the government of the day is taking novel measures to help affected communities. Much as I am aware that work has started in earnest towards developing an ‘Ecological Master Plan’ for Gombe State, aimed at 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?

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Comments 11

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OMagdalena
Sep 05, 2015
Sep 05, 2015

Dear Greengirl,

thank you for sharing this story! Beautifully written! It is a clear example of how climate changes affect everyday living and make it almost impossible to live in some areas of the world.

I have seen many examples of climate changes in Poland (country of my birth), but as I am not from the rural environment, these changes, even if noticed, did not have that much influence on my life, so I can say I was lucky not to be forced to deal with these effects face to face. That's why your voice is so important - to remind all of us, how the situation looks like in Nigeria.

I share your view - that because of the type of tasks women are dealing with, they experience effects of climate changes in their daily activities and duties more and more, and i share your hope that their voice will be heard!

all the best ,

Magdalena

Olanike
Sep 06, 2015
Sep 06, 2015

Dear Magdaena,

It's great to read your thoughts, and I truly appreciate your openness about what you know about the impact climate change in your country. There is no doubt that an understanding of the reality of how people are affected differently across the globe matters, in the efforts being made to find long term solutions. I am glad that you were able to get a glimpse of the situation in Nigeria, through the story.

I am glad to know that you share my views, and sincerely appreciate your solidarity. I look forward to learning more about you, your work, and your community/country through your posts. Let's saty connected!

Olanike

Dani26
Sep 06, 2015
Sep 06, 2015

Dear Greengirl,

Thanks so much for sharing your writing. I agree with you that women need full participation, representation and leadership in activities to build environmental sustainability in communities. I think your article brings a much needed 'gender sensitive lens' to this issue, because it is women who are often most affected and bear a disproportionate burden of the impact of climate change. I really enjoyed reading your article, and particularly to learn of the impact of climate change on women in Nigeria. I hope to read some more of your work on World Pulse.

Warm wishes,

Dani

Olanike
Sep 06, 2015
Sep 06, 2015

Hello Dani,

Thank you so much for reading and also reaching out with your encouraging words. I am thrilled to read these all too important addition from you: ".........because it is women who are often most affected and bear a disproportionate burden of the impact of climate change".

It's honoring to know that you are interested in checking out other posts I've shared on World Pulse. Please be assured that I am very much open to receiving your feed back. let's keep the conversation going.

Blessings, Olanike

Kristina M
Sep 07, 2015
Sep 07, 2015

Dear Olanike,

Thank you for sharing your observations of what you are seeing in Nigeria.  I agree that the changes in weather patterns can be seen globally.  In my part of the world, (the western United States) "the skies have also lost the power to shower the Earth" and we have had huge forest fires in the region for the past several weeks. 

You mention the government is taking new approaches to help communities.  Could you tell us what some of those approaches are?  And are they remembering to include the women in these solutions?

Olanike
Sep 08, 2015
Sep 08, 2015

Dear Kristina,

I am so glad to hear from you, even as I very much appreciate you collaborating my story with your experience of happenings in your part of the world. So sorry about the devastation caused by the huge forest fires. I have been following the updates on Aljazeera- a news channels I watch regularly.

The question you raised about the new approaches being taken by the government  is much welcomed. Among other laudable steps are the following: measures are being put in place to -  ensure that only highly competent consultancy firms carry out the ongoing mapping studies and execute planned intervention projects; demarcate and enforce restrictions that will forestall encroachment on disaster prone areas; and educate communities about appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies. The truth however, is that current awareness levels still eaves much to be desired.

Speaking of the inclusion of women in these solutions, I cannot authoritatively tell you that the government has put in place a gender sensitive and responsive agenda or  measures. As things stand, the Ecological Mapping Project was awarded to different consultancy firms, each of which will be undertaking its assigned tasks independently within an allotted coverage area. I am part of the project team of one of these firms. It may, therefore, interest you to know that it is only on the basis of my personal interests, concerns and commitment towards gender sensitive and responsive governance that I continue pushing for women's full inclusion in the ongoing study.

Guess what? Your last question helped me realize that moving on, there is certainly a need to advocate for the prioritization of women's solution's. I am inspired to do start taking some steps in that regard. I will do my best to keep you posted. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your views.

Hugs and appreciation,

Olanike

Sep 08, 2015
Sep 08, 2015
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amymorros
Sep 09, 2015
Sep 09, 2015

Thank you. The photo you have included is such a stark reminder of the desertification taking place in West Africa. I saw it back in the 1990's in Mali. It is difficult for many peeople in the US to imagine what you have seen with your own eyes. There are changes here but they either seem small or people simply ignore them and say to themselves that it is good that the winter is warmer and they continue to drive their large gas guzzling vehicles. I do know there are many people like you working towards solutions and demading that our officials include women in the process. We are all in this together! 

Olanike
Sep 10, 2015
Sep 10, 2015

Thank you too, Amy for reaching out with your highly encouraging and illuminating thoughts. While the changes in weather patterns is happening so fast globally, it's obvious that so many people who are aware of unfolding trends continue to downplay it.

The rest of the world often look up to America to lead the way, so I am surprised to know that inspite f the high level f awareness over there, the issue of climate change  is still not getting the due attention it deserves from the people. In my part of the world, the story is that while people are aware of the ongoing devastating changes, they are ill informed about the root cause. It is such a paradox!

There is no time to give up on efforts targeted towards creating/awareness about attendant impacts, finding solutions and fostering climate justice. The need to include women in the process in not negotiable. Yes, we are all in this together!

Olanike

amymorros
Sep 14, 2015
Sep 14, 2015

Well said. On the positive side, there are many groups in the US (like the Sierra Club) trying to change minds and advocate for change. There is hope!

Sep 10, 2015
Sep 10, 2015
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