NEW REPORT Women Activists Confront Energy Inequality & Dirty Coal in
“We are the victims of pollution and victims of energy poverty”: Coal affected women in Phola-Ogies speak out!
WoMin and the Greater Phola-Ogies Women’s Forum are proud to launch a new Feminist Participatory Action Report (FPAR), “We are the victims of pollution and victims of energy poverty”: Coal affected women in Phola-Ogies Speak Out!
The report profiles women’s voices and experiences of energy poverty in the Phola-Ogies area. In 2018, women activists from the Phola-Ogies Women’s Forum initiated an FPAR process to better understand and analyse the links between mining, water struggles and access to energy in their community. They conducted the research with 200 women on the streets, in their homes, in public spaces such as clinics and through focus group discussions.
Read the report in English
The cost of coal in Mpumalanga
Situated in Mpumalanga province, the town of Ogies and the township of Phola have suffered heavy impacts due to coal activities. Once the food basket of South Africa, Mpumalanga’s once-fertile farmland has been taken over by 13 opencast and underground coal mines, and by 3 coal-fired power stations, including Kusile, which is still under construction. Since the area was declared part of the ‘Highveld Priority Area’ by the South African Government’s Department of Environmental Affairs in 2007, with a plan to address high levels of pollution signed in 2011, the situation has worsened.
South Africa’s dependence on coal for electricity generation, with over 90% of South Africa’s energy coming from dirty coal, has had a devastating impact on the health of people living in affected areas.
Economic growth at the expense of lives
The report lays bare the plight of women when it comes to energy poverty and the effect of big coal projects that forcefully displace communities, destroy natural resources, and impact health and livelihoods. Coal mines and coal-fired power plants benefit the government and “economic growth and development” at the expense of those who live at the coalface of these projects. Power cables pass over their homes to supply mega-industries with energy while communities are left to breathe dirty air, inhale dust, drink contaminated water and struggle to access energy to sustain their lives and livelihoods. In Phola-Ogies, as with many communities across South Africa, it is women who bear the brunt of inadequate access to energy.
Women demand a transition to people-owned power
This ground-breaking report draws its conclusion by calling on the government to transition to people- owned power which is sustainable, clean, safe and affordable. The women of Phola-Ogies demand that their voices be heard when it comes to the decision-making process on access to energy. They equally demand that their rights to a healthy environment, good air quality, clean water, energy justice and to Life be respected. They refuse to be the “victims of pollution and victims of energy poverty.”
On 10 November 2020, the report will launch in Phola, Mpumalanga at the Siyathokoza Community Centre. Over sixty women from the community along with women activists from the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Limpopo and North West who have similar experiences of energy poverty and the harmful impacts of extractivism will share their testimonies.
November 10 is a day of importance for environmental defenders across the African continent. On this date, the Ogoni 9 from the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in Nigeria were hanged for resisting oil extraction in their territory. In the wake of the brutal assassination of activist, Fikile Ntshangase who had resolved to stand with her community and say NO to the expansion of the Tendele coal mine in Somkhele, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – the voices of the women from Phola-Ogies are that much more vital to ongoing struggles for energy and climate justice.