Right to Say NO – African organisations resist the expansion and extraction of fossil fuels

Group women participants during the regional learning exchange meeting in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre continues to amplify women’s voices in the struggle against unjust resource extraction and degradation of the environment by multinational corporations operating in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Under the Power Up project supported by Comic Relief, Kebetkache hosted 22 women community activists from Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe for a regional exchange meeting in Port Harcourt from 13 to 18 August 2023. The Power Up project builds women solidarity on the Right to Say NO! and is implemented by WoMin African Alliance headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance 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 No 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 research, and staff capacity building.

Women carry most of the costs of a destructive economic system and the violence it breeds. In most communities there is an unfair gender division of labour where women are expected to care for family members, put food on the table and earn an income. Thus, it is usually women who must walk further in search of clean drinking water and firewood when extractive companies take their land, water, and fuel resources. 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 workload, increasing the time it takes to meet basic family needs.

During the learning exchange meeting participants visited the Ruemekpe and Okwuzi communities in Rivers state to see sites of gas flares and oil spills where the women saw land that had been rendered unproductive by oil spills. From the field experiences and follow up discussions between women from the Niger Delta and the exchange team there was 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. Through the Power Up project women in the project sites are more organised to hold community members accountable.

Community areas in the Niger Delta are militarized, and community members face daily incidents of violence. Company security, with the help of state security, are protecting 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 sexualised violence including sexual harassment and rape often resulting in sexual slavery, a high sex trade and forced marriages.

Our Demands

As a group of people resisting the expansion and extraction of fossil fuels across Africa the women’s demands follow below:

  • Africans should 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.
  • Lawmakers both at the federal and state levels should repeal laws and practices that disempower and deprive women from getting access to land, economic resources and all other development opportunities and benefits.
  • Communities hosting mining, oil and gas operations deserve better benefits from the resources in their land and from their governments.
  • The voices of African women on fossil fuel extraction be strengthened by exchange programmes, capacity building, joint actions, increased funding, networking and movement building.

The women pledged a willingness and commitment to keep the tempo of organising against oppression of resource host communities until success is achieved and expressed their 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.

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