The Kabetkache Women Development and Resource Center (KWDRC) has demanded the inclusion of women in the decision-making and policy implementation on oil and gas activities in the Niger Delta region.
The Executive Director of the center, Mrs. Emem Okon, made the call on Wednesday in Abuja an interactive meeting with leaders of women networks on consent rights.
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She lamented that community members, especially women, have for long been deliberately excluded from the key decision processes.
She said that patriarchy and capitalism remained the major issues women are contending with in the region, and that the community leadership do not recognize women being part of decision-making processes even when they are more affected by mining activities in the region.
Okon lamented that while extraction of mineral resources is a development module that is adopted by the corporations and the federal government, more attention is being paid to profit making than the health conditions of the people.
“Oil spillage have caused severe fertility issues among women in the Niger Delta, women experience early menopause and these are causing problems because when a woman does not have a child they are traumatized by both families and the society.
“Women are having pregnancy related issues as a result of oil spillage pollution and these are things the men do not understand. Also, when waters are polluted women go the extra miles to look for water for the family which is more burden on the women.
“Women are displaced from farmlands yet discussions excluded them and nobody is talking about alternative means of livelihood, or considering when women are displaced from farming and these issues keep affecting them negatively,” she said.
She added that over the years, activities of mining, extraction have been going on, leading to lands being taken away from the people, and that the remaining land for agriculture has been polluted through oil spillage, laying of pipelines and people are also affected by the continuous flare of gas which pollutes the environment.
“This impacts on health and also affects livelihood. Yet, the community members particularly women have been excluded from key decision-making processes and women are demanding that they want to be involved in those processes.
“They also want to be consulted, their concerns and interest should be included in the decisions, resolutions particularly about oil and Gas extraction and other development processes going on in their community,” she added.
On her part, the National Network Coordinator for the West African Network of Peace-building (WANEP) Nigeria, High Chief Bridget Osakwe, said that concerted efforts will continue to be engaged until women are given their rightful place and the provision needed to live a healthy life is attained.
She also said that there has been a deliberate exclusion of women in policy making and governance in the region, as the needs and consent right of women are not taken into consideration in the processes of identifying community project to resolve degradation of the environment caused by oil spillage by extraction companies and government agencies.
“There are three Germane issues that must be put forward from today’s conversation. One, access to water, a right to clean water. We know that there’s a saying that water is life so why do you want to take away that from women, constitutionally you do not have the right to do so because you know the onus of providing clean water for the family is on women.
“So, it is imperative that we are deliberate and intentional about making the right to water a reality.
“Secondly is inclusion, having rights to decision making processes at all levels, especially at the community level.
“The third is about inheritance rights. Women are disinherited from their father’s house and from their husbands, so statelessness for women. And you say we should not complain? We will continue to agitate until we see that these issues are tackled rightly,” Osakwe said.
Also, the Coordinator, Msa Okase Initiative Eleme, Dr. Patience Osaroejiji, lamented the effects of pollution in the region.
She said that oil spills have destroyed available lands women use in farming denying them their basic means of livelihood.
“So, when the women say that the oil companies have not done anything. And the company on the other hand say they have released millions of naira for corporate social responsibility. Women are not wrong because they are not part of these processes.
“Some of the companies implement a global memorandum of understanding for instance, Shell has cluster development boards and Community Trust, Chevron has the Regional Development Councils, but are women included?
“What we are doing is empowering women so that they will not remain as victims every time but be among when decision are taken, not just in numbers, but let their voices matter, let their needs be taken into consideration,” she said.