CLIMATE CHANGE: NIGERIAN WOMEN IS STILL FACING THE CHALLENGE OF ACCESS TO SERVICES AND TECHNOLOGIES FOR BASIC NEEDS
Climate change has become a prominent issue in international discourse in recent times. In fact, it is the foremost phenomenon the world is paying closer attention to now due to its ability to have far reaching effect on human life: such as agriculture, architecture, medical, nutritional, social, transportation and commerce.
Unfortunately, while the western world and other parts of the world are technologically advanced and were able to foresee the advent of this climate change, African and the nations there in are caught unaware. This may be as a result of number of reasons. Some of these are lack of technological where whither, corruption and misplaced priority on the part of the government, ignorance and lack of commitment.
Women constitute the backbone of production and commerce in Africa from the time immemorial. A cursory look at any traditional rural setting will reveal to a quick observer the important role women play in the traditional African society. Women as early as 6am wake up in the rural areas in Nigeria to go to their farms to be able to work and cover much ground before the sun comes up. The children because of their age and the fact that they could not walk as fast as their mothers would be running along. This is the daily routine of an average rural woman in Nigeria in order to be able to make enough food for the survival of her family. Mention any rural based production necessary goods like farming, animal husbandry, palm oil extraction, soap making, pottery and shear butter making. Women play prominent roles in all these sections of societal life. They also market the finished products and make sure the left over are kept and preserved for future utilization.
From afore stated facts, it is pertinent to deduce that climate change in any form affects women adversely. It therefore could hinders and disturbs them in rendering their productive and commercial functions in their society. Note should be taken of the fact that the prominent role women play in production in Africa does not divest them of their domestic duties at homes to their husbands, children and the extended family. It is still expected of them to fetch water from a far away place because of drought for the use of the family, to collect firewood in a far away busy for cooking because of deforestation. She has to keep her children away from school many times to help her with these workload and in most cases the girls children are the ones that suffered because in the African setting they have to be prepared to be useful for their future husbands. Women are the ones that are mostly affected yet they are the ones that would not be listened to by the politician because they believe women should be represented by men. Inequalities between men and women combined with climate change will continue to increase the vulnerability of women and girls in Africa.
TALKING ABOUT THE PROBLEM
Speaking about climate change, in Nigeria for example, there is tropical climate with variable rainy and dry seasons depending on the location. The length of rainy seasons decreases from south to north. Therefore it should be noted that different zone will have different effects, while some areas suffers serious precipitation, desertification will be increasing in some areas. As a result of all these changes, there will several impacts. Some of these are sahelization that is increased, unpredicted rain which will affect agricultural products adversely. For example new yam that normally comes out in May every year in Nigeria, may not come out until July this year because of the irregular rainfall. The heat have also destroy most of the yams planted inside the soil which means yams output will be reduced drastically this year. These all suggest that food security condition may become more tenuous under climate change since agriculture remains the main source of food for most of Nigerian population. The excessive heat is making it more difficult for many of the crops to thrive. With the heat, the weather is conducive for insect to breed and as a result of this both the grains, crops and even the farmers will be affected. The grains with crop pest, the crops like yams loose their viability and their level of productivity affected. Due to higher temperature, humidity, increased flooding and reduced fresh water availability, there will be increased diseases, worse sanitary and health facilities as the women’s little resources diverted to buying drugs, increase malnutrition due to food shortage.
Palm oil extraction which is also an exclusive work of women in Nigeria has these processes:-
- extraction of palm fruits from the bunches
- boiling the fruits in drums to soften them
- mashing the fruits to separate juicy husk from the kennels
- mashing the husk again to extract the oily juice from the husk
- extracting oil from the juice
- Cooking the oil extract to separate pure oil from the dreg.
- Storing and finally marketing the oil.
From the above, it is clear that the process of palm oil making is both labour and financial intensive. There is need for so much water which is always a lot of hassles to get for the women because of the drought. I was at the women’s farm meeting them right at the middle of their work and they are able to voice some of their concerns and needs. They said, “at times have to walk for miles before we could get water, at times we have to move our mills to a place that is nearer a river which may be so many miles to our homes.” The only stage that has been mechanized recently is when the cooked palm fruit is to be mashed to separate the kennels from the juicy husk that is stage three. All other stages have to be done manually by the women. With the provision of bore holes in the villages and micro credit facilities, the hardship of the women could be ameliorated but the women do not have representatives to fight their causes to bring about this. Palm oil is a seasonal product, if the women can have access to loan to prosecute the production, they can stock their goods for some months and sell and make significant profit during off season periods. As the situation is now, it is the middle men that make all the profit. They buy from the women in season and stock to sell at the off season period. Thus it is the case of monkey works, baboon eats. There is also the impact of damaged transportation routes through floods, waves and heat and as a result of which it becomes more difficult for the women to carry their goods to the market. Many of the products would have been destroyed before they trek the tens of kilometers to the nearest market due to damaged roads. There is also the impact of climate change on the MDG goals. It is becoming more difficult to eradicate poverty and hunger especially in the developing countries, Nigeria an example due to increase economic and food insecurity as a result of the extremity of weather in the nations. There is also need for more time in finding fresh water and food which resulted to many children especially the girls to drop out of school to help their mothers. Many children also drop out of school due to ill- health.
Climate change is making the struggle for women’s right in Africa be more and more difficult. As the workload is becoming much for the mother alone, girls children are forced to abandon school to help at home which means the girls will not have education. And as a result of this they will not be able to earn a living and will be dependent on their husbands who can as well treat them the way they like.
Also in most countries where climate has the most consequences, women are marginalize and so they are prevented from being part of climate change debate. For example in Nigeria house of senate, out of the 109 seats, we have only 9 women and they have even been reduced to 7 now in the last election. The voice of women is so low that it is as if they are not there at all.
Deforestation and desert encroachment continue to eat many Africa and Asia nations deep. In Nigeria, women continue to travel to tens of miles looking for water and firewood for the family needs which is believed to be their sole responsibilities. When there are flood women and children are much more affected. They are rendered homeless and therefore exposed to all kinds of danger from diseases to sexual harassment
Climate Change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of severe weather events. Unfortunately many developing countries largely lack the infrastructure necessary to respond adequately to such events. There should be a way to help these developing countries and as this is done vulnerability of women will be reduced. For example rainfall patterns could devastate rain-fed agriculture on which so much of the population depend on to survive, if there is early warning, farmers would be prepared for when there would be rainfall and to plan their planting accordingly. In Nigeria, food production increase has not kept pace with population growth which resulting in rising food import and declining levels of national food self sufficiency. The burden to get enough food for the family is on the women and girls, this burden will be reduced if there is high mechanization, enough small scale holdings and women have free access to land. The men counterpart should made to realize that they should be fully involved in the activities of food production, getting water and firewood in the rural places to alleviate the burden of the women. The culture of silence and patriarchy which is making the achievement of gender equality becoming and more and more difficult in Africa should be discouraged. Women should be empowered the more economically for their voices to be heard in the society. Many women could not say no to their husbands sexual advances even when they are very tired and they know that they have many lovers and the tendency of being effected with diseases are high due to the culture of patriarchy that is very much on ground in Africa and Asian countries. African, Nigeria inclusive still believes that women are part of possession of their husbands and that whatever the husband says bind on the wife. Men especially in Nigeria can have even more than ten wives so as to have a big farm because the more your wives the bigger your farm. It is the women that they will be using to cultivate and harvest their crops and they must not complain. Women through equipping them with good educational background would be encouraged to speak out and say no to any forms of oppression. More women should be encouraged to be involved in the politics of their communities so that the lack of leadership that continue to plague them would be reduced as they are more represented in Government and be more involved in the policy making of their countries. This will help the women to bring about policies that will combat the expected climate change which will thereby reduce the vulnerability of the women and girls. The stereotypical attitudes towards gender roles should be discouraged so that both genders would be able to compliment each other in the roles to adapt to climate change. The roles of looking for water and firewood should not be made exclusively the roles of women; their male counterparts could also be part of this exercise. Women especially in the developing countries have proven to have a very high level of commitment on their part to rural entrepreneurship development if consideration is given to the number of hours they put into the food production processes alone. Therefore to maximize their efforts in being able to be economically viable and climate change friendly, their health condition should be improved through improvement from the traditional and outdated technology for food processing. There should be a way of lessen their burden by making most of the processing to be mechanized instead of being manual. Women should be given the right the right to own land not that they will be working on their husband’s land who will the one that will take the lion share of the money realized from the farm when it was the woman that need most of the work. The income of the women should commemorate their labour. Education and finance play important roles in achieving needed raised agricultural productivity and increased income.
When they are educated and equipped with necessary fund they will have the boldness to say no to huge labour, small income. There should be creation of water tanks and reservoirs in drying places by the government so that water would be available round the year. They should promote water recycling and re-use and greater efficiency in water use that is making irrigation more efficient. There should provision of pipe borne water in the villages so that they issue of water shortage and water borne diseases will be solved. There should be provision of good roads with drainages in the rural areas for efficient transportation of goods. Carrying the goods to the market to sell are exclusively the work of the women, therefore many of them because of the rigours of trekking miles every now and then, they do not live to old age. This does not border their male counterpart especially in Nigeria because they believe that if a wife died you can always marry another one without any hassles. They believe women are many and they could pick as many as they want at any time. There should be designing of railway lines taking into consideration expected changes in climate so that goods that can not be transported by road could be transported through this means. Strengthening the health care delivery system and developing public awareness on health issue to reduce diseases and mortality rate. Women should be educated to take proper rest; many will work and work until they could not lift their hands again. They should be encouraged to go on medical check up from time to time. Government, communities, individuals and NGOs should be encouraged to plant woodlots to fight deforestation, to check erosion and to combat the main polluter which is the carbon dioxide.
In conclusion at the international level, all the stake holders should be educated and encouraged to accept the reality of climate change. They should be made to realize that climate change should be expected and prepared for. Many African countries are not prepared for the changes and that is why the victims are so many.
Above all women empowerment must be a priority globally because most of the problem facing women as a result of inequalities can be tackled if women have economic power. Women will be independent at heart with economic power but in a situation whereby they hardly do anything on their own, there is or no right such people could claim.
Founder/CEO, Women Inspiration Development Center
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