By Glory Amara Brendan-Otuojor
On the 5th of December, 2023, Development Impact Pathfinders Initiative (Devimpath) in partnership with Centre for 21st Century Issues (21st) hosted a virtual workshop that brought together over 57 stakeholders to share evidence, correlations and deepen conversations around the intersection of climate change and GBV. The purpose of the workshop was to amplify the call to end gender-based violence and forge a new front for effective integration of GBV response mechanisms into climate change mitigation and adaptation programmes in Nigeria.
The theme of the workshop, Deepening awareness and conversations around the intersection of climate change and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) was adjudged by participants to be timely, coming at a time when world leaders were gathered in Dubai for the twenty-eight Conference of Parties (COP28) to climate change to define the next line of actions against climate change, a global challenge that has been considered the worst threat to the planet and humanity worldwide. It was also regarded as timely because it came at the time when there is a global call to end violence against women and girls under the auspices of the 16 days of Activism against GBV. Both climate change and GBV impact socioeconomic development and impede achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The workshop sort to answer the following questions:
- How does climate change and climate hazards exacerbate GBV risks, and social impacts, including harmful practices against women and girls?
- What National efforts are there to address climate change and to what extent has GBV and harmful practices against women and girls been integrated into these efforts?
- How can the National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change be used to support GBV prevention and response efforts in Nigeria?
- Can climate justice activism be used to drive the end GBV campaign and promote the meaningful participation of women and girls in climate change solutions, policy-making and adaptation programming in Nigeria?
- In what ways can synergy be built for shared success in both the end GBV and climate justice campaigns in Nigeria?
The workshop was moderated by Glory Amara Brendan-Otuojor, Executive Director of Devimpath. Speakers x-rayed the impacts of climate change on gender and affirmed that though climate change affects the entire population, women and girls are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and suffer the most due to their heavy dependence on natural resources that are also particularly vulnerable to climate change. Dr. Eghosa Ekhator, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Derby, United Kingdom spoke about climate change and its impacts on livelihoods in Nigeria and recounted how the devastation of the environment in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria is affecting vulnerable women and livelihoods of poor communities. He also highlighted that gender roles, exclusion from family inheritance, lack of access to resources and some cultural believes and practices pose barriers to women’s access environmental justice. Dr. Ekhator further outlined some progress that have been made towards addressing climate change of which the new Climate Action Act is one. He encouraged CSOs to utilize the policies and legal resources available to seek climate and environmental justice in court. Training of lawyers and enforcement of environmental laws were also recommended.
A World Bank publication – Climate change and gender-based violence — interlinked crises in East Africa, stipulates that 216 million people could be forced to migrate within their own countries by climate change, of which the majority would be women and children. It also notes that flooding, droughts and extreme weather disasters which are triggered by climate change can lead to displacements of vulnerable communities and when communities are displaced by flooding for instance, women, children and people with disabilities (PWDs) tend to suffer more. GBV risks for women and girls such as exposure to sexual assaults, exploitation, trafficking and intimate partner acts of violence will increase either in transit, displacement camps or living without resources. In drought situation, women also face greater risk of land grabbing as they move to protect their land and natural resources.
In connecting the dots between climate change and GBV in Nigeria, Mrs Morenike Omaiboje, the Director of Programmes with Women’s Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON) opined that although climate change does not directly lead to GBV but it can be a multiplier of the drivers of GBV. She said, “women and girls are primary providers of water, energy, food and some other basic domestic needs in Nigeria and the availability of these resources is affected by climate change effects like drought, flooding, heat waves and other extreme weather event”. Thus, women and girls face higher risk of experiencing GBV while working harder to continue to carry out those roles which they have traditionally been assigned. For instance, climate change impact on water resources, means that women and girls will have to trek long distances to get water and along the line, they may be subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation. Also, climate induced drought may result in loss of vegetations and arable lands, leading to food insecurity and conflicts over scarce resources. When conflicts happen, women and girls become more vulnerable and exposed to sexual harassment and early marriage. Girls may be asked to discontinue school to help meet family needs.
Mrs Morenike further mentioned that gender-based inequalities in education, access to health facilities, finance and land can make it difficult for women to recover in time from disaster or to develop ability to adapt to the impacts of the disaster. The impacts of these disasters may bring additional workload to women and girls, making it more difficult for them to respond to domestic demands. One of the lead causes of domestic violence in rural communities is women not being able to carry out their domestic duties. Young girls are also more likely to be coerced into sexual exploitation in exchange for goods and services in times of resource scarcity while the risk of girl-child marriage increases significantly. Therefore, she called for more awareness to the issues of GBV and inequalities in access to resources faced by women and girls in rural communities.
The Paris Agreement Act 7.9 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted in 2015 encouraged member countries to pursue national adaptation planning. The Secretariat of the UNFCCC in its 2020 progress report on National Adaptation Plan (NAP) alleges that 125 out of the 154 developing countries that signed the Paris Agreement embarked on activities related to the formulation or implementation of NAP. Adaptation refers to adjustments in ecological, social and economic systems to reduce vulnerability, risks and impacts of climate change. Gender sensitive climate change adaptation programmes are advocated in order to address the gender dimension of climate risks and improve the capacity of women to overcome the challenges of a changing environment.
Speaking on the efforts made by Nigeria towards addressing climate change and gender, Ms Damaris Uja, a Monitoring and Evaluation specialist with Women Environment Programme informed that Nigeria has developed a National Gender Action Plan which aims to advance women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in climate change programmes and to promote gender-responsive climate policy in Nigeria. She admonished CSOs to use the plans as tools for gender advocacy and active engagement with government and stakeholders at all levels. The plan can also be used to develop proposals and design multisectoral projects including gender-responsive climate finance. Speaking about women’s participation in climate change activities in Nigeria, Ms Damaris said that during the development of the Gender Action Plan, women at all levels including PWDs were engaged and their inputs were used to form the plans. She also stated that since the launch of the Gender Action Plan, her organization, Women Environment Programme has initiated and implemented several projects to sensitize women about climate change, build their capacity to take climate actions, trained women small holder farmers on climate smart agriculture and introduced drought resistant crops to women farmers in the northern part of Nigeria.
In responding to how climate justice activism can be used to drive the end GBV campaign and promote the meaningful participation of women and girls in climate change solutions, policy-making and adaptation programming in Nigeria, participants suggested the formation of women cooperative societies to enhance access to finance and other resources that women need to adapt to climate change. They also suggested financial skills training for women and girls, educational opportunities and representation of women in policy and decision making. The need for more climate change awareness, early warning systems and enlightenment programmes for women in rural communities were also highlighted. Women were also admonished to speak up and make their voices heard, develop their skills and build confidence to confront challenges.
In closing, the host and co-host of the workshop (Devimpath and 21st Century Issues) thanked participants for participating in the workshop and advised them to keep engaging in advocacy for the protection of women and girls at all levels and to use the information that have been shared to amplify climate action and call for end to violence against women and girls in their communities. They were requested to keep their communication lines open as the conversation on climate change and GBV is an ongoing conversation and require their active engagement to push for the integration of GBV prevention and response mechanisms into climate change adaptation programmes including bringing 16 days of activism against GBV into Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) activities in the future.
Glory Amara Brendan-Otuojor, MSc. is the Executive Director, Development Impact Pathfinders Initiative