Oil and Gas extraction: Women demand accountability, consent rights

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The Kabetkache Women Development and Resource Center (KWDRC), has demanded inclusion of women at the decision making tables of oil and gas activities in the Niger Delta region.

Executive Director of the Centre, Emem Okon, stated this in Abuja on Wednesday during an interactive meeting with leaders of women networks on consent rights, lamenting that community members have for long been deliberately excluded from the key decision processes. 

According to Okon, Patriarchy and capitalism remained the major issues women are contending with in the region, lamenting that the community leadership do not recognise women being part of decision making processes even when they are more affected by mining activities in the region.

She explained that extraction of mineral resources is a development module that is adopted by the corporations and the federal government, however, she expressed worry that more attention is 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 lamented. 

“Over the years activities of mining, extraction have been going on, lands have been taken away, 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 Gass extraction and other development processes going on in their community,” she stressed.

She maintained that there are lots of roles that women can play, regretting that when it comes to employment in the corporations community women are not taken into consideration because it is assumed that the activities are male oriented as it takes a lot of physical strength.

“…but then there are other things that women can do without exerting lots of physical strength. The women are saying they too can become liaison officers between the community and the cooperations,” she stated. 

“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 there needs be taken into consideration,” she said.

Earlier, the National Network Coordinator For the West African Network of Peacebuilding (WANEP) Nigeria, Chief Bridget Osakwe, maintained 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.

Meanwhile, the Coordinator, Msa Okase Initiative Eleme, Dr. Patience Osaroejiji, expressed worry over the effects of pollution in the region, saying that oil spill have destroyed available lands women use in farming denying them their basic means of livelihood. 

Also, the President, Women Development Initiative, Glory Alexander Thomas, noted that oil companies were leaving their region without commiserate concern to the plights of the people livelihood. 

“We need machinery to do our fishing now , we have lost our pride in Agriculture because of oil spillage, pollution and contamination and this has impacted our health negatively. 

“Government should as a matter of urgency make the Ministry of women affairs an office standing on its own so women can have a place to lay their complains. We need seeds for farming, nets and engine boats for fishing because the aquatic life has been deeply destroyed,” she said.

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