Sharm el-Sheikh — Women activists say their voices have been absent or have gone unheard at previous climate summits. So they are taking action and looking to assume the lead on climate action and participation in decision-making processes.
Women are often not part of the solution despite being at the center of climate consequences. "Women have been shown to be more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men due to a variety of social, economic, and cultural factors. Gender norms, cultural barriers, and lack of education leave women behind further than men," according to the UN. "The climate crisis has exacerbated existing gender inequalities and put women's lives and livelihoods at risk." Despite this, they are still excluded from decision-making, directly affecting their livelihoods.
In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reiterated the imperative to contain the global rise in temperatures to within 1.5℃ of pre-industrial temperatures. The report argues that crossing the 1.5°C threshold poses a grave threat to people, wildlife, and ecosystems.
Due to the increase in global urgency regarding climate change, African feminists, such as members of the African Feminist Taskforce (AFT), working with the Women and Gender Constituency, have put forward 27 demands - representing a demand each for the past 27 COP. The 27 demands address key issues;
1. women's and youth leadership in climate processes;
2. a just and equitable energy transition,
3. climate finance, and just technology;
4. and the intersection between climate, social, and economic justice.
Nada Elbohi, an Egyptian climate activist, says representation is one of the founding pillars of our African women and girls' demands. "This is the key to bringing our issues and priorities forward. When we talk about representation, it's much more than quotas or numbers. It's about the meaningful inclusion of African women and girls. It's about bringing these priorities, issues, and concerns to the decision-making table and putting them on the agenda. And when we talk about representation, it also includes youths, crucially because the youth are the present and the future. So when talking about African issues, we need African solutions. And climate justice cannot be achieved without inclusion, without Western solutions, and climate justice cannot really be achieved without everybody on the decision-making table. And for a very long time, these priorities for African women and girls have not been prioritised."
So why is it important for African women to demand a just transition?
Anne Songole, Climate Justice Coordinator at the African Women's Development and Communications Network (FEMNET) highlights that "we didn't cause the crisis, so why do we continue to suffer." She added "we have a set of demands and we want them to be fulfilled.
"So with this COP27, we are saying that we demand a just and equitable transition from fossil fuels for everyone. We have a set of four demands. We want developed countries to actually commit to immediately halt all new investments in fossil fuels and nuclear energy. We are asking for this, and we want it to halt now. We know what is happening in Europe, we know what has been happening since the Ukraine crisis and we do not want it to happen anymore because it happening on the backs of African women and girls."
"We want the developed countries, especially the EU, to pull out of the energy chapter. Instead, we want a targeted multi-dimensional approach to support the poorest and most vulnerable African island states, Latin American and Asia pacific communities that make up the global South. We also want renewable, safe and clean projects that reduce the burden of unpaid work which women and girls spend up to 75% of the time engaged in."
"So these demands that we see on the just and equitable transition, we want to see it happening now, in the response measures debate, in the gender debate. We want to see adequate financial demands for the transition to be made. And we also want to see it contextualized to our lived realities of Africans and as the global South. We want these demands to be committed and not because of anything but because we did not cause the crisis, so why should we suffer for it."
As the backbone of Africa's economy and the source of most livelihoods, agriculture is highly impacted by the current crisis. Despite the fact that many African women work the land, they do not own it.
Ugandan's Gertrude Kenyangi Kabusimbi, the Executive Director of Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN) says "land is the most important asset for agriculture, not only in Africa but worldwide. It's acquired through inheritance or through purchases which both marginalise women. Women provide 70% of the agricultural labour force on the continent. Yet there's empirical evidence to show that they own only 7% of the arable land. That's not only unfair but injustice of the highest order. In spite of what I have said that women only own only 7% of the land they do not have free access to. They do not have control and do not have decision-making. It comprises the ability to make permanent investments in the land. They even fight cooperations that are continually grabbing African land. It compromises the ability to negotiate for fair settlements when extractive industries invade Africa to take control of land, rich land, forests, and all other mining sites. It is very important for considerations to be made in policy making."
Priscilla Achakpa, a Nigerian environmental activist and Executive Director of the Women Environment Programme (WEP), talked about what African women are demanding in terms of finance. Achakpa highlighted that apart from African women's demand, we are so happy that our governments are also toying with the same language because we are demanding for loss and damage, we are demanding climate finance, we are demanding technology that is accessible and available, and cost-effective, technology that is compliance with our environments, adaptable, technology that can be enhanced. While we don't have any problem with imported technology, we want our own technology to be enhanced because the indigenous people have some good technology that can be enhanced.
"The issues of finance is a critical issue year in, and year out. We keep hearing about U.S.$1 billion, where is this one billion dollars going to? Why are we not getting it as African women? A lot of grassroots women's organizations are very good at lucrative ideas to address the impact of climate change. The grassroots women will not be to access the funds. Most important and critically, we want climate finance that addresses the issues of adaptation in our countries. Where we talk about mitigation, we know that issues of adaptation are what the African women and girls indeed want."
"Throughout Africa and Nigeria are heavily impacted by the floods. I come from Nigeria, and I know that a lot of communities have been submerged. For instance, in the north-east part of Nigeria and specifically in Borno state, where we have had issues with Boko Haram for several decades now we have not heard of any issues of flooding but this year a lot of communities in that part of the country have been submerged as a result of climate change and flooding. Most of the people have been displaced and the majority are women and girls and they don't have anywhere to go had we addressed those issues".
African women, we stand in solidarity and this is the beginning of standing solidarity as henceforth African women are going to stand strong, not only on COP27. This is just the beginning, we are going to work together with our African leaders and work with leaders worldwide to make sure that the issues that affected African women are being addressed in terms of loss and damage, agriculture, climate finance, and technology and we need to see these demands attended to…"