by Fiona McLeod, WEA's Communications and Development Manager
Last week, over 2,000 women marched in Kaduna, Nigeria to demand climate justice for women and affirmative representation at COP28, which kicks off today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The rally was organized by WEA’s longtime partner, Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE), with support from the Global Fund for Women. Olanike Olugboji-Daramola, Founder and Director of WISE and a WEA Founding Mother, launched WISE after participating in WEA’s first Women and Water Training in Kenya in 2008. Today, Olanike also guides WEA’s work in the region as our Nigeria Project Lead.
At the rally, grassroots women from across Kaduna state — WEA Leaders who have participated in WEA/WISE trainings in the past — gathered to draw attention to the reality that women and girls in Nigeria are best equipped to offer long-lasting, sustainable solutions to the complex, interrelated challenges they intimately know, including climate change, poverty, the COVID-19 pandemic, and gender-based violence.
“I have heard so many leaders saying that women are the most impacted by the effects of climate and they are the first responders, but sadly, at the decision-making tables, their voices are missing," Olanike shared at the march. “We are out today to create awareness about [COP28], create awareness about climate change, and call for climate justice for women. We are out today to call on leaders — world leaders, national leaders, and leaders at all levels — to [recognize] that women need to be heard."
In response to this powerful action and statement, Kaduna State's Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources pledged the government's continued support to ensure active participation of women in climate change programs and interventions, saying: "The actions taken by these women are very encouraging. We will be there for them, we will support them, we will support climate action, and we will support climate justice for women."
WEA is proud to have worked in close partnership with WISE for more than a decade, in regions in Nigeria that are severely impacted by climate change, deforestation, poverty, and violence. We are thrilled to see the massive turnout at last week’s rally, as it is a testament to the power of grassroots women’s networks — and it shows what’s possible through WEA’s global alliance.
Seeing thousands of grassroots leaders come together to demand climate justice and affirmative representation, and to advocate for change at the highest levels of international policy, is seeing WEA’s Ripple Effect in action. It demonstrates exactly what happens when women have access to resources and networks of support that uplift and accelerate their work: they stand together, march together, and speak out together to advocate for a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable future for communities and for the Earth.
WEA’s work with WISE focuses on empowering women’s eco-entrepreneurship to improve families and communities’ health and safety, reduce deforestation, increase household savings, and form networks to advocate for clean energy at the local and national levels. Our programs provide grassroots leaders with access to capacity-building training and financial support to advance women’s economic empowerment, reduce family poverty levels, and improve communities’ resilience in the face of climate and humanitarian crises.
Together, WEA and WISE have supported thousands of grassroots women leaders throughout Nigeria to launch and scale their own eco-enterprises and climate initiatives — including production of charcoal briquettes, climate-smart and sustainable farming, selling clean energy cookstoves, reforestation, distribution of solar lamps, and recycling.
We are deeply moved and inspired by the women leaders in Nigeria who are rising to advocate for future generations and the Earth by demanding affirmative representation for women ahead of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference.
We are grateful to stand alongside grassroots women leaders, WISE and the Global Fund for Women in the movement for climate justice.