Dr Kabari Sam training women on Achieving Environmental Justice
From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Following the level of pollution and degradation of the Niger Delta area, a non governmental organization, Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development, CEHRD, with support from the Embassy of the Netherlands in
Nigeria, at the weekend trained some women to advocate for environmental Justice.
The women already formed under the aegis of Women for Environmental Justice Network, were selected across communities in some Local Government Areas of Rivers state, which include; Ikwerre, Khana, Degema, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Etche, Eleme, Tai, Asar-Toru, Gokana and Ahoada West.
In his opening speech, Prof Nenibarini Zabbey, Coordinator of CEHRD, noted that the network was setup by CEHRD in 2015 for Rivers and Bayelsa women for them to be part of the struggle for environmental justice.
He stressed that women and children are most affected by the pollution, hence the need to include the women in the discuss on how to bring to an end the environmental hazard.
He said: ‘We formed the Women for Environmental Justice Network in Rivers and Bayelsa States in 2015. The reason we supported the women in that network is to galvanize their capacity to speak on the environment where they live and get their livelihood.
‘We have undertaken several years of research and we came to the conclusion that if the environment of the Niger Delta will be adequately conserve, there is need for those who are most impacted to lead that struggle and those who are domicile in the community, because when there is environmental pollution those who have the means of migrating will go away but the women will always be there because their livelihood is in the environment.
‘We felt that it will be nice for women to lead environmental justice struggle in the Niger Delta and so we supported to create the network some five years ago. We have been providing capacity support for the women for environmental justice network for Rivers and Bayelsa state’.
Zabbey who is also a Professor of Hydrobiology (Biomonitoring and Restoration Ecology) with the University of port Harcourt, also stated that apart from the training of the women, the organization also intend to embark on capacity building for some of the youths in affected communities who are engaged in artisenery refinery.
‘The workshop we are having today is part of our sustainable capacity support of the network. What we are doing is to conduct refresher training for the old members and then introduce new members that we have identified as those who are passionate for environmental protection in their locality.
‘We trained them on how to identify environmental problems in their localities and how to advocate for those problems. The problems will be prevented when we have the right policies in place, People needs to demand for that right policies and that is why we are doing this workshop.
‘We also have the programme that had to do with reducing the incidents of artisenery refinery in the Niger Delta. Because the illegal refining is adding to the environmental crisis we have in this region. We need to reduce the impact of the artisenery refinery in this region’.
Also, Dr Kabari Sam, Head, Environment and Conservation at CEHRD, who was the trainer at the programme noted that women are formidable forces that can influence justice in the society.
Speaking in his training theme titled ‘Achieving Environmental Justice’ Dr Kabari said he trained the women on how to identify environmental discrimination and injustice, identify the causes of the problems and how to solve the problems, saving the environment from further degradation.
‘Today’s training is for women and because CEHRD has recognized the position of women in the society. Women are the formidable and powerful force that we can ride on to derive and achieve effective and sustainable environmental management.
‘So we selected women across the state to train them to develop their capacity on how to identify environmental problems and also engage different advocacies strategies to ensure that the environmental problems the in their communities are taken to policy makers, decision makers and they are being addressed.
‘Today’s training focus on environmental justice, and that is talking about how they can ensure that policies and distributions of facilities that contributes to environmental problems are evenly distributed to all the impacted areas in the Niger Delta region’.
Some of the participants that spoke with The AUTHORITY at the training programme which was held in Port Harcourt, commended the group for the opportunity to have equipped them to be part of those that can influence policies that will save their environment from completely destroyed by pollution.
Comrade Ibiene Martin’s, a native of Buguma in Asari Toru and Woman leader, Ijaw Youths Council, Kalabari Clan, narrated her experience when she visited a community in Degema LGA.
She sympathetically narrated ‘Last year I alongside Ijaw Women of America visited a community called Elem-Tombia in Kalabari, we shed tears because we could see the oil coming out from the ground. The shore is washed off from the community and we have children and women residence there.
‘So, is very hazardous, the place is toxic and people are residence there. I think such activities affects their lifespan.
‘At the end of this workshop, I am going back to my clan to sensitise the people. We are suffering from serious effect of pollution from illegal refinery activities in the creeks.
‘We need to seek the attention of the traditional leaders in that area, seek Government consent for the residents of that ElemTombia in Degema Local Government Area, to evacuate from the area because at anytime there might be a serious explosion in that area’, she lamented.
To Kate Olaka, a native of Ogale in Eleme LGA of the state, she lamented that the level of pollution they suffer in the area has increased more than when it was assessed by UNEP many years ago, stressing that the companies operating in their area whenever approached would insist that they have settled their traditional leaders and government representatives to carry-on with their activities.
She said ‘Like Eleme where I come from, when Petrochemical company releases their pollution you cannot stand it. The substance from their waste will enter from your nostrils to your head and you start feeling as if you are dying. We hardly breath in good air.
Beside that we don’t have clean water. Our water had been polluted and as we continue to drink it, it affects our health badly. Our women enters their menopause in their thirties. Our people are dying in numbers’, she lamented.