A cross section of some of the women participants during a One Day Strategy Meeting on the Implementation of the Natural Resource Governace Charter , held in Port Harcourt by Kebetkache.
From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Following decades of negligence and discrimination among the men and women in decision making as regards to resource control and governance, women in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria have been equipped on how to recognise the laws that gives them inclusive opportunities to be part of decision making in their communities.
Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, a non governmental organization gathered women from across the states of the Niger Delta, to equip them on how to strategies on the implementation of natural resource governance charter.
The women who had their meeting as well as an intensive sensitisation on natural resource management, held at the weekend in Port Harcourt, were selected from communities and Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers.
The meeting recognized that without the inclusion of women who are more on ground in communities in the decision of the land, things may not be right. Women are recognized as nation builders and ignoring them would be more disastrous than improved development.
A women has the ability to influence the actions of her child and husband, therefore bringing her into the matters concerning the family can bring a long lasting solution to a particular problem in the family. If this is acknowledged, then women participation in resource control will end some of the agitations faced today in the society.
A resource person at the programme, Jaye Gaskia, who spoke on the theme ‘Towards Natural Resource Governance: Implementing the Natural Resources Charter’, noted the need to recognise the principles that guides the natural resources governance.
He explained that natural resources governance is about the administration and management of natural resources, all the resource that exist in nature, the management and administration of the resources,with a specific focus on community participation and the role the community plays on the administration and management of the resources.
He stressed that over the years, in terms of impact of extractive industry on the environment, there has been a development and movement towards a more particularly and involved way of governing natural resources which resulted into the development of the natural resource charter, an international charter.
Gaskia explained further that the charter states clearly the guidelines on how to ensure community participation in the management of natural resources.
Speaking with The AUTHORITY at the end of programme he said: “What we are doing is sensitising community organizations particularly the women on the existence of the charter, what the charter says, what the charter expects government and the communities to do. Also more importantly so that the women, groups and communities can actually begin to use the charter to engage with the natural resource actors, as well as their government.
“The things that are expected is that there should a framework, the government is obliged to have a framework in place that enhances decision making and inclusion of community makers in that decision process. There must be a very clear court legal framework that guide management of local resources.
“In Nigeria we have some basic laws; Land Use Act, Petroleum Industry Act, Mineral Resources Act and Solid Mineral Act. You also have the Local Content Law.
“The ultimate thing is if communities are aware of the laws, we can then go ahead and begin to see to what extent the government at the federal and state level are complying with the provisions of the charter and there are ten guiding principle in the charter which includes, equity, fairness, inclusion, rule or law, coordination, etc.
“Our hope is that if communities are aware of these then this will be in better stay when they are actually engaging with the government because they will know what the charter says, what international expectation is and then they will be able to engage more meaningfully in a way that they will benefit from the management of natural resources in their communities.
“The natural resources does includes Oil and Gas, also include all other mineral resources but more importantly, it also include the environment because the environment is the chief resource. The environment, we talk of land, water, the species that lives on land as well as in water. And this basically the basis of livelihood of communities. Not just on how the communities engage with their farmland, etc but how they engage with communities which their activities impacts on their farmland, on their waterways.
Hopefully, if proper mechanism are put in place communities are going to be aided to also manage their own immediate natural environment and resources not just the extractive industry”, Gaskia added.
On her part, Emem Okon, Founder and Executive Director, Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, hinted that the organization gathered the women to strategies on how they can advocate for the implementation of the natural resource governance charter of Nigeria.
She stated that as environmental justice campaigner over the years and also as a women rights organization, they have been campaigning for the participation of women in governance processes, stressing that the Niger Delta is peculiar because it is the oil belt of Nigeria.
According to Kebetkache ED, for women to be able to participate actively in natural resource governance, there is need to identify distinct frameworks at the international and national levels that can use to advice for a more active and increase participation of women in the governance of the oil resources in the Niger Delta.
She convinced that “We know that traditionally, women are excluded from decision making process and in oil producing communities women constitute majority of the more. Traditional livelihood have been destroyed, they don’t get compensation when there is spill because they don’t own the farmland, instructions have to made by the head of the household’.
Emem continued “we are looking at the natural resource governance charter, the community content guidelines and contract transparency. We need to understand how do we get to access the contract between oil proprietion and government, and whether there are community interest address in those contract. If we know what is contained in the contract and provisions for communities and women, then we will be to advocate and campaign for the implementation of those provisions.
“We are building capacity, we are providing skills and we are also encouraging community representatives, to become more involved in what is going on their communities. The impact of the programme is that at the end they will identify how they can mainstream themselves into the community governance processes because this advocacy has to start from the community, local level to state and national levels.
“The formations and knowledge we gain today will enable us to identify who do we engage to be able to access greater benefit for women. The women themselves will also begin to understand which among the stakeholders at the local or state level that will be able to open up a space for women and support the women by influencing processes that will include the women.
If the knowledge base of women and other community members is expanded, there is need to boost self confidence, enhance the service team and build that courage to be able to speak on anywhere they find themselves”.
Some of the participants that spoke to correspondent, expressed delight that they have been equipped in the programme on how to participate in the developmental activities in their communities and state.
They expressed dismay that women have not really gotten needed attention as regards input in decision making of their lands.
Ibegura Precious, a native of Erema community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA of Rivers State, also representative of Egi Women Human Rights and Environmental Justice Initiative, said “After the programme, I am going back to inform my community women, to make them know how we can strategies in order to take part in natural resources governance.
“We have the same right that men have in the community when it comes to our natural resources and decision making, so we should be included in getting it right in our community”.
Chief Josephine Ogoba, from Gbaramatu kingdom, Warri South LGA, Delta state, said “I am from oil producing community, and I am taking the knowledge gathered here back home, to educate my people on how to dialogue through the provisions of laws to achieve our demands as it concerns natural resource extraction and not just to protests”.
Also a native of Akwa- Ibom state, Idorenyin Bassey, expressed “I am glad to be part of this programme as a young lady. I am from part of this country where women voice are not heard, there is so much discrimination among the men and women folks”.