News / Africa

Rural Women in Africa Speak Out at Climate Conference

Environmental activists demonstrate outside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties meeting in Durban, November 29, 2011.
Environmental activists demonstrate outside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties meeting in Durban, November 29, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Gabe Joselow's report from the climate change conference in Durban

It looked and sounded like a celebration.

But participants at this gathering of rural women from across Africa have a serious message for the delegates at the COP-17 climate conference.

“We've come to join other rural women farmers from the southern African region," said Thandiure Chidararume, a member of ActionAid, an international organization that helped bring together this meeting of the Southern African Rural Women's Assembly. "We have come as one voice from Africa, we are saying no to damning deals, Africa is not for sale, we want this air pollution that is causing climate change to stop now."

The assembly unites women's farming and agricultural unions and movements from around the world.

Women from all across Africa, some as far north as Kenya, came out to the rally at a Kawaulu-Natal University in Durban, several kilometers from the downtown convention center where the more subdued, official meetings on climate change are taking place.


Members of African rural women's movements gather in Durban, South Africa to rally for progress at the nearby U.N. climate summit, Nov. 30, 2011. (Photo VOA - Gabe Joselow)

The women say they have felt the real impact of climate change in their communities, as shifting weather patterns have caused wells to dry up and harvests to diminish.

The concerns are real, said Theresa Marwei, an activist from Zimbabwe.

“I think if we can agree, all the countries that we are here, not to let the air be polluted, because we are having hunger, no water to drink, no gardens, no money to send our children to school because no rain," she said. "If the rain comes it will be floods, we can't do anything.”

Women at the assembly are directing a lot of their anger at the government negotiators at COP-17, who they say are not acting in the peoples' interest.

Canstance Mogale, representing the Landless Movement of South Africa, directed taunts and jeers at the U.S. delegation, blaming them of holding up progress on a global climate pact.  She even led a song directed at chief U.S. negotiator Todd Stern.

Women's movements in Latin America have also expressed solidarity with the African women's assembly.

The two regions have confronted many of the same issues, including so-called land grabs in the name of combating climate change.  In these instances, biofuel companies or other firms purchase large tracts of land in developing countries to make a profit from the business of trading credit for carbon emissions.

Former Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations Pablo Solone addressed the women's assembly in Durban.

“In Copenhagen, in Cancun and here in Durban we say: change the capitalist system, not the climate," he said. "We have to change this logic of trying to buy and sell everything.  Life doesn't have a price.”

The women's assembly is mostly skeptical that governments are acting on their behalf.

Mercia Andrews, the director of the South African Trust for Community Outreach and Education, said the organization fits in with her country's history of social movements.

“We have a responsibility, we have to begin to mobilize and we have the power," Andrews said. "We have shaken this country before, we brought down apartheid, now is another turn. This is a bigger struggle, a more important struggle and this is a struggle that we must unite around.  We must say, 'No, to climate apartheid, no.'”

The U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said Africa is the region that will suffer most from the effects of climate change.

It is not clear whether the world's climate negotiators will come up with a deal to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions, and expectations for a strong global pact are very low.

But the women's assembly is anything but pessimistic. With more mass action and protests planned on the sidelines of the COP 17, the women of rural Africa will be sure they are seen and heard.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid