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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs