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Oil Company Begins Talks With Women Protestors in Nigeria - 2002-07-19

In Nigeria, officials with the American-based oil company ChevronTexaco have started talks with a group of women demonstrators who have been occupying at least four oil pumping facilities in the country. The talks follow the end of a 10-day takeover of a large oil terminal that had been held by women protesters.

The takeovers of Chevron oil facilities have centered on the women's demands for jobs and better living conditions in areas of Nigeria where Chevron operates.

Witnesses at Chevron's Escravos terminal in Nigeria's southern Delta state said women demonstrators cheered as they left the terminal on Thursday and Friday, claiming victory after signing an agreement with the oil company.

The 10-day protest at Escravos was part of the villagers' long-standing fight for better living conditions in communities surrounding the terminal.

In its deal with the women, Chevron agreed to provide more jobs, build schools and clinics and bring electricity and safe water to villages near the terminal.

Inspired by the demonstrators' gains at Escravos, other protesters took over four pumping stations in other parts of the country this week. Chevron officials said the negotiations to end the takeovers began on Friday.

Nigeria is one of the world's leading producers of oil, yet almost half the people in the country live below the poverty line. Many communities, some surrounding large oil facilities, are without basic infrastructure like electricity and running water.

In the past, demonstrators have usually been armed men who have taken over foreign-owned oil facilities and used tactics that included sabotage and hostage-taking. The latest wave of demonstrations has involved unarmed women, most of them ranging from 30 to 60 years. The women blocked access to the Escravos terminal by taking positions on the terminal's docks and aircraft landing facilities.

A Chevron executive, Dick Filgate, said the women's protests have prompted the company to take a new approach to improving conditions in host countries. He said that rather than issuing monetary payments like they have the in past, companies are now beginning to look at making long-lasting investment in the communities.