“I refuse to be a number in development reports, I want to be a subject of my own story”
The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) started on November 6, 2022. Leaders, activists, civil society and governmental organizations are now gathered in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, to set up actions to combat Climate Change. With a packed agenda of various panels, talks, discussions and side events about how climate change is affecting women’s lives, the second week of the conference has started with a focus on water scarcity and gender.
On Monday, November 14, the Nalafem organized a panel discussion at the Youth pavilion at COP27. The panelists and delegation members Susan Wavinya Wairimu (Kenya), NgimouVictorine Nchokuno (Cameroon) and Mthembukazi Bavuma (South Africa) discussed the theme of “Investing in Socio-Economic Power of African Women and Girls”.
The session moderated by Siouar Douss – Nalafem Coordinator opened the floor for the young feminists to reflect on the unique circumstances African women live, the importance of investing in the socio-economic empowerment of African women to reach an effective climate action. They also discussed the role of African women in forming the continent’s plan for coping with the effects of climate change, from a continental vision to specific local practices, through stories from their own communities.
Cameroonian activist Nigimou Victorine Nchokunoshared young women and girls stories in Cameroon that are subjected to climate hazards, heat waves, floods and droughts, and how this affects the livelihood of women specifically. Nigimou explained how women are disproportionately experiencing the effects of climate change, while poverty exposes them to early marriage and gender-based violence in local and indigenous communities in Cameroon.
In turn, Kenyan Women’s rights and climate advocate, Susan Wavinya Wairimu, addressed how women’s social roles are becoming more demanding as a result of the climate crisis, which can only keep women out of public places. She addressed the issue of teenage pregnancy highlighting her own story of having a child at the age of 17, and the inspiration behind founding “Inspire Teenagers Foundation (ITF)” a community-based organization that is seeking to mentor and educate adolescent girls and young women on matters of sexual and reproductive health and life skills. Susan added that she faced many challenges being a young teen mother, and will keep working hard to provide constant support to teenagers and empower them to be future leaders in their countries instead of being numbers in sustainability reports, changing the narratives from being victims to being subjects stressing on the importance of education to change the victims’ status to be the heroines of their own stories.
Climate activist Mthembukazi Bavuma (South Africa) shared stories from local communities in her country, and how she engages communities on the social, economic, and environmental injustices they face. She explained how the electricity shortage in South Africa adds to the mental charge of women and requires them to manage limited resources in the household which confines them in a non-ending survival mode, and how being in this state of survival holds women from preventing gender-based violence against them. Additionally, Mthembukazi stressed on the significance of discerning between harmful and insightful African traditions, highlighting that it is the only way of retrieving the preserved knowledge that Africans carried out for centuries to benefit the world and protect the planet.
The panel was organized by Nala Feminist Collective (Nalafem), and moderated by Siouar Douss, Nalafem Coordinator.