The final day of the Commission on the Status of Women conference offered just as powerful messages as the first day. It was fitting to end the conference knowing that the next generation is actively working towards the sustainable development goals. Lehigh’s United Nations Youth representatives, De’Anna Daniels and Lyasha Bishop, ’16, presented on behalf of the Center for Women’s Studies and Intervention (CWSI) based in Abuja, Nigeria. This NGO educates women in Nigeria about world problems and how to create change or be part of the solution. Daniels’s and Bishop’s presentation, called Women and Environment in Nigeria, discussed the ways in which women can be part of the solution to the organization’s goal of sustainable development. Daniels pointed out that Nigerian women are absent from all levels of policy making, and one goal of the CWSI is to address this gap. “This presentation will present a strategic action plan needed for sound environmental management that will require involvement of women,” Daniels said. The CWSI began work in 1999 in Abuja, Nigeria on social and legal rights, specifically women’s rights and the elimination of gender based violence and training.
The presentation for the CSW focused on the strategies for action for Nigerian women to be active in policy conversations with a critical role of woman and as stewards of the environment. Daniels and Bishop addressed the strategies by categorizing each issue and solution based on the SDGs. The main focus being SDG#15, Life on Land. Due to gender divisions of labor, women in many parts of the world shoulder responsibility of agricultural work, water, and fuel collection in order to provide food for their families. Environmental degradation and lack of access to, and control over natural resources, have consequently, had an especially severe impact on women.
The United Nation’s charge on the environment calls for women to play an import role, given that they are the ones that have a hand in the ecosystem and access to resources. Women’s contribution as a critical determent for the implications of the environmental policies, as noted in the the first World Conference of Women in 1975 in Mexico City and conference there after have brought up these issues. The conversation continues to points towards the need to step up gender equity in environmental decision making like water collection, especially in areas heavily affected by HIV AIDs given that the lack of water expedites deaths.
Daniels and Bishop shared six specific ways Nigerian Women are affected by environmental problems by grouping them with the sustainable development goals,in order as presented:
- The principle fuel for cooking in rural areas in Nigeria is wood. Such extensive reliance on wood causes erosion and changes in microclimate, this is a concern of SDG#7 Affordable and Clean Energy.
- Deforestation, the illegal logging and clearing of forest has depleted the forest in Nigeria and large scale construction were women primarily engage in agricultural activity and depend on the resources, without regard of environmental effects, this is a concern of SDG#15 Life on Land.
- Decertification, or coastal entrenchment and erosion this has resulted in migration, dysfunctional family loss of villages, conflict, lose of livelihood and internal displacement, cultivation of land in inappropriate places, this is a concern of SDG#14 Life below Water coastal environment.
- Lack of information on environmental issues, so many Nigerians are unaware of environmental issues and very few women are involved in natural disaster management this is a concern of SDG#4 Quality Education.
- Absence of gender mainstreaming and environment, Nigerian women are absent in all levels of policy formulation and decision making in discussions on policies including environmental issues such as pollution and population explosion, this is a concern of SDG#16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
- Exploration of solar minerals has led to loss of land property decline in economic activity, particularly affecting women, changes in social life of women, increase of poverty level, this is a concern of SDG#12 Responsible Consumption and Production.
The strategies for action put fourth by CWSI are holistic, multidisciplinary, and intersectional approach.
- Awareness creation, education is key in order to understand environmental issues and take action
- Government and civil society action need to play a large role
- Funding alternative energy sources for cooking, as a direct action
Overall, the presentation laid out the issues women in Nigeria currently face, where those issues concern the sustainable development goals, and specific strategies for action. The call for action is clear, and our youth seems well equipped to take them on.