Princess Caroline Usikpedo Omoniye is a force for change in Nigeria. Founder and National President of the Niger Delta’s Women’s Movement of Peace and Development, she has empowered and mobilized hundreds of women to promote peace and take action on issues like climate change.
Speaking at the “Strengthening Voices: Search for Solutions” 2011 Women’s Tribunals on Gender and Climate Justice in Nigeria, Caroline emphasized the importance of having women, who are the primary farmers in the region, share their stories.
“The aim of the Climate Justice Hearings is to up-scale local solutions and bring the voices of those most affected – women and traditionally excluded groups – to influence negotiations and plans of action on climate change at the national as well as the international level during COP17 and Rio+20”, says Caroline. “The testimonies will explore the relationship between individual experiences with the manifestations of climate change and the action taken at the local or regional level to address the climate change issues faced by women.”
A number of impacts are of key concern to women in the Niger Delta. With 70% of the country’s population residing in rural areas and engaged in agriculture production, changes in rainfall patterns have dramatically reduced crop yields. Crops in the Delta are highly dependent on rainfall with cultivation rarely practiced. In addition, four decades of continual gas flares have made Nigeria one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gases in Africa. Oil spills, seismic blasts and discharges of untreated effluents have also deeply degraded water and soil quality and destroyed the coastal mangrove ecosystem.
“The climate is a fundamental element of the environment and a change in the climate affects other elements of the environment. Solutions should not only be made visible, they must be seen as evident and resourceful in the lives of our women, who are undoubtedly the base of any environment that yearns for growth and development”, says Caroline.
As Nigeria moves forward in the face of climate change, Caroline emphasizes the need to achieve socio-economic development in the region by managing resources in a sustainable way. She calls for authorities to hear the stories collected through the tribunal of women’s experiences of climate change and to use them as guidelines to draft necessary actions and initiatives that would work to reduce poverty and respect environmental rights.
“Policies and innovations to enhance adaptation to climate change cannot be viewed in isolation from current development priorities: indeed many key stakeholders recognize the need to focus on ‘climate resilient’ policies and innovations that address both current development priorities as well as providing greater livelihood resilience in the face of future climate change”, says Caroline.
For more information Caroline’s story and to learn more about the Women’s Tribunals on Gender and Climate Justice visit: http://cllimatejusticetribunals.blogspot.com/2011/10/nigeria.html