Climate change forms the major concern of today’s world, placing severe pressure on various ecosystems of the planet Earth. Nigeria, situated in West Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly at risk in terms of atmosphere degradation and desertification. The geographical location of the country makes it particularly prone to climate change effects. Nigeria has an estimated population of 170,000,000 and an annual population growth of 2.66%. The population growth places a supplementary pressure on the land’s resources. Since the Nigerian economy is still largely dependent on fossil fuels, ozone depletion has its repercussions on the inhabitants. Humans take up adaptation strategies to decrease their vulnerability. These adaptation strategies can be observed in the field of reproductive behaviour. Reproductive behaviour is related to reproductive health, because of the importance of reproductive health in a human’s life of which females are its heartbeat.

 

An often forgotten fact when examining environmental issues and climate change is the powerful role played by women. In the developed world, although women still struggle to achieve parity in issues of pay and opportunity, they typically hold the credence in household decisions. According to the Wall Street Journal, women control nearly three-quarters of consumer spending in the United states and two-thirds in the United kingdom, including making the decision in the purchases of 94% of home furnishings, 92% of vacations, 91% of homes and 60% of automobiles. This elephantine buying power means that most time, women hold the reins when it comes to making environmentally friendly decisions like planting trees around the compound, purchasing less carbon content product, and the likes.

In workplaces, women also tend to go greener. Research has come to show that businesses headed by women are more likely to make environmentally friendly decisions such as buying local produce or organizing recycling on a corporate scale. Women simply seem more concerned about our collective impact as humans on the environment and are most times more willing to make changes to mitigate this impact. Interestingly, the difference between men and women in environmental issues does not just come down to who controls the account. Women are statistically more likely to believe the science about climate change in the first place and their believe system affects their day-to-day lifestyle. In a 2015 study examining attitudes about climate change, Pew surveyed 11 developed nations and asked people to rate their agreement with the statement: “Global climate change is a serious problem.” In the US, 83% of women stated this was a very serious problem, compared to just 66% of men. In the UK, the gap was smaller but still significant: 81% of women against 71% of men.

It is tempting to regard women’s increased awareness and concern for environmental issues up to some innate caretaking instinct or feminine solidarity. Nature is almost always characterized as female, after all. In Mother Nature vs the human race, the actions we take against her are almost always framed as male: raping, pillaging, conquering and plundering. Although it is a nice thought, but it is quite as emotional as that. It is purely practical. Currently in the most democratic nations, gender equality still stands precarious, subject to the whims of shifting political tides. It is not hard to understand that in the event of a global climate crisis, women will be immediately rendered one of the most vulnerable populations.  At the 2014 UN Climate Summit, the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, noted that women and children are 14 times more vulnerable than men in a climate disaster such as floods or droughts, especially in developing nations as Nigeria. Women are more likely than men to die in natural disasters; they are more likely to become caregivers for the sick or wounded, and more prone to become the victims in climate change-induced violent conflicts. Simply say, women care more about climate change because they have so much more to lose.  While it may seem like women in the western world have more power; making major household financial decisions while poor women in developing nations are already suffering the devastating effects of climate change.

Women all over the world are united in waging a long and frustrating fight to gain access to one of the most immediate and effective ways to reduce our environmental impact, by effecting safe access to birth control, abortion and reproductive health services. Although overpopulation is not the only problem, it is a major one indeed. Unlike many issues related to climate change, it is one which is incredibly simple to solve. David Attenborough states that: “Wherever women are given political control of their bodies, where they have the vote, education, appropriate medical facilities and they can read and have rights and so on, the birth rate falls – there are no exceptions to that.” This is an issue in Nigeria, as there are still claims of gender inequality and regions wherein women are regarded as lesser beings.

Religion and morality are most times reasons for denying women access to reproductive health services, but these justifications miss half the story. Reiterating the words of Sister Joan Chittister, a Catholic nun which says: “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. That is not pro-life rather pro-birth.” It is vivid that we need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is. It is ridiculous to deny women information and access to birth control and then also deny them the right to terminate an unintended pregnancy. It is cruel to restrict a woman’s access to abortion and then leave her to the task of raising a child alone, vulnerable, and without support. It is incredibly shortsighted to also believe that we can tackle overpopulation without also enabling women the world over to become educated and empowered about their own bodies and reproductive health.
Knowing that Nigeria stands at the risks of climate change hazards, it is important to note that we cannot simultaneously champion fighting climate change without also fighting for the rights of women. The two are inextricably linked; they stand hand in hand. It is about time we all stood up with them.

 

Borokinni Joshua

Lagos, Nigeria

 

 

 

 

Borokinni Joshua is a Climate justice advocate and Nigerian journalist who has keen interest in Sustainable and Developmental reporting. He has bylined several articles in national dailies across Africa. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Human Physiology at the University of Benin, Nigeria. He is also currently working on starting a non-profit organization targeted at educating and enlightening people in rural communities about the environment and climate. He is a YALI fellow, Member of the International Youth Climate Movement, Member of YOUNGO, a journalist for Climate Tracker, Punch Newspapers and Nation Newspapers, MCW Young Leaders Connect 2018 Fellow, PYA top 100 African Young leaders 2017, a member of the Internet Freedom Fellowship and was recently selected for the Clinton Global University Initiative alongside 1000 young leaders around the world. He bagged the Skusat award of excellence in 2016, Best speaker SPAN convention 2016, Rookie of the year at the SDG convention that held in Benin city 2016, Best campus News Reporter at the International Campus Journalism Conference 2018, Global Top 100 Heroes 2018, Special Award of Recognition by The Gong Media, a nominee of the Nigeria Teens Choice Awards and The future awards. He will also be speaking at the Cambridge climate lecture series, Climate Reality Conference and the COP24 later this year. It is worthy to note that he is also a public speaking veteran, performance poet and author.

borokinnijoshua@gmail.com