Lead Writers: Esther Akaa and Esther Enna, Media Fellows of the African Activist for Climate Justice Project

In the face of mounting global crises, the imperative of gender equality has never been more urgent. Women’s empowerment is a moral imperative and a strategic pathway towards building resilient communities and safeguarding our planet for future generations. Nowhere is this more evident than in Nasarawa State, where women emerge as agents of change in the battle against climate change-induced adversities.

Significantly, the 2024 International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated in March,-themed “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” underscored the urgent need for governments and individuals to address climate change challenges while advancing gender equality. This call to action resonated with stakeholders at all levels, emphasising the importance of implementing inclusive policies across economic, political, agricultural, and social sectors. 

According to Aidspan, climate change poses a significant threat to communities worldwide, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and disproportionately affecting women. In Nasarawa, rural women bear the brunt of climate impacts, grappling with issues like water scarcity, high temperatures, and floods. Their traditional roles as caregivers and providers of essentials like water, food, and fuel amplify their exposure to climate risks.

The current economic system focusing on productivity, efficiency and markets may exacerbate poverty, inequality and environmental degradation, disproportionately affecting women and marginalised groups. The FAO Report, “The status of women in agrifood systems”, shows that closing the gender gaps in farm productivity and wages within agrifood systems could boost the global gross domestic product by 1 per cent and decrease global food insecurity by at least 2 per cent, leading to a reduction of 45 million food-insecure people. 

In line with proposed alternative economic models that shift towards a green economy and care society that amplifies women’s voices, FAO estimates that if development programming more intentionally focused on women’s empowerment as an objective of multi-faceted interventions in agrifood systems, incomes and resilience could increase for 58 and resilience for 235 million families respectively.

Amidst these challenges, Nasarawa women are taking proactive steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Communities like Azuba Bashayi and Sabon Pegi have initiated grassroots initiatives aimed at fostering environmental resilience through education and training programs facilitated by organisations like Education as a Vaccine (EVA) and Beacon Youth Initiative (BYI); women are gaining the knowledge and skills needed to address climate challenges effectively.

Mrs Regina Kusko, speaking on How the AACJ community engagement project has impacted her community

One such initiative is planting trees, advocated by Mrs. Regina Kusko from the Azuba Bashayi community. Tree planting enhances environmental resilience and improves community well-being by providing shade and mitigating the effects of high temperatures. 

Hajiya Hadiza Sabo, President of the Market Women Association in Lafia Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, speaking to AACJ media Fellows recently.

Similarly, advocates like Hadiza Sabo from Sabon Pegi underscore the critical need for clean water access and educational opportunities for girls, recognising the intersectionality of gender equality and climate action. A businesswoman, Josephine Sunday, who buys and sells grains, said that climate change impacted her business since there was a lack of farm produce available in the market because crops were no longer producing because of infertile soil. She further explained that the state’s food production had been impacted by pests and diseases, infertile land, flooding, and other factors, making grains scarce in the market while commending BYI and Education as a Vaccine for their support towards getting farmers enlightened on the use of organic manure to improve soil fertility.“Some people want to go into farming on a large scale, but the soil is already damaged by climate change. The government should implement policies that will address climate change-related issues. This will bring about food security and other issues affecting women in the society,” Josephine Sunday

Projects like the African Activists for Climate Justice (AACJ) equip women with the tools and knowledge needed to advocate for sustainable solutions at the grassroots level. Mr. Emmanuel Okolo, Executive Director of BYI, emphasises the importance of community engagement and sensitisation efforts in fostering climate resilience. Mr. Emmanuel Okolo, Executive Director of BYI, spoke during a community engagement activity hosted in partnership with Education as a Vaccine.

Yet, while grassroots efforts are commendable, systemic change is essential to address the root causes of gender disparities and environmental degradation. For lasting impacts that would further strengthen multi-sectoral outcomes, there’s a need to empower rural women and girls by investing in their capacity through education and leadership skills development, for example, through home-grown school feeding initiatives or by addressing discriminatory social norms that limit their opportunities. Strengthening land rights for women in rural areas is also essential. 

Implementing gender-responsive policies, agricultural investments, and ensuring equal access to financial resources and extension services can bridge productivity gaps. In particular, digital financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment initiatives benefit women and their households, entire communities, and society. However, this is possible only when adequate financial investment and solid political commitment are made towards women’s empowerment and gender equality, underscoring the urgency of the IWD theme.

By prioritising the inclusion of women in decision-making processes and investment opportunities, we can effectively mitigate the impacts of climate change and foster sustainable growth and community resilience.