By Mercy Omuero Edejeghwro
Editors’ note: Mercy Omuero Edejeghwro did not attend the Think Tank Initiative Gender Action Learning Project Writeshop: she was inspired to write this blog after her colleague, Job Imharobere Eronmhonsele, who attended the writeshop, shared his experiences upon his return from Guatemala (see Job’s earlier blog in this series, My experience with gender sensitive research). Mercy’s story relates her learning about gender at a workshop co-hosted by CPED and IDRC, on women as leaders in climate change adaptation. We were happy to include it in the series.
My journey with Centre for Population and Environmental Development (CPED) began on Monday December 9th, 2018. This was coincidentally the first day of a three-day capacity building workshop held at Precious Palm Royal Hotel, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. It was held to mark the inception of the project titled “Empowering women as key leaders in promoting community-based climate change adaptation and disaster risks initiatives in Niger Delta region” (learn more here). The workshop was organized by CPED in conjunction with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Intervention Council for Women Affair (ICWA).
As a first time attendee of such a workshop, I wasn’t sure of what to expect but I must say I was struck by the title of the workshop. As I pondered over it, I kept asking myself the following questions. What is the need for empowering women to adapt to climate change issues? Why not men who are heads of households and probably more skilled and experienced to do so? Why is the project going to take place and be implemented in Niger delta region amongst so many regions in Nigeria?
Glancing through the agenda of the workshop, my anticipation was further heightened by the sub-themes. Notably, the “women, climate change and leadership” session. I therefore resolved to listen attentively to all sessions of the workshop to benefit maximally and get my questions answered.
Day one began with the chairman’s opening remarks, which were followed by the keynote address titled “climate change and rural women in Niger Delta region”. The presentation was really informative and enlightening. As the presentation ensued, I realized why the Niger Delta region calls for attention. It is predisposed to climate change impacts due to its topography and the oil exploration activity carried out in the region. This was an answer to one of my questions.
Also at the first session, something caught my attention that I cannot forget in a hurry — the concept of Ecofeminism. I learned this is a movement based on the belief that women and nature are both oppressed by men. This comparison between women and nature helped me discern how deep gender inequality has affected women.
As the lecture progressed, the answers to my questions were revealed one after the other. One of such revelations was that although climate change affects both sexes, women are more disproportionately affected because they depend more on nature for their livelihood.
Another discovery from the workshop, specifically from the “women, climate change and leadership” session left me astonished. I learned that women have been in the forefront in developing adaptation strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change in rural communities. Prior to the workshop I thought otherwise.
At the workshop, I also got to know that despite all the potential women have in taking the lead in innovating ideas and technology to mitigate the effects of climate change, their potential has been underutilized or relegated to the background. This is because they rarely participate in decision-making. Based on these, suggestions were made on how to empower women to effectively carry out their role and also participate in decision-making.
Another presentation I found very informative is on “the need to effectively mobilise women”. It became apparent to me that although women have been clamoring for gender equality, some of them may not really be ready to “mobilise”. They are already used to the stereotype that men should always be in charge. This was really disturbing to me. I was however pacified when it was recommended by the presenter that the women be sensitized and given time to adjust.
What I learned about gender and research
Over the course of the three-day workshop, I realized that for research to be successful, the outcome of such research must be effectively communicated to the relevant stakeholders who can use the findings to influence policy. This actually corroborated a thought I had as an undergraduate that there is no purpose in conducting research if the findings won’t be publicized.
At the workshop, I also realized that though the current project will be centred on women, the men will also be involved in order to reduce resistance to the project and to stimulate men to become partners with women in the project. The importance of community engagement in project was also highlighted.
At the end of the workshop, I was fully equipped with vast knowledge on the project topic, what it entails and became fully prepared for the task ahead. More importantly, all the questions I had concerning the workshop were satisfactorily answered. It was indeed an unforgettable experience.
These are the author’s personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of the Gender at Work or the Think Tank Initiative, IDRC.
Photo Credit: The New Humanitarian.org. ‘Flood-ridden Nigeria Farmers need more help Adapting to Climate Change”. May 3, 2017.
Mercy Omuero Edejeghwro is a Research Officer at Center for Population and Environmental Development(CPED). She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology (B.Sc), University of Benin and is highly interested in Gender and Development.