African Women and Girls Launch Demands Ahead of COP27 in Egypt

After six years, the 2022 climate negotiations are now back on the African continent at this critical time of multiple global crises. Today, a coalition of more than 150 African feminist activists launched 27 demands for just climate action, calling for greater responsibility and urgency ahead of the climate summit (#COP27) to be held in Egypt in November.

Learn more about and amplify African Women’s & Girls’ Demands for COP27 here.

African Feminist Taskforce members Semia Gharbi, Sylvia Dorbor and Jennifer Uchendu. Photo by Hoda Baraka/Survival Media Agency

The 27 demands cover diverse areas of concern from women’s and youth leadership in climate processes, energy transition, climate finance, technology, and the interrelated demands for climate, social, and economic justice. These groups remind the world leaders and policy makers that there’s no climate justice without gender justice.

Watch the launch event here, or read a summary below.

On the 12th of October, the African Feminist Taskforce launched its set of 27 demands for this year’s historic COP27 in Egypt. The launch, ahead of the first COP in Africa since 2016, served as a platform for African women and girls to put forward concrete ways to adapt to and mitigate climate change. In-person watch parties were hosted in more than 15 African countries, demonstrating the solidarity and support for the work and advocacy of the Taskforce.

The event featured a range of interventions from a wide variety of feminist activists working on issues of environmental and climate justice, including; Nada Elbohi, Salimata Ba, Sylvia Diamond Dorbor, Zainab Yunusa, Pricsilla Achakpa and Gertrude Kenyangi — with moderation by Mwanahamisi Singano and Zukiswa White. The launch also featured remarks from the Egyptian Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for International Humanitarian and Social Affairs Mahmoud Afifi. 

One of the primary concerns of the Taskforce is the historic and ongoing exclusion of women, girls, youth and Indigenous Peoples at national and global policy dialogues concerned with climate change. A recurring theme echoed by speakers across the panel was the need to both seriously and meaningfully engage with African women and girls, and take their present and future needs seriously when formulating adaptation and mitigation strategies at all levels.

The day’s discussions were kicked off by Zainab Yunusa, a young Nigerian feminist, who sought to remind those in attendance of the current state of climate change in Africa and its disproportionate impact on women. Yunusa highlighted the fact that “80% of climate refugees are women, so it means that displacement affects everyone, but with women and girls in Africa it affects us the most.” This highlights the importance of women playing a greater role in the fight against climate change while securing sustainable pathways to development.

Nada Elbohi, a member of the Taskforce and an Egyptian feminist, highlighted  that “When we talk about representation it is about more than numbers, it is meaningful representation  and inclusion […] it is bringing the prioritie of [African] women and girls to the table” in order to provide contextual solutions to problems. Elbohi emphasized that this call for representation had to be accompanied by concrete knowledge and skills development to ensure that African women and girls have the ability to navigate these often alienating national and global policy formulation processes.

Elbohi also raised some of the practical solutions from the collective’s demands, such as prioritizing investment in implementing the UNFCCC’s Gender Action Plan, including support for the National Gender Climate Change Focal Points. Elbohi noted that while progress had been made, implementation has lagged far behind the immediate and pressing needs posed by the climate crisis.

The inequitable impacts of climate change were highlighted by Faith Lumonya, who reminded those in attendance of the climate-related disasters affecting various parts of the continent. This includes devastating events such as the floods in Uganda following a long drought, which have disproportionately affected women, particularly rural women who depend on and live off the land.  This devastating impact was contrasted with the fact that attempts to transition to sustainable and renewable energy sources remain inequitable, with developed countries continuing to invest in fossil fuels and nuclear energy contributing to Africa’s environmental devastation. 

Lumonya emphasised that African feminists are demanding that these advanced economies stop all new investments in fossil fuels and nuclear energy and shift towards a sustainable, just and feminist economy that centers gender-responsive use of renewable energies. Lumonya highlighted the need for increased access to sustainable energy sources across Africa. This included the demand that European and developed countries stop the expansion of and leave the Energy Charter, which allows companies to sue governments in secret tribunals and before commercial arbitrators over government policies. 

As part of the concrete measures put forth by African women and girls, Lumonya pointed out the need for: “…[A] targeted, multi-dimensional approach is adopted to ensure that the poor and most vulnerable, who are mostly found in African, Small Island State, Latin American, and Asia Pacific are really centered and that investments are really focused in clean energy so that can be able to transition in a way that our capacity to transition is not undermined.” Such investments would have to coincide with attempts to focus on alleviating women and girls’ burden of unpaid care work through renewable, safe and clean energy projects.

The broader issue of climate financing was a prominent feature in the day’s conversation, tracking its centrality to climate change debates and this year’s COP. Salimata Ba of Senegal raised the importance of climate financing as an issue for African feminists. Noting that at present African feminists are demanding that pledged climate financing obligations be made a concrete reality, and that they are accessible and carried out transparently. The current obligation of US$100 Billion in annual climate financing was highlighted as such an example. Ba noted that this investment has yet to materialize despite the continent needing an estimated US$250 Billion every year to meet its climate change needs.

Ba noted that such and any other funding would need to happen alongside the training of governments in gender-budgeting and the meaningful involvement of women in all stages of climate financing processes.

The centrality of loss and damage and compensation for African women was put to the table by Sylvia Diamond Dorbor of Libera, who emphasized an earlier call for a debt-free financing facility for developing nations — noting, as other speakers had, both the devastating impacts of climate change on Africa and the lack of support and compensation for the victims of climate change who are disproportionately women. However Dorbor urged all to consider damage not only in economic terms, but also via the lens of forced migration, biodiversity loss, displacement, loss of life and other non-economic losses.

It was noted by Gertrude Kenyangi that African women are also demanding the expansion of their land rights and control over productive resources. Part of this stems from the reality that more than 90% of women in Sub-Saharan Africa cannot make any decisions about their land without the consent of a male relative. This status quo strips women of their agency, and puts control over the land to individuals who have little concern for the land or the environment. Part of this it was noted would require “reclaim[ing] respect for communities’ rights to full control of their agriculture and indigenous seed and food systems, as well as traditional farmers’ rights as espoused in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The launch closed with an intervention from Priscilla Achakpa, who emphasized the core set of demands raised by African women and girls. Achakpa reminded those in attendance of the importance of working together to advance shared causes. As Achakpa said in closing: “We are going to COP27, and we have a charter of demands. Our sisters, our feminists from the continent have presented eloquently the demands we want to see our leaders, or negotiators take on board as we go to COP27.