Women, Water, and Climate Justice—Cameroonian Human Rights Activist Asaha Elizabeth Ufei Leads the Way
By Guest Blogger, Deborah McKinney of CJI Initiative Partner, Women of Color United
Some of the key reasons why Women of Color United is “making all this fuss” about women and climate change couldn’t be better explained than listening to Asaha Elizabeth Ufei’s description of issues affecting the women of her community in the Momo Division of the Northwest Province of Cameroon. The traditional gender roles and expectations of women and girls lay the burdens of home management, childcare, providing food and income on their backs. At the same time, women and girls are often forced into marriages, lose all property rights, endure violence in their homes, have little to no power in their homes and communities unless men permit it, and often have little to no education or resources.
As the climate conditions worsen, women are finding it harder to provide food and water for their families. The once reliable and nearby water sources are drying up or contaminated; and the crops aren’t producing enough. So we are faced with questions: How many more miles must women have to walk to provide basic life-sources? What other ways can women sustain their families when the traditional agriculture and craft materials are gone? How many women will have to uproot their families and migrate to other places—that may be hostile to immigrants—because they can longer find food and shelter in their communities? How many more women and girls will be pushed into survival sex work because there are fewer economic opportunities? How many more people who speak up about human rights and organize for change will be severely punished, coerced to leave their countries, or forever silenced?
Elizabeth’s story illuminates the all too common experience of women in the Global South…and on some levels the lives of women of color and women in communities of poverty in the Global North. The mirror she gracefully holds up also shows the desperate conditions we, in the Global North, are increasingly facing as this climate crisis advances unabated.