How Lake Chad fuelled the ecofeminist movement

“This is why I advocate for the restoration of Lake Chad as one of the solutions that will end violence against women and girls – because women’s right are environmental rights.” Nigerian climate activist Oladosu Adenike explains how her journey to ecofeminism started at Lake Chad. 

Lake Chad

Remnants of Chad Lake, Chad, February 2015, Peter Prokosch via GRID-Arendal on Flickr CC (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Oladosu Adenike

Climate change crises create a feminist issue as climate change shadows gender equality in several ways. I am Oladosu Adenike from Nigeria – an ecofeminist, ecoreporter and climate justice activist. I have a story to tell to the world that is an everyday reality of our time, especially to someone like me from the Global South. 

Over the years, women and girls have been used as a coping mechanism for survival in a climate change-induced environment: trekking long distances to get water, making ends meet for the family, and, in some cases, being married off earlier than the legal age. This affects their education, health and wider society. In Africa, our economic activities, such as agriculture, are climate sensitive – that is, affected by droughts and floods and the shrinking number of natural resources – and are increasing hunger and poverty. All these are environmental traps that women and girls fall into. We contribute the lowest footprint, yet we bear the largest burden of the climate crisis. We must not forget that today's girls are tomorrow's women.

I am yet to see a little girl who does not want to be empowered – because every bit of empowerment she feels, she wants to replicate it to others. She is a game-changer. The biggest threat to women and girls lies in the depletion of our natural resources for the generation of livelihood and income flow, which results in us being disproportionately affected by climate change. In the search for alternative livelihood as refugees, it could lead to transitional sex. 

My feminism – ecofeminism – is defined by people and for the environment. Ecofeminism calls for us to strive for equality everywhere. And more than ever before, ecofeminism involves a solution-based approach that places women and girls at the centre of it, since we bear the brunt of the crisis. 

However, there is a connection between climate change and gender equality. Around the world, in every deprived area – many of which are hotspots for the impacts of climate change – there are high rates of violence against women and women’s rights abuses. This has indirectly placed women and girls in a position where they are forced to take the back seat on development issues. In some cultures, women are not allowed to own land, but they are expected to participate in mass production for the agriculture sector. Land ownership is integral to food security, especially in a world where millions of people are in need of humanitarian aid for survival. We can’t keep giving people aid – it is not sustainable – rather, we must find a way to end climate change, which creates an enabling environment that fuels crises.

In Sahel, where Lake Chad sits, more than 20 million girls are child brides. Sahel has also been one of the world’s most deprived landscapes for decades now. Our ecosystem is a disadvantage to us in various ways, leading to large setbacks in gender equality. I vividly remember in 2014, some 276 school girls were kidnapped in Borno, with the same incident occurring in Dapachi in 2018 – not to mention the numerous untold stories. These states are the closest to the ever-shrinking Lake Chad in Nigeria, showing a correlation between climate change and the increase in violence against women and girls. 

It has been proven that climate change is a threat to girls’ education, as it creates an enabling environment for insecurity, and armed groups prohibit Western education – especially for girls. Likewise, two-thirds of the 10.7 million people displaced in Lake Chad by the climate crisis are women because they depend totally on natural resources for the generation of income. In this regard, our livelihoods are some of the poorest in the world. 

This is why I advocate for the restoration of Lake Chad as one of the solutions that will end violence against women and girls through the pan-Africa movement ILeadClimate – because women’s right are environmental rights.