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A conversation with Makoma Lekalakala, Earthlife Africa 

What is the state of organising by women in your sector and context?

I respect women, particularly South African women because they don’t ever wait for Women’s Day or Month to respond to the challenges they are facing. Women across the country in the environmental sector are at the forefront of challenging issues and rallying support for projects. Women are generally the carers, they are the managers in their own homes so it becomes important to protect what is around them. Women are not just making sure the family is well off with food, it’s much more than that; it’s about protecting the land and broader human rights. Women are connecting their issues to environmental issues and also around their traditions, culture and belief system. African spirituality is connected to nature and this is what women are protecting. They are challenging coal mines and construction of nuclear reactors. Women are raising their voices against inequalities, water pollution, access to water, access to energy, and access to electricity. This is what women have been involved in whether they are holding 9-to-5 jobs or working in the home.  Women are continuously trying to protect the earth, the planet, and are constantly upholding women’s rights.

Can you share more about some of the strategies women are using to organise?

I’m realising in the work I do, which involves sharing information and making people aware of their rights, it’s women who are taking up issues and protecting the environments they live in. African women have always been sharing information through storytelling, and producing knowledge through inter-generational discussions and conversations. Women have been using this as a tool, making sure and linking knowledge to how to protect the environment. There is a strong link and connection to land and women’s spirituality as well as food security. People are learning how food was grown in the past using older methods of growing food as part of food security. Women are rallying and sharing information about what we can do to avert food insecurity through cooking in different ways and preserving food, and this is a direct link to adapting to the negative impacts of climate change.

What is one of the issues you are seeing right now in the fight to protect the environment?

Everyday is women’s day and women’s month. Women are involved in everyday struggles on a daily basis, they are confronted with inequalities but are also challenging the issues they are up against. We have good regulations and legislation but this is not being implemented, in fact, it’s what is exacerbating the existing inequalities that we are experiencing as a society. It’s important as women we start coming together to rally around the inequalities we are facing. The issue around climate change is impacting women more than any other member of society. For example, climate change-induced natural disasters such as floods around the coastline impacted women, yet women were also the ones running and rallying around, ensuring there’s some form of stability for their families and communities. 

What message do you have for women leading change? 

It’s important for us to share as much as we can with each other, we need to share information, this is what builds us and builds solidarity amongst ourselves.  As women we have power.  This is the right moment for us to seize power through solidarity,  sharing information, and also making sure women’s lives are improved which will translate to society being improved.  

Earthlife Africa is a non-profit organisation based in South Africa that seeks a better life for all people without exploiting other people or degrading their environment and encourages and supports individuals, businesses and industries to reduce pollution, minimise waste and protect our natural resources. Its goal is to have a society living within the ecological limits of sustainable development with an equitable distribution of resources for all, respect for all living things, and the end of social, economic and political exploitation.

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