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Regional News of Sunday, 25 July 2021

Source: McAnthony Dagyenga, Contributor

CSOs unhappy about women land right abuses at Okumaning

About 50 women in the rural Okumaning-Aboabo community say they have had their lands dispossessed About 50 women in the rural Okumaning-Aboabo community say they have had their lands dispossessed

Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in West Africa have expressed unhappiness about the state of women living at Okumaning-Aboabo in the Kwaebibirem Municipality of the Eastern Region.

It was earlier reported that about 50 women in the rural Okumaning-Aboabo community complained of being dispossessed of their lands, allegedly, by the Ghana Oil Palm Development Company (GOPDC) with the full backing of traditional authorities in that area.

According to the women, currently, most of them are without decent accommodation and jobs. Some also expressed that they have not been compensated while those who have received some form of compensation say they were not fairly engaged in the compensation process by GOPDC.

The CSOs, which include the Youth Volunteers on Environment (YVE)-Ghana, JVE -Cote D’Ivoire and Friends of the Earth (FOE) Africa with members drawn from Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria, met in Ghana to discuss issues concerning how women in the Okumaning community were dispossessed of their farmlands and shelters.

The CSOs discussed disturbing activities of Multinational companies under the SIAT Group in the various countries and called on governments in West Africa particularly, to deal with the menace which is bringing hardship on their rural dwellers.

Members of the three CSOs also called on the government of Ghana to show interest in the current situation at Okumaning and ensure that residents of that community who have been affected by activities of the GOPDC are attended to.

Rita Uwaka, the Africa Forest and Biodiversity Programme Coordinator for FOE-Africa on her part expressed worry that women who are key in conserving Africa’s lands, forests and production processes are rather the most unrecognised and less valued class as far as their role is concerned.

“I am in Ghana to build collective solidarity with communities such as Okumaning which are impacted by operations of transnational companies who are into agro commodities.

“There is a lot of abuses on the ground, a lot of violations, human rights violations, social, environmental and gender impact of the company’s operation that is causing a lot of livelihood truncation, eviction and human rights abuses.

“So, we feel that we need to talk about this and also to meet with communities that are directly impacted by the operations of this company who come in the name of development to different localities in Africa.

“We feel that we cannot be talking as Friends of the Earth, if we don’t talk about environmental justice, gender justice and we cannot talk about gender justice without talking about women,” she said.

Rita Uwaka, who expressed these sentiments also after a side event on solutions to environmental degradation, stressed that “If we really want a just and equitable system, we need to recognise the role that women play in forest conservation and in food production because they are always the most impacted when these lands are grabbed, when our forests bodies are brought to their knees and when the water bodies are polluted with agro chemicals that poison the body, the soil and underground water bodies.”

“That is why we are calling governments to listen to the voices of communities at the frontline who are most hit by this devastation and cruel abuses by this company. And we are calling on the governments to consider recognising that putting the management of our forest and our food production in the hands of the communities is the best way to go.

“Those that are funding these destructive practices from different parts of the world should defund deforestation. Instead, they should fund community led solutions like community forest management and biodiversity management,” Rita appealed.

The Head of Social Justice for JVE- Cote d'Ivoire, Daleba Nahounou, said that the joint force of CSOs in the West African Sub-region would petition governments to consider the well-being of their citizens, especially those at the rural communities and not subject them to the negative impacts of multinational companies.

“We have been here in Ghana for three days to think about the things that the SIAT Group and GOPDC are doing in many countries such as Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria.

“We have visited Okumaning and seen things for ourselves. We think the outcome of our meeting here is satisfactory.

“We have realised how to reposition ourselves to continue our struggle for the betterment of communities bearing in mind the SIAT Group activities that are hampering the progress of communities in West Africa,” he added.

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