Oladosu Adenike: I Lead Climate
Did you know that climate change issues often disproportionately affect women and girls? Globally, 80% of those displaced because of climate induced factors are female. Whilst this is a worldwide problem, areas such as Lake Chad, which is surrounded by Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, is the only source of income and security for vast numbers of women. With the lake having shrunk by 90% as a result of climate change, many dependent locals are at risk of extreme poverty, violence and displacement.
Through the power of activism and education, people like Oladosu Adenike are stepping up to raise awareness and encourage urgent action. As the founder of I Lead Climate, Adenike shares more insight into the work of her campaign, the critical importance of preserving Lake Chad, and the difference her activism is making for others.
By Oladosu Adenike.
I am Oladosu Adenike Titilope from Nigeria: an Eco-Feminist, climate justice activist and eco-reporter. I am passionate about encouraging youth involvement in climate action through climate education and raising awareness on the importance of women’s environmental rights. I am the founder of I Lead Climate: a youth-led movement raising awareness about climate change induced problems in conflict zones and African societies for disarmament. Together, we are fighting for a safe planet in a rapidly changing environment.
I Lead Climate – what we do and where it all started
I Lead Climate is a pan-African movement that carries out grassroots-based climate action. My motivation to start I Lead Climate came from witnessing the farmer-herdsmen clashes during my undergraduate studies. These clashes were triggered by the depletion of natural resources and an ensuing fight for survival between farmers and herdsmen. The clashes disrupted my education leaving me feeling left behind, but more importantly opened my eyes to the wide-reaching effects of climate change.
Through this experience I was inspired to seek a lasting solution to the climate crisis, and I knew the first meaningful step was to educate others on the problem. I set about educating students in schools, at social gatherings, and in religious and public places, and expanding my own understanding of the problems that exist.
What I learnt shocked me, and I knew I needed to do something. I learnt that environmental instability has very specific, and surprising implications for women and girls. This was most apparent to me when I was investigating the impact of the shrinking Lake Chad. I learnt of two different occasions where girls were kidnapped from their schools by terrorists in Borno and Yobe state in north-eastern Nigeria due to border insecurity caused by the shrinking lake. I learnt of women and girls working with the land around Lake Chad who were unable to keep their livelihoods going.
Lake Chad borders Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. It has now shrunk by 90%, and as it underpins the livelihoods of many people, this shrinkage is now leading to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Across the four countries, over 2.4 million have been forced to flee their homes, whilst millions are also in need of food, water, shelter and access to healthcare.
This shrinkage has left our borders susceptible to insecurity emergencies, and this shows the impact of environmental instabilities on women and girls. Everyone is vulnerable to climate change; it has no identity or alliance. However, due to the close nature of women and girls to their environment within my local community, and the ways in which women rely on it for income, security and safety, we are hugely affected by climate change crisis. Many women in the area run small-scale agricultural businesses for income are also responsible for their household water supply, energy for cooking and heating, and ensuring food security. Here, the loss of people’s livelihoods is one of the greatest weapons against peace and security. It was witnessing this negative impact that made me an Eco-Feminist.
In order to reverse this increasing crisis, I Lead Climate launched #ActOnLakeChad. #ActOnLakeChad is a campaign that inspires action through the curating and sharing of articles and videos, which showcase the need for the lake’s restoration for sustainable development and regional stability. We distribute these assets both digitally to reach a wider audience, and in person to engage communities that are directly affected.
So far, I have been able to mobilize and educate more than 15,000 people in grassroots climate action in different parts of the state. Locally, we have focused on visiting two communities – but in particular the Checheyi community in Kwail Area Council, Abuja. We want to create a lasting, meaningful impact on the lives of local people through the work that we do, so rather than visiting somewhere once and hoping change will happen, we have revisited this area multiple times to actively be a part of I Lead Climate’s advocacy. Many communities are shrouded in superstition and have a negative attitude towards change, so we start by paying an initial courtesy visit to the head of the community to seek permission to advocate in the area. This enables us to gain trust from the local people and go around the community without being armed. After that, we continue to engage locals through education and awareness drives.
The work of I Lead Climate has positively influenced the actions of many local people. I am receiving more and more questions at gatherings, which really shows how the engagement and interest has grown. People often ask about how farms can be more eco-efficient, and I am able to suggest sustainable alternatives: for example, replanting reusable waste rather than burning (as is the norm) will help the soil get richer in nutrients and avoid killing essential microbes. Changes like this means that we are reducing emissions that would have been trapped in the atmosphere. The head of community has also expressed that there has been a significant reduction in the cutting down of trees, due to the knowledge the Checheyi community now have on climate change.
In most of my interactions with people from global north and western countries, there has been limited awareness about the shrinking Lake Chad and the threats this poses to our national security, and it’s more crucial than ever that we rally support from across the globe. This is why our digital element of the campaign is so important.
At I Lead Climate, we are optimistic that the changes we are fighting for will become a reality. From this, we hope that everyone of us can feel empowered to be united behind the science for the people and the planet.
Preparation, persistence, perseverance
So far, I have exposed the issue of climate change to thousands of people and have worked to get many more involved in the climate justice movement - both physically and through information-sharing. We are building a movement of young people through the teaching of environmental sustainability in a bid to encourage the next generation of climate activists. I believe that if people are educated from a young age, it becomes part of them.
Challenges are inevitable, especially when you are working for the good of society. Sometimes, it takes time to earn people’s trust and involvement, so we have to go further in convincing them to be united for climate justice. It is not as easy as it sounds. I have to go the extra mile to pull together the necessary materials; I self-fund my work to achieve my weekly actions of reaching out to more people and encouraging them to join the fight for a safe planet. It’s hard work, but the end goal keeps me going: to liberate millions of people out of the climate crisis, both currently and in the future.
In all we do, we must prepare against failure. These words remind me of the disappointment I felt when a funding stream didn’t come to fruition. It was demoralizing, but we were able to switch to plan B, which included self-funding to get it done. Through ambition and dedication, we can overcome failures when they come our way. The future is bright, but we must back it up with action. Despite all the hurdles we face, I Lead Climate is not settling, because we have set our goals and we are ambitious about our actions.
Leadership is key
It has never been more vital that climate governance is achieved through leadership at various levels; this approach is fundamental towards achieving our outcomes. To me, leadership is defined by daily achievements that ladder up to enable us to attain our goals, because every day has its own target to be met. When there is a lack of leadership in solving the defining issues of our time, then every day becomes a part of those defining issues. So, when there is leadership, our rights become ‘right’.
Here are my top three pieces of advice to young leaders who are working to drive positive change:
1. Be goal oriented: I believe that this is one of the qualities needed for growth and will help define your leadership pathway. It will also serve as a guide when you find yourself off-track, and will always help you find your way again.
2. Be focused: Sometimes you can have the goal in mind but find yourself distracted; staying focused keeps the goal intact. Also, without having constant focus, you will lose track of your goals.
3. Build relationships: One of your greatest assets is the people that surround you. They can either make or mar your ways. Build a strong relationship with people who can inspire you, and mentor your steps for continuous engagement until your demands come into reality.
I am a first-class graduate of Agricultural Economics from the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi and the founder of ILeadClimate. During my one year of voluntary service to my country as a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, I emerged as the Vice President of my Community Development Service group, which worked on supporting the Sustainable Development Goals. This was the largest Community Development Service group in the area. As Vice President, I led my team members through several community projects in a bid to actualize our global goals. Through this, I have furthered my climate change actions by bringing ILeadClimate into the limelight.
In 2019, in recognition of my fight for climate justice, my actions earned me the highest human rights award from Amnesty International as Ambassador of Conscience in Nigeria. That same year, I was selected as one of thousands of young people to attend the first UN youth climate summit. I also attended COP25 as a Nigerian youth delegate on climate finance, where I spoke at a continental press conference as an African youth representative. Thereafter, I have been invited to attend several conferences including events by the World Economic Forum, and more recently, the United Nations Youth Climate Summit in New Year (virtually). To date, I have given 20+ talks across Nigeria and beyond, and plan to continue to deliver even more.
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