Vanessa Nakate, Joan & Clare

Vanessa Nakate, graduate from the Makerere University Business School in Kampala, Uganda, made the BBC’s ‘Top 100 women’ list of 2020 and perhaps more prestigiously, Time magazine’s ‘Next 100’ most influential people of 2021 (linked article written by Greta Thunberg).

Vanessa is a prominent climate and climate justice activist, and her younger sisters Joan & Clare are proving to become just as active on feminist issues. Their love for their sister clearly came through in this interview I did for Epic Tomorrows on YouTube, part of a weekly series I am recording on an ongoing basis with Joan & Clare:

Joan & Clare’s ambition for the Rise Up Movement which Vanessa started, comes through clearly in this 50 second teaser clip of a longer interview yet to be released by Epic Tomorrows. Joan and Clare now have official roles in the Rise Up Movement of International Co-ordinator and Evaluation Officer respectively.

Listening to Vanessa’s contribution to a recent WIRED UK debate -about the climate injustice faced both by people living on the African continent and more specifically, African girls and women, I was both inspired and surprised. I was inspired, because clearly the forceful and insightful leadership of women like Vanessa is much needed in these times of Transition to post-capitalism (or if you don’t agree with that, to something other than the horrific neo-liberal capitalism which perpetuates and magnifies all social and ecological injustice).

I was surprised, because I didn’t expect to hear Vanessa talking about reducing population growth on the African continent as a response to the climate crisis. As a middle-class white guy from the affluent UK, I understand that for me to talk about population reduction globally could be easily interpreted as eco-fascism, as often those who do advocate population reduction measures have an agenda of protecting their own wasteful (including in terms of C02 emissions) lifestyles at the expense of poorer nations. Halving consumption in the richest nations would do more to curb carbon emissions, afterall, than halving the population of the African continent over the coming few decades, even accounting for the economic growth of ‘developing’ nations. More information here.

I am sensitive to the the issues of climate injustice faced by girls and women in Uganda and in Africa more generally. Joan and Clare, and now Vanessa, have drawn my attention to these, including:

  • Agriculture forms a significant part of most African economies, including Uganda. Increased water and food instability across the continent due to climate change (including both longer droughts and heavier rainfall), results in women and girls in the rural areas having to strive harder. Women and girls are responsible for much of the water and food provision as well as agricultural work for profit. Effects on their work and well-being include having to walk longer distances to collect water, thus being at greater risk of gender-based violence i.e. opportunistic attacks, including from impoverished armed groups who are also made more desperate by the worsening climate crisis.
  • Girls being sold off to much older husbands i.e. child marriage, because it is the only way that some impoverished families feel they can survive, after repeated crop failures and food instability due to climate change.
  • More pressure on girls to help at home due to water and food instability means that they drop out of school, or never go to school in the first place. This has a detrimental effect on their future career prospects and the general empowerment of girls and women in a capitalist society.

Below is a short highlight clip of Clare explaining some of these issues and more:

It is sometimes hard for me to reconcile climate justice activism and feminist activism from the global south with my own perspective on global justice, when the empowerment of girls and women seems often to be advocated through capitalist mechanisms. It is arguable that these mechanisms were instrumental in climate injustice and patriarchy in the first place.

I am fundamentally anti-capitalist or more pragmatically you could say ‘post-capitalist’ as I understand that, short of a sudden global and bloody revolution (which is the last thing I want) capitalism has to be Transitioned away from, progressively over the coming decades. Localised markets could still exist in my best-case scenario for the future, but not the overarching ‘global free market’ which currently governs human culture at the expense of life and well-being.

Mass civil disobedience in the global north will have to be one of the driving factors of the Transition.

So in the meantime, I support every effort by climate justice and feminist activists from Uganda, the African continent and indeed the entire ‘global south’, if it means that those in the industrialised north are increasingly forced to face the consequences of their turning poorer nations -and women and girls in particular from those nations- into ecological and human sacrificial zones.

Just as I came towards the end of writing this post I heard via Twitter that Vanessa Nakate bravely went off script at an international event where she was invited to speak:

More power to Vanessa Nakate, and more power to Joan and Clare.

Subscribe to my channel to catch Joan & Clare every Wednesday.

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