Ecofeminism: Women as Stewards of the Earth

From earth goddesses to creation theories, there are countless symbolisms about women and their deep ties to the earth. An example is the folktale in the Yoruba oral tradition, of Osun, the goddess of river, and The Earth Mother —-PAPA (Haumea and Ka Luahine) of native Hawaiian mythology.

In the year 1974 when the term “ecofeminism” was coined by the French writer Françoise d’Eaubonne in her book Feminism or Death, she argued that with the planet in women’s hands, everyone will thrive. 

So why women?

Before the coming of the European slave masters to Africa, the land or earth was seen as a sacred entity that should be cherished and respected. Africans understood that there was a relationship between man and his environment, and because of this, they worshipped and revered most natural elements like rivers, trees, mountains, and animals. 

For centuries, our ancestors coexisted peacefully with the environment. Particularly, African women nurtured communities, passing down traditional knowledge from generation to generation. It’s no wonder nature is referred to as Mother Earth, symbolizing the life-giving and nurturing abilities of a mother. Women didn’t just sit back and watch the world burn. They led the fight against colonialism, patriarchy, and, more recently, environmental destruction. They understand that the Earth isn’t just a resource to be exploited—it’s living, breathing, and sustains all life. 

However, women weren’t automatically handed the job of being guardians of the earth. Gender inequality, in many ways, forces them to bear the brunt of environmental destruction. Anytime there is a climate crisis, women and girls are the ones who suffer the most. For instance, when it comes to issues such as food crises, extreme weather conditions, and basic rights like being able to move around freely or own land, women bear the brunt. 

Studies, in fact show that 80% of those displaced by natural disasters are women. it is for this reason that gender considerations are included in the Paris Climate Agreement to guarantee that women receive assistance in coping with the risks associated with climate change.

We Should All Be Ecofeminists

The concept of ecofeminism suggests that patriarchy is the driving force behind the degradation of the planet and the exploitation of women. And so it proposes that only by reversing aggressive behaviors and gender inequality, can both society and the environment benefit.

What does ecofeminism look like in action? 

It is

  • recognizing the power of indigenous women who’ve been leading the charge for generations. 
  • women like Wangari Maathai, Oladosu Adenike, and Mariama Sonko standing up to corporate greed, government corruption, and environmental racism.
  • communities coming together to fight against deforestation and pollution

AU Agenda 2063

The 2063 Agenda of the African Union addresses the critical issue of climate change and acknowledges its profound consequences for Africa’s development and sustainability goals. The Strategy and Action Plan (2022-2032) provides an outline for harmonized and coordinated actions, as well as defines the parameters for climate risk management and climate-resilient development. It also drums support for the most vulnerable communities and groups (women and youths) and acknowledges the critical role they play as change agents driving climate responses at local, national, and continental levels.

Climate and Gender

Ecofeminism is more than just saving the planet, it is building a world where we understand the interconnectedness of all life, and work together to create an equitable and sustainable future. The movement is offering visions of alternative development models that demand both gender and economic justice and asking us all to reconsider what constitutes “progress” in the first place. In other words, you can’t save the planet without also dismantling systems of oppression.