The Other Side of Civil Society Story: Women, Oil and the Niger Delta Environmental Struggle in Nigeria


Anugwom, Edlyne Ezenongaya, and Kenechukwu N. Anugwom. 2009. "The Other Side of Civil Society Story: Women, Oil and the Niger Delta Environmental Struggle in Nigeria." GeoJournal 74 (4): 333-46.

Authors: Edlyne Ezenongaya Anugwom, Kenechukwu N. Anugwom


The study based on the outcome of a 2 year involvement with women organizations in the oil rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria avers that in spite of their apparent invisibility in the dominant Niger Delta discourse, women form the first line of social defense against socio-economic privation in the region. The women play active socio-economic roles in the hostile Niger Delta environment in engendering and sustaining group and individual development. In spite of the structural and cultural limitations imposed on women, their associational life seen in the formation of various socio-economic groups has been invaluable to development in the region. Thus apart from providing coping niches for individual women, these women pool together in groups and associations to tackle the every day challenge of living in the region. This fact makes women and their groups critical agencies of intervention and development devolution in the region that should be properly harnessed in addressing the complex Niger Delta situation in Nigeria. 

Keywords: Niger Delta, environment, development, oil, women, communities


  • Niger Delta Region experiences 70% rural subsistence and total absence of basic facilities

  • Greatest danger comes from gas flaring and oil spills; more exploitation means greater risk.

  • Women use heat from flares to dry cassava flakes – “only benefit we derive from having oil in our land.” (340)

  • Women are last to be hired by oil companies; this reflects gender imbalance not limited to TNOCs and brings up the debate as to incapacity versus marginalization related to hiring.


“[The] picture of hopelessness has not been changed by the advent of democracy, rather things may have worsened since general insecurity has been added.” (335)

“Civil society studies have been gender blind since they have neglected specificities of women group engagements, responses and multiple roles in numerous socio-economic, political and resources struggles in Africa… Civil society conceptions are inequitably gendered and exclusionary.” (336)

“[Women’s] groups in the Niger Delta not only function to mitigate impoverishment of members and improve women’s lot but are the harbingers of community wide development projects ranging from electricity installation to town hall buildings and maintenance of village markets and schools (Anugwom 2002). As a matter of fact, these associations have also served as agents of development interventions from government and the TNOCs in the region. In this case, they have been vital in the micro-credit schemes which a firm like Shell Petroleum Development Company for instance, has executed in the region for over a decade now.” (338)

“Our people are not jealous of the good life enjoyed by staff of oil companies, but considering the speed with which they provide these things to themselves, it is expected that they should provide the same to their host communities, at least, over time.” (340)

“Women incidentally have also been at the receiving end of the heightened militarization of the region by both the government and TNOCs in response to the youths’ conflict. Women have made up a disproportionate number of those killed, maimed, traumatised and even raped in the various offensives from the government security agencies…” (344)

Topics: Civil Society, Development, Economies, Environment, Gender, Women Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Nigeria

Year: 2009

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