Beyond the Spotlight – Grassroots Advocacy and the Quest for True Change in the African Region

In the heart of Nigeria’s Niger Delta, Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre has not only been fervently advocating for women’s rights and environmental justice for over two decades, but has also shown the world that real change often begins away from the global spotlight. Their relentless pursuit of gender equality and environmental justice has been a beacon for countless women in the region, providing them with platforms to narrate the stark realities they face due to environmental hazards caused by fossil fuel extraction in their territories.

As the international community gears up for COP28, grassroots movements like Kebetkache’s are taking the stage, reminding the world that real advocacy sometimes finds its roots outside established forums. They have clear expectations from the summit: a substantial representation of women from frontline communities and an outright rejection of false solutions, such as the harmful introduction of genetically modified seeds and fertilizers (GMOs) which are presented to African smallholder farmers as solutions to climate change. Echoing their sentiments, Kebetkache states, “The use of conventional, genetically modified seeds and fertilizers destroy the plants and have an adverse effect on harvests. Particularly, the destruction of the land in Africa, livelihoods, forests resources contributes to biodiversity loss. Loss and damage should not be presented as a charity act because it is actually a human rights issue.”

The Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA), which Kebetkache forms a partner to, has been rallying behind the Kebetkatche, supporting the organization in amplifying their demands and pushing for change. This collaborative effort aims to weave local realities into the tapestry of international policies.

Yet, navigating international platforms like COP hasn’t been without challenges for them as well as many other grassroots organizations. Their past experiences at COP summits have often left them feeling frustrated, distant and unheard, emphasizing the need for alternative platforms. As they shared, “The frustration lies in the fact that those who need to hear us are far away from the people. They’ve restricted public participation and engagement within the COP framework. Such discrimination persists, limiting the voices and stories of the people.”

It’s within this landscape of systemic challenges that our message of “Building Power Outside of COP” shines through. Kebetkache, along with other grassroots initiatives, co-organized the African Women Climate Assembly between 24 – 28 September 2023 as part of the African People’s Counter COP. The assembly, providing an alternative, inclusive, and accessible space, witnessed the mobilization of 150 women from 14 African countries. Together, they delved deep into their shared experiences, articulating pressing issues, and exchanging stories. It championed Indigenous farming practices, advocated for clean energy solutions tailored for African women, and amplified the demand for reparations for climate and ecological debts that African communities have historically shouldered. A crucial aspect of their collaboration was the collective analysis of false solutions, and the advocacy for the promotion of agroecology, underscoring the importance of cultivating and preserving Indigenous seeds, as well as the need to honor local, cultural practices of organic farming. Asserting the importance of honoring these cultural practices and correcting the historical and ongoing wrongdoings to the region, the organization proclaims, “We demand reparations for the historical and ongoing climate and ecological debt that is owed to Africa and our communities.”

As the world’s gaze fixates on COP28, organizations like Kebetkache are rewriting narratives. They’re crafting powerful stories outside the confines of established forums, embodying the essence of grassroots advocacy, and heralding a new dawn of true change and solutions.

Find out more about the work of the African Women’s Climate Assembly and the African people’s Counter COP:

The Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) will be present at COP28 with a delegation between November 30 to December 12, 2023. Join us at our side event “Gender Just Climate Policy & Finance: From Barriers to Actionable Solutions” on Sunday, 3 December, where we delve deep into themes central to this article. For collaboration opportunities and to learn more, please contact Noemi Grütter, GAGGA Co-Coordinator, Advocacy and Collaborations: For additional insights around this article and Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre’s work and to connect directly, reach out to Emem Okon, Executive Director, Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre at or Nsemeke Fabian, Communications Officer, Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre at

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