Mother’s Rebellion (Mother’s Day 2023)

What does mom really want for Mother’s Day?

It’s Mother’s Day and companies are trying to convince us that chocolates, flowers and fluffy slippers make mothers happy. But the essence of motherhood is bringing up children, and what truly makes a mother happy is when her children are fed, healthy and heading into a bright future. Many mothers do not have that comfort this Mother’s Day as all around the world floods, droughts and heatwaves caused by climate change are upending people’s lives and increasing poverty.

In Somalia, in 2022, Ijabu Hassan lost three children, aged 5, 4 and 2, who died from malnutrition. Four consecutive failed rainy seasons caused a record drought and clinics reported a huge increase in severe malnutrition.

In August 2022, Pakistan experienced the worst floods in its history. Rubina was six months pregnant when her home village was destroyed by floods. Her family lost everything. She now lives in a makeshift shelter and fears for the health of her baby and older children.

In March 2022 India experienced its worst ever heatwave. Aliya Sheikh who works from an un-airconditioned, one-room house in a slum in Mumbai, does textile work at home so that she can look after her toddler and baby at the same time. Aliya’s work rate slowed so much in the punishing heat that she could not earn enough to buy food for her family. Her experience was common to many women.

Nompumelelo Melemela and her 17-year-old daughter are still living in emergency accommodation a year after their home was washed away in the 2022 Durban flooding. The factory where Melemela worked was also destroyed in the flood and she is without work. The temporary shelter is far from the school her daughter attended and she can’t afford to pay the transport costs for her child to attend school.

The Northern Cape has experienced more than a decade of drought, devastating the economy. Families are struggling to feed their children, some becoming dependent on food parcels.

Given that the impacts of climate change are now obvious all around us, you would expect our government to be strongly driving a just transition away from fossil fuels. But in fact South Africa is extending a warm welcome to oil and gas companies who are snapping up licences to explore and exploit oil and gas all round our coastline. Healthy oceans absorb carbon so oil and gas exploitation will be doubly damaging as it will interfere with our complex and vital ocean ecosystem as well as contributing to carbon emissions in the extraction, processing and burning of these fuels. We therefore today stand with demonstrations going on around the country this weekend to protest against the Government’s awarding of licences to Total Energies to explore for oil around our entire coastline and to begin production in the Mossel Bay area, and to geological companies such as CGG and TGS which are carrying out seismic surveys offshore of South Africa’s east and west coasts.

The way politicians measure progress and success is being recognised as deeply flawed. National accounts record profit made from exploiting oil and gas. But the same accounts fail to debit against that profit the loss of Nompumelelo’s home, the effect on the atmosphere of the greenhouse gases that are emitted when the oil and gas is burned, or the damage to marine life that will be incurred in the exploring, extraction and transporting of oil and gas. The intangible heritage of the way of life of coastal communities and their spiritual connection to the ocean is not counted nor is the livelihoods and good protein that fish provides to subsistence and smallscale fisherfolk. And will that profit improve the lives of those who are suffering like Nompumelelo or will it be spent on the priorities of the rich and powerful?

Carmelita Mostert, a fisherwoman with Coastal Links Saldanha Bay, adds her voice to many calling for an end to oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the ocean. “If they take away our livelihoods what will we have left? As a fisherwoman, I work hard to create my living from the ocean. So, when people suggest that small-scale fishing and the offshore oil and gas industry can coexist, I say they are delusional and clearly know (or care) very little for this precious natural resource.”

So we stand here today in solidarity with mothers everywhere — mothers of human children and ocean mothers such as the whales that migrate along our coast who struggle to communicate with their young in the face of the noise of seismic blasting. We mothers don’t want chocolates, we want social and environmental justice. We don’t want flowers, we want to know that our children have a liveable future.

We demand that our government stops all offshore exploration for fossil fuels and honours its climate and environmental commitments in terms of the Paris Agreement and the many conventions for protection of the ocean to which South Africa is a signatory.

Read the full press release here