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Eco-activists, including those portrayed in Niger Delta literature, are advocates of sustainable environmental practices. Existing studies on the struggle against environmental degradation in Niger Delta literature have concentrated on men as leading eco-activists, while women are marginalised and treated as victims. This study was, therefore, designed to examine the roles of women as eco-activists in selected Niger Delta novels and plays, with a view to establishing the significance of women in the struggle for environmental regeneration. Ecofeminism was adopted as framework, while interpretive design was used. Six novels: Vincent

Egbuson’s Love My Planet, May Ifeoma Nwoye’s Oil Cemetery, Helon Habila’s Oil on Water, Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow, Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist, and Promise Ogochukwu’s Outrage; and two plays: Tess Onwueme’s What Mama Said and Then She Said It were purposely selected for their shared thematic foci on ecological issues and women’s eco-resistance activities. The texts were subjected to literary analysis.

Collectively and individually, eco-activism is championed by women in the selected texts. In Love My Planet, Outrage, The Activist, Oil Cemetery, What Mama Said and Then She Said It, women collectively protest against environmental injustice. In Love My Planet, women engage in tree planting activities to enhance environmental regeneration. In Outrage, women halt the activities of KP Oil in protest against environmental pollution. In Oil Cemetery and The Activist, women’s nude protests show the seriousness of their agitation against environmental pollution. However, in Love My Planet, Oil Cemetery, Oil on Water, and Yellow-Yellow, women individually protest against environmental degradation. Toundi, in Love My Planet, protests against environmental despoliation by creating awareness on the effects of gas flaring in Daglobe Delta. She also, through her article entitled, “I care for the environment”, sensitises the people on the need to care for the environment.

In Oil on Water, Boma joins a religious group to preserve Irikefe Island. In Oil Cemetery, Rita sues and wins her law suit against Zebulon Oil Company for degrading the environment of Ubolu community. Zilayefa, in Yellow-Yellow, courageously extricates herself from the web of financial dependence on environmental exploiters in Port Harcourt, which metaphorically suggests that the Niger Delta should severe herself from any relationship that encourages environmental pollution in the region.

In all the texts, except Onwueme’s What Mama Said and Then She Said It, women privilege non-violent protest in their resistance against environmental degradation. In What Mama Said and Then She Said It, women uphold a more radical approach to eco-activism by abducting the exploiters of environment to demand the stoppage of environmental pollution in Sufferland and Hungeria respectively. Female characters in all the texts resist environmental despoliation. The selected novels and plays depict women as eco-activists, and the significance of their resistance and pro-active initiatives in checking environmental degradation in the region of Niger Delta.




Women have deeper affinity with nature. This is because they depend on nature’s resources for meaningful existence. They rely on land, forests, rivers and air for provision of food, clean water, fuel, medicinal herbs, income generation and fresh air. Dankelman and Davidson (1988) support this view by acknowledging that ninety percent of women from the third world depend on land for their survival. As a result of these benefits, the women tend to preserve the environment more than anyone else. Certain roles and features that women and nature share in common also contribute to knit their relationship. The connection between women and nature is attributed to similar nurturing characteristics that they share in common. In the wake of technological advancement, land, rivers, forests and air, which serve as sources of women’s needs are degraded and the effects are greatly felt by women.

They suffer unemployment, poverty, diseases as well as gynaecological problems. This explains why Jahan (2008) asserts that women suffer most from degradation of the environment. Also, such roles as “daily manager of natural resources, caretakers of environment and decision-maker of domestic consumption and production patterns” [played by women] “become harder through environmental degradation.” Nasrin        (2012:  151) Advancement in science and technology also contributes to displacing women of the above roles as pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, hybridisation of crops, and mechanisation of agricultural activities are introduced. These deny women natural knowledge and techniques of conservation of natural resources. It also has unemployment implication for people in general and women in particular, especially in some parts of Africa where the responsibility to provide for the family is more on the woman.

Dankelman and Davidson (1988) observe that as a result of the above, women’s only means of control over their livelihoods is threatened; their sources of resources continue to dwindle while their responsibilities continue to increase (Jahan, 2008). The above problems that affect women physically are also reflected in their image in literary representation. Women, especially in literary works, are sometimes portrayed as victims. Such an image is perhaps incontestable due to societal vices and environmental decadence which principally affect women, especially in the developing countries of the world. These societal deformities include various forms of abuse, human trafficking, sexual harassment, verbal assault, violence of all kinds, intimidation, among others affect women most.

Nasrin (2012) has identified western colonisation, technological advancement in agriculture, the sharpening worldwide division of labour, religious fundamentalism among others as some factors that have brought extra problems for women. Among them, she agrees that “environmental degradation is the most and latest threat to women” (165) especially with the increase in climate change. In recent times, climate change induces threats to the existence of human and non-human entities. This has attracted global attention such that environmental regeneration has become urgent and paramount in global discussion. As a result, every field of study deems it necessary to participate in the creation of awareness on the need to care for the environment if planet earth must continue to exist meaningfully.

Literature is not left out in this project. Creative writers engage literature towards achieving this goal. Considering the fact that women suffer victimisation most in time of environmental crisis, writers deploy their artistry to interrogate the women’s space with regard to championing the cause of protecting the environment. In the late 1960s, women’s awareness and their connection with the environment were primarily initiated by Boserup with a book titled Women’s Role in Economic Development (1970). She argues that the role of women in terms of environmental sustainability is undermined and therefore, requires some sort of awareness.

In “Eco-feminism: role of women in environmental governance and management,” Mukherjee (2013) admits that women are closer to nature than men and this makes them perfect managers of the eco-system. They try to preserve the eco-system because their survival is tied to it. The rural women, for instance, largely depend on the forest to meet her daily needs of water, food, fuel, fruit, condiment, medicinal herbs, and others. The attitude and perspective of women to the environment is different from the men’s. Women view the environment as an important resource for survival. As a result, there is an immediate instinct towards preserving and regenerating it for sustainability of life.

Annabel (1991) affirms that in India, rural women collect dead woods in the forest for fuel rather than cut down live trees. This preservative instinct is also common in many rural as well as urban communities in Africa. The dependence on nature for survival is common among Third World women (Agarwal (1997). As a result, they play essential roles in the preservation and management of natural resources such as soil, trees, forests, water bodies and others. Literature is used to capture this reality. This study, therefore, explores how the roles of women in regeneration of the Niger Delta eco-system are depicted in selected novels and plays on environmental crisis in the region.


Phallocentricism simply relates to privileging of the masculine (the phallus) in terms of social relations or bias towards male power. Feminist discourse reacts to the physical, economic and politcal tyranny of patriarchal states. From the pioneer feminists such as Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft to the contemporary exponents of feminism, emphasis has been on emancipation of women from the grip or control of male dominated society. This control is however not limited to women but extends to the environment.

Human beings, out of quest for power and control and for the acquisition of material things, tend to forget the foundation of their existence which is located in a healthy ecosystem. Ecosystem is a web that comprises human and non-human members that live and interact interdependently. The interdependent relationship that exists among human and non-human beings is what makes the ecosystem complete. If by omission or commission the ecosystem is distorted, survival of humans alongside the non-humans would be at risk. This explains why Okuyade (2013: ix) opines that “the non-human world appears to be more important than the human since it provides the material support base for the latter”. This simply foregrounds the significance of environment and importance of environmental preservation and sustainability. Mishra (2011) concurs with this opinion by stating that:

Today we live in a world of tropical warmth, chronic drought, desertification, deforestation, acidifying of oceans, frequent coastal inundation, tsunami, cyclones, increasing food and shelter shortage. It is a global phenomenon. Hence, the whole world whether partially or fully affected, should come forward and launch a global campaign with honesty for the service of environment and the restoration of healthy environment. (1)

This foregrounds that irrespective of race, gender, tribe, and religion, everyone requires a healthy environment to make a worthwhile existence. Environment plays a significant role in the life of every human being. For this reason, care for the environment becomes the responsibility of all human beings.

The link between women and nature is metaphorically expressed in literature. Such feminine attributes of fertility and nurturing are associated with both women and nature. Hutner (2010:2) further elucidates that:

The Earth is depicted (both currently and historically) in and protective (stereotypically maternal); sexualised and feminised terms. …nature is portrayed as fertile, nurturing, seductive (observed and possessed by men); and wild, dark, and dangerous (needing to be tamed and civilized).

The association between women and the environment is not passive but saturated with creativity which leads to the maintenance of life (Shiva, 1994). Shiva’s postulation is quite different from most views on women and the environment, which usually portray women as victims of environmental degradation. Domination of nature is akin to oppression of women. Just as women are treated as objects to be used and dumped, nature is exploited and abandoned when it becomes irreparably degraded and unproductive. This explains why women feel most the effects of environmental degradation.

In such a situation, it appears that they are overcome by the situation evident in their emotional outburst of weeping or lamentation. Their voices are of the frustrated, helpless, marginalised, hopeless and victimised. The same portraiture is noticed in the literary works that are produced about such situations. But Shiva seems to have a counter view when she asserts that “the women who participate in and lead ecological movements in different parts of the world are not speaking merely as victims. Their voices are the voices of liberation and transformation which provide new categories of thought and new exploratory directions.”(5) She further illustrates that in the perspective of women’s involvement in survival struggles, which are simultaneously struggles for protection of nature, women and nature are intimately related, and their domination and liberation are similarly linked. She goes further to explain that:

In their fight to survive the onslaughts of both, women have begun a struggle that challenges the most fundamental categories of western patriarchy – its concepts of nature and women, and of science and development. Their ecological struggles are aimed simultaneously at liberating nature from ceaseless exploitation and themselves from limitless marginalisation. They are creating a feminist ideology that transcends gender and a political practice that is humanly inclusive.” (ibid)

This ecological struggle by the women that is aimed at liberating, restoring, and preserving the essence of nature is now recognised as ecofeminism. At the forefront of such struggles are Rachel Carson, Vandana Shiva, Wangari Maathai, Petra Kelly, Loi Gibbs, Julia Butterfly Hill as well as many other women around the world who channel their activism towards environmental preservation and regeneration. Eco-activism, any effort that is made by an individual or a group of people to preserve or regenerate the environment, is depicted by the above-mentioned women and others in one way or another. This study, therefore, examines the roles of women as eco-activists in selected Niger Delta novels and plays. African writers are important in society; they remind the people of the past, make them more aware of their present in order to usher them into the future. They are

conscious of their responsibility to the society. Echenim (2004:21) corroborates this view by admitting that “writers consider that theirs is a sacred mission which involves imparting knowledge on social and cultural phenomena which characterise society, and thereby creating social and political awareness in their readership.” Nigerian writers have continued to rise to the occasion by using their works to make the people to become more conscious of the current state of things especially in their locality.

One of Nigeria’s great literary writers is Tanure Ojaide whose poetry finds expression in his advocacy for environmental resuscitation in the Niger Delta. He is regarded as an environment- conscious poet. Perhaps more famous is late Ken Saro-Wiwa, a writer cum activist, whose literary and physical activisms centre on the struggle against the despoliation of Niger Delta eco-system. Therefore, the searchlight of Nigerian writers has continued to exaSmine diverse socio-political and cultural issues which have emanated in the region as a result of environmental degradation.


African literary writers respond to the issues of environment in their writings. They use their works to reflect the significance of the environment to African communities. For instance, the caves and groves (forest) have both cultural and religious significance. An instance is seen in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, where Agbala, the oracles that presides over the affairs of the people of Umuofia, is said to live “on the hills and in the caves.” (1958:39) Also, in Ojaide’s The Activist, Ezeani, the traditional herbalist who cures Udoma and his wife of barrenness, lives in a cave that is situated inside the forest. This is indicative of the importance of the African environment in meeting the socio-cultural and religious needs of the people.

It is worthy of note that in many African settings, the herbalist is believed to be inspired supernaturally, this explains why they usually live in a forest or a cave, places that are believed to be the abode of supernatural beings. In this case, caves and forests become spiritual house power of the herbalists. But in a situation where caves and forest are destroyed, the people are bound to be faced with a lot of crises. The problems that the spiritual beings would usually guide people to solve are now rampant and unattended to. Herbs which serve medicinal purposes for the African people are got from the natural environment. Yero (2019) in Naja explains that herbs are used by midwives to make delivery faster for women in Northern Nigeria. For instance, Mai Faskare’s daughter was given a cup of herbal medicine made from a herb called ‘hannu’ and “she delivered in no time.” (64)

In East Africa, Ngugi wa Thiong’o is one of the most influential writers who use their works to raise consciousness about the environment, land especially. His works centre primarily on the struggle for land between two races, Africans and Europeans. He makes this point clear when he explains that “the basic objective of Mau Mau revolutionaries was to drive out the Europeans… and give back to the Kenyan peasants their stolen land.” (1982: 28) Simon, Akung and Bassey (2014) lay emphasis on the significant role that land plays in the lives of Africans. The study submits that land is tied to people’s cultural, spiritual and physical heritage. Simon (2010:155) also opines that “land … is regarded as a sacred entity as well as symbol of life and status”. This is why struggle for land ownership has always led to conflict among people in Africa. In the case of the Niger Delta, struggle for ownership of land where crude oil is found has generated conflicts and its impact has made life totally unbearable for the people. Ojaide (2013:vi) sums up the point thus:

The Niger Delta area of Nigeria [is] where multinational oil corporations have done massive environmental damage through oil spills, blowouts, gas flares, and other forms of ecological despoliation. …. The health hazards are enormous and go unchecked, such as the methane and other chemicals that poison the people from air they breathe, the land they farm, and the water they drink.

The people of the region are faced with a deleterious situation owing to the degradation of the environment by gas flaring and oil spillage. The exploration and exploitation of crude oil has brought a lot of woes to the people. Due to release of dangerous gas into the air, ailments like asthma, bronchitis, cancer and their likes are commonly suffered by the people. Chinaka (2011: 30) unveils that:

The flaring of gas has the tendency of unlashing such diseases as cancers, asthma, bronchitis, blood disorder, etc. subsequently, against the region’s ecosystem, the people are forced to share their neighbourhood with such unfriendly phenomena as acid rain, global heat, deforestation, wildfires, contaminated toxic waters, etc.

The negative impact of oil exploitation seems to have out weighed the benefit. Despite the fact that the Niger Delta is a host to the major source of the country’s revenue, the discovery and exploitation of oil in the region turned to what Ushie (2011:531) and Ojaruega (2011:496) describe as “a curse.” The resources obtained from the region are used to develop other parts of the country. Nevertheless, the region still remains underdeveloped and backward in terms of education, infrastructure, socio-economic progress, health facilities, political stability, etc. No wonder Ojaide (1996:122) and Awhefeada (2013:96) describe the situation as “oil boom that has become doom” for the people of the region.


The exploration and exploitation of oil in the Niger Delta has negative effects on the environment as well as the people of the region. This has attracted attention from writers and critics. Oil politics and its attendant struggle is what give the literature of the Niger Delta its uniqueness. What is commonly noticed in the literature of the region from the colonial to the post-independent eras is the lachrymal voice of protest. The writers nostalgically lament degradation of the pristine environment that made life more meaningful in the pre-colonial era. Niyi Osundare (1986: xiv-xv), in his poetry collection, Eye of the Earth, vividly describes this past as:

A remembered landscape, echoes of an Eden long departed when the rain forest was terrifyingly green though each tree, each vine, each herb, each beast, each insect, had its name in the baffling baptism of Nature. Left mostly now are echoes whispered in the stubborn ears of memory. Most of those trees so vivaciously native to this forest have met a rapid death in the hands of timber merchants [with their] exploitative improvidence.

The colonial and post-independence periods provide the roadmap which set the African literary landmark as it is today. Colonial effects, among other postcolonial experiences, are vividly reflected in African literature. The African literary writers lament the loss of individual as well as collective independence and every other negativity that come with colonialism. In East Africa, the loss of land is greatly mourned. To East Africans, loss of land means loss of identity, dignity and the very human essence. This is one of the pronounced thematic preoccupations in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s literary works. In South Africa, excruciating pains suffered from apartheid practices are vividly reflected in the works produced within that period. Writers lament a great deal the inhuman treatment

suffered by South Africans as a result of racial discrimination. In West Africa and Central Africa, the effects of colonialism, especially the ‘loss’ that Africans experienced during colonial period are glaring in the works that are produced in that period. In Ferdinand Oyono’s The Old Man and the Medal, the protagonist, Meka, is a quintessential example of victim of loss. Nnolim (2009:257) rightly illustrates that:

Having lost her pride through slavery and colonialism, modern African literature arose from the ashes of her past experiences. It becomes a literature with a strong sense of loss of dignity; loss of our culture and tradition; loss of our religion, loss of our land; loss of our very humanity.

This loss also reflects in the Niger Delta ecosystem. Literary writers use their works to mourn the loss of pristine Niger Delta ecosystem. The disappearance of flora and fauna, and rapid depreciation of human life is lamented in their literary works. Tone of lament is greatly reflected in most of the titles of literary works produced about environmental crisis in the region.

Okpewho’s Tides suggests instability of life in the region. Obari’s Canticle of a Broken Glass suggests chattered dream of better life the people expect from oil exploitation. Also, Okere’s The River Died reflects the termination of hope. While Ogbowei’s Song of a Dying River revolves around subject matter of the aquatic life that is going into extinction, Onyema’s Crude Waves of the Delta portrays impaired hope of the people of the region who thought that exploitation of crude oil in the region would bring a better future but that hope is dashed. Abagha’s Cry Niger Delta suggests frustration. Ikiriko’s Oily Tears of the Delta focuses on the emotional distress that the Niger Delta people have been subjected to because of environmental degradation.

In Bassey’s We Thought It Was Oil but It Was Blood, readers relate with the themes of deceitfulness and disappointment that come with establishement of oil business in the region. Ogochukwu’s Outrage is indicative of the tone of ‘anger and bitterness’ expressed by people of the region against environmental injustice. Nwoye’s Oil Cemetery x-rays characters battle with hopelessness and pathetic death caused by explosion of oil pipes and oil related crisis. Nengi-Ilagha’s Condolence suggests mourning of disappearing landscape of the Niger Delta. While Million’s Shadows of the River Nun portrays degradation of natural environment. Apoko’s Tears in the Basket shows lamentation over degraded environment which renders the efforts of the farmers and the fishermen futile. These and many other titles of literary works on environmental problems in the region unveil the agony that the Niger Delta people experience as a result of oil exploration and exploitation in the region.

The people of the region engage in protest to express their dissatisfaction with environmental injustice. At the initial stage of the struggle, they lament over their fading environment but employ more revolutionary strategies when the lamentation seems not to have yielded the desired result. The people protest to demand for positive changes. The entrapment of the people in a degraded environment as it is captured in their writings has given birth to protest tone that is common to their literary productions. This gives literature of Niger Delta what Onukaogu and Onyerionwu (2011) refer to as dual aesthetics of lachrymal and the revolutionary. Whereas the lachrymal justifies the protest by drawing attention to the suffering, anguish, oppression, dehumanisation, subjugation as well as environmental degradation, the revolutionary spurs the people to fight against such ills.


In the world over (literary world inclusive), protest is one of the veritable tools that can be used to achieve necessary change. Ushie (2011) refers to protest literature as a distinct form of writing in Nigeria. African writers adopt this type of writing with the view to exposing ills and deformities in a society in order to demand for changes. Certainly, writers on the Niger Delta adopt protest writing as a means of resistance to injustice in the region. Onuekwusi (1986:212) describes this category of writers as those who “not only highlight in very bold terms the weaknesses and calumny of society and the causes of these, but also propose revolutionary trends that will hopefully restore the permanent values of society – justice, freedom and human dignity.” Udenta (1993: xix) also describes this kind of writing as “the literature of the angst-filled existential despair of critical realism”. Onukaogu and Onyerionwu (2011:55) corroborate this view by stating that “the Niger Delta is a veritable practising arena for revolution-inclined writers” who use their works to demand for positive changes in the region.

The creative writers deploy their intellectual prowess towards eco-activism and to achieve what Okuyade (2013: 152) refers to as ‘eco-literacy’; which is not only meant to expose the level of devastation that is done to the natural environment but also to show “the sense of immediacy and compelling urgency needed to remedy the situation.” (Awhefeada, 2013:97) Among these writers are the poets, the playwrights and the novelists who use their creativity to promote the cause of environmental conservation, remediation and restoration (Bassey, 2001) in the Niger Delta.

 It is on record that in July 2002, over two thousand Niger Delta women converged at Escravos Tank Farm, the largest Chevron oil terminal located in Warri, Delta state, Nigeria to protest against the oil company for environmental damage caused by its activities in the Niger Delta. Participation of women in that protest in such a large number at the time when most of the primary texts used in this study have not been published, attests that women’s eco-activism does not just take place only in literary world. Existence of such acts in literary works is a documentation of actions initiated by women of the region in their physical domain. Since then, women of the region in different approaches engage in eco-activism evident in eco-activism displayed by female characters in the es under study.

For instance, Mama Nengi’s environmental activism in Outrage is a good attestation that women’s struggle against environmental injustice in the Niger Delta is as old as the problem itself. It shows that before now, the women have been at the forefront of eco-activism. Boma and the solidarity women group in the same novel also fit into this instance because of the significant roles they play in the protest against environmental despoliation. Niger, Benue, and Obida in Then She Said It and Oshimi, River Niger, Imo and Omi in What Mama Said are examples of women who actively participated in the struggle against degradation of the environment. Rita in Oil Cemetery and Ebi in The Activist just like Toundi in Love My Planet deserve a good place in citing examples of women who dare all obstacles to preserve the environment.


The roles played by the afore-mentioned women are indications that women are in forefront of eco-activism. Little wonder Shiva (1994:6) asserts that “as far as the environment is concerned, there is no better person to be informed or used than the woman because her life is closely woven with it.” She equally observes that since the 1970s,  women’s  groups  and  organisations  have  been  very  active  in  promoting environmental awareness, education and protection. But before then, Carson from the United States published a book titled Silent Spring (1962), which focuses on the danger of pesticides on the environment and its inhabitants. It creates some sorts of awareness on the need to stop such human activities that have negative impact on the environment.

In Africa, environmental activism championed by women cannot be mentioned without acknowledging the remarkable effort of Wangari Maathai from Kenya who through her eco-activism initiated a project of planting trees in order to restore lush vegetation in Kenyan society. With the establishment of Green Belt Movement as one of her eco-intervention strategies, she distinguishes herself as one of the most recognised women eco-activists in Africa in her time. She mobilised other women in Kenya to plant trees in order to preserve the environment. The United Nations conference on Environment and Development, otherwise known as the Earth Summit was held in Rio in June 1992.

It was a gathering of women from different parts of the world to deliberate on the issues of environmental health as being critical to meaningful development. It established women as key players in environmental management and conservation of natural resources. The Principle 20 of the Rio Declaration states that: “women play vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieving sustainable development”.

The gathering proves that the whole world is more aware and has come to the recognition of the indispensability of women if the Earth and its inhabitants must be preserved. In the same way, the awareness has been recorded in various fields of studies, literature inclusive. The need to preserve the Niger Delta environment and the effort made by the women to that effect is reflected in the literary creativity of the region. The women from the region take active participation in the struggle against environmental degradation.

Evwierhoma and Yacim (2011:261) lend credence to this by asserting that “women are not left out of this struggle….The women who have taken up arms alongside their male counterparts defy the stance of dramatic creativity that seeks to limit the Niger Delta women to the periphery of community rather than the centre where power refers”. Environmental degradation has many tentacles, in the form of contaminated water bodies, polluted air, polluted land, deforestation and their negative effects are usually enormous.

The Niger Delta is one of the regions in Africa whose ecosystem has been adversely affected. The water bodies are polluted by oil spillage. Land pollution and destruction of vegetation also occur; as a result, land becomes infertile for any agricultural purpose. This goes a long way to negatively affect the Niger Delta people who depend on the land resources for their sustenance.


1.3 Statement of the Research Problem

Various studies have been carried out on literature of the Niger Delta with regard to the region’s affiliation with ecocritical issues. Researchers have given special attention to the impact of environmental degradation on the region. Such studies include Aghalino (2011) who explores the effects of environmental crisis on the region from a cultural perspective. He argues that it has led to mutation of indigenous culture and displacement of the people. Religious crises, ethnic conflict and sexual exploitation of women also emanate from it.

Ojaruega (2013) and Feghabo (2014) examine the effects of environmental degradation on the Niger Delta from a socio-economic angle. It causes unemployment and poverty, which further lead to vices like prostitution, armed robbery, abduction, restiveness, stealing and others. While effort made by men in the struggle against environmental degradation is illustrated in their studies, women are only treated as victims and their roles in the struggle are not examined. This leaves a gap that this study intends to fill.

Orife (2011), Awhefeada (2013), Chuma-Ude (2013), Simon (2010) and Jeremiah (2014) examine the effects of environmental degradation in the region particularly on women. They opine that women experience victimisation most in a region like the Niger Delta that is going through serious environmental threat. The women that depend on nature for provision of food, employment, shelter, portable water, medicinal support and income generation are left to suffer unemployment, hunger, poverty and diseases, because nature which is the source of such provisions has been destroyed.

Besides, as a result of economic problems which result from the degradation, women of the region become preys in the hands of financially buoyant oil company workers who offer them financial help in exchange for sexual gratification. Women who are involved in such affairs may end up with sexually transmitted diseases. Also, if a clash occurs in the Niger Delta as a result of struggle for ownership of land where crude oil is found, or between militants and government security agents, women are usually the ones that would die in greater numbers.

This is because women are believed to be the most vulnerable. Having exposed the agony that women go through in the Niger Delta as a result of degradation of the environment, the above studies do not consider the women’s roles in tackling the problem.This leaves a gap in their studies.

The above studies do not examine women’s roles in the struggle against environmental degradation, giving an impression that women have not shown interest in the issue of the environment, this leaves a gap which this study intends to fill.

1.4 Aim and Objectives of the Study

 This study aims at examining the roles of women as eco-activists in eight purposely selected texts with a view to:

  1. establishing the significance of women in the struggle for environmental regeneration in Love My Planet, Oil Cemetery and Oil on Water.
  2. investigating the impact of environmental degradation on the Niger Delta in Outrage, The Activist and Yellow-Yellow.
  1. identifying points of convergence and divergence between women’s approaches to eco- activism in What Mama Said and Then She Said It.

1.5  Research Questions

This research provides answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the significance of women in the struggle for environmental regeneration in

Love My Planet, Oil Cemetery and Oil on Water?

  1. What is the impact of environmental degradation on the Niger Delta in Outrage, The Activist and Yellow-Yellow?
  2. What are the points of convergence and divergence between women’s approaches to eco- activism in What Mama Said and Then She Said It?

1.6  Scope of the Study

This study focuses on eight selected literary works on Niger Delta crisis, with specific attention to roles of women as eco-activists. The texts are six novels : Vincent Egbuson’s Love My Planet, May Ifeoma Nwoye’s Oil Cemetery, Helon Habila’s Oil on Water, Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow, Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist and Promise Ogochukwu’s Outrage; and two plays : Tess Onwueme’s What Mama Said and Then She Said It. The texts were purposely selected for their shared thematic foci on ecological issues as well as their in-depth provision of insights on the roles of women as eco- activists.


1.7  Theoretical Framework

 Francoise d’Eaubonne’s approach to Ecofeminism is adopted as theoretical framework. Ecofeminism was coined by d’Eaubonne in 1974 to express connection between oppression of women and domination of nature as well as women’s roles in ending such oppression and domination. According to Glotfelty (1996: xxiv), ecofeminism is a “hybrid label to describe a theoretical discourse whose theme is the link between oppression of women and domination of nature.” Also, Gaard (1993) postulates that ecofeminism is a movement that cuts across a whole gamut of feminist disciplines, activisms and advocacy platforms like peace and anti-nuclear activism, feminist spirituality, animal liberation, environmentalism and antitoxic movements. Eaton (2005:11) opines that ecofeminism is “a convergence of the ecological and feminist analyses and movements.” She stresses further that ecofeminism represents varieties of theoretical, practical and critical efforts to understand and resist the interrelated dominations of women and nature.”

The social perception of the connection between women and nature is rooted in patriarchy which other literary theories have failed to tackle; the ecofeminists intervene with an ideology that is “aimed simultaneously at liberating nature from ceaseless exploitation and themselves [women] from limitless marginalisation. They are creating a feminist ideology that transcends gender and a political practice that is humanly inclusive” Shiva (1994:5); this is now known as ecofeminism. In line with ecofeminists’ vision, Reuther (1975: 204) insists that:

Women must see that there can be no liberation for them and no solution to the ecological crisis within a society whose fundamental model of relationships continues to be one of domination. They must unite the women’s movement with those of the ecological movement to envision a radical reshaping of the basic socio-economic relations and the underlying values of the … society.

Some scholars like Agarwal (1997), Biehl (1991) and Nanda (1991) corroborate the view of Jackson (1993:398) who points out that ecofeminist perspective is “ethnocentric, essentialist, blind to class, ethnicity and other differentiating cleavages, ahistorical and neglects the material sphere.” Rao (2012:128) concurs with the above view by asserting that “ecofeminist literature portrays the historical exploitation and domination of women and nature as going hand in hand, and both are seen as victims of development.” She further stresses that “none of the ecofeminist literature attempts to establish this linkage through concrete evidence or strong argument.” (128)

For this, she insists that interrelatedness between domination of nature and that of women is an ideology, and fails to take into cognizance what Agarwal (1992:122) refers to as “interrelated material sources of dominance based on economic advantage and political power.” Biehl (1991:15) extends this argument by stating that ecofeminist image of the women still “retain the patriarchal stereotypes of what men expect women to be” and “they …freeze women as merely caring and nurturing beings instead of expanding the full range of women’s human potentialities and abilities.” This study corroborate Biehl’s position; instead of entrapping women in the web of nurturing which undermines their real identity and ability, it is better they are viewed as personalities with human capacities effective enough to make significant contributions to the progress of the society.

1.8 Research Methodology

 This is a qualitative study, a literary analysis of texts. Ecofeminism was adopted as theoretical framework and interpretative design was used. Six novels: Vincent Egbuson’s Love My Planet, May Ifeoma Nwoye’s Oil Cemetery, Helon Habila’s Oil on Water, Kaine Agary’s Yellow Yellow, Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist and Promise Ogochukwu’s Outrage; and two plays: Tess Onwueme’s What Mama Said and Then She Said It were purposely selected owing to their common depiction of ecological issues. Besides, women’s eco-resistance activities are meticulously reflected in the selected novels and plays. The tenets of ecofeminism were deployed to interrogate the interphase between environment and the roles of women in its ssustainability. Secondary sources include library books and essays in journals.

1.9  Significance of the Study

This study contributes to the current global project of using literature to create awareness of the need to promote a healthy environment; this is one of the visions of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE), an international body. This need arises as a result of multifaceted environmental problems ravaging the earth. To make the earth a habitable place, it is necessary to sensitise human beings on the need to care for the environment. Besides, the findings of this study will encourage further studies by future researchers who would like to undertake ecocritical studies.


1.10 Justification of the Study

 The exploration and exploitation of crude oil in the Niger Delta have led to environmental degradation. Unemployment, poverty, armed robbery, hostage-taking, sexual exploitation, diseases and insecurity are some of the effects of the degradation. Existing studies on the selected novels and plays with regard to the struggle against environmental injustice in Niger Delta have concentrated on men as leading eco-activists while women are presented as victims without adequately highliting the roles of women as eco-activists.

This gives an impression that women are passive and less concerned about the situation. This study argues that it is not enough to show that women are victims of environmental degradation; there is also a need to illustrate women’s roles in the struggle. Against this backdrop, this study becomes necessary as it focuses on the roles of women in the struggle for environmental health in order to prove that women make significant efforts in the struggle against environmental despoliation as well as its regeneration. Also, there is dearth of study on the selected texts with regard to women’s involvement in the struggle against environmental degradation in the Niger Delta; this necessitated this research.

1.11 Organisation of the Study

 This study is organised into six chapters. Chapter One is the background to the study. Chapter Two is the review of related literature and the theory of Ecocriticism and Ecofeminism. Chapter Three focuses on the literary analysis of Vincent Egbuson’s Love My Planet, May Ifeoma Nwoye’s Oil Cemetery and Helon Habila’s Oil on Water. In Chapter Four, Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist, Promise Ogochukwu’s Outrage and Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow are critically examined. Chapter Five is the analysis of Tess Onwueme’s What Mama Said and Then She Said It. Chapter Six is the summary, conclusion and recommendation of the research.

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