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  • Writer's pictureUbuntu Women Shelter


Updated: Apr 5, 2022

We are not experts we are untutored in the financial economic and social risks of climate change. Our crisis is helping a woman find her lost children, our planet the crumpled ball of paper she holds with no known address. We are a black and minoritized women led shelter dedicated to meet the emergency needs of women with no recourse to public funds. We are trans women and sex worker inclusive. Our expertise lies in witnessing adaptation to uncertainty. Our expertise lies in sustaining and leveraging adaptation to uncertainty by developing multi-tiered and intersectional interventions to support women who negotiate the structural and systemic violence of borders. Their voices must inform any conversation on climate change.

Apart from a few brief gaps, destitution and enforced poverty have been state policy in the United Kingdom for close to 400 years. Destitution was at the heart of slavery, colonisation, indenture and now the hostile environment. As no-borders activists in our work we call out the jarring contradictions between borders and ‘our’ planet that ‘we’ are out to save. We believe that the omission of migration, migrants and borders in hegemonic climate change discourses is violent and harmful.

Lets talk about David Attenborough, the recently outed climate change activist: white, male, English, Sir Knight of the Realm. The problem, he says with gravitas and expertise, is population growth– we Black and Brown people were just breeding too much. Devoid of irony, he then goes looking for a solution to the IMF and the World Economic Forum.

In the story he tells, the civilized have to save the wretched of the earth…again and again and again. Well none of this was surprising really. Apart from the hubris, what really jarred was his repeated laments about the “disappearing wilderness", his nostalgia to preserve ‘our’ planet without bodies, all evidence of the crimes committed on Black and Brown bodies erased with deft high definition wizardry and ambient elevator music.

Beneath the glittering blue Mediterranean, the pirouetting dolphins and the breaching whales, where were the 13,977 bodies of the men, women and children that drowned in crossings between 2014-2020? Where were the bodies of the 2 million Africans that died in the Middle Passage? In the dusty plains where big cat extinction takes centre stage, where were the bodies of three million Indians that died in the Bengal famine of 1943?

Were these bodies on a different planet?

We are reparation activists and from where we stand the planet is a crime scene and the erasure of evidence leads to equivocation, denial and resets the scene for perpetual real returns to investment. With no bodies in the frame with shoals of squid and tuna, the victims become the perpetrators and the perpetrators become the victims. Population growth and migration become the problem and the solution lies in reducing both.

Ubuntu Women Shelter disrupts this default impulse to reinforce borders and immiserate migrants. We bear witness to the harm caused by borders and we repair with our care one human being at a time. For us, its not ‘our’ planet that needs to be saved. For us it’s the soil, the wind and the rain that sustain, nourish and heal that needs to be saved. For us Black and Brown worlds matter and these need saving. For us the degradation and immiseration of border bodies is the real planetary emergency. We cannot have a conversation about climate change without a conversation on borders.

Below is a short-spoken word piece - a tribute to our guests - women, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, lovers and friends who resist and survive the hostile environment

Deep Adaptation

On the gentle slopes of your Necropolis

I tap crumbling headstones

To collect








In the reverberating hallway of your Mitchell library

I trace

My bloodlines

That flow through blue veined marble floors

In the derelict tenements where I am housed

I sift

Mosaic tile dust

To pan for flecks of home

In discarded plastic planters

I sow cornrows of guilt and shame

To harvest red chillies for my stew

I draw up sweet water

From abandoned air raid shelters

That echo with the laughter of my children left behind

By night I collect salt that oozes as tears

From monument stones

Burdened by the weight of your refusal to repair

In your foodbanks

I am schooled in the grammar of civilized exchange

My gnarled outstretched charity hands

take what I am given

pasta spirals, tins of mushy peas and canned breakfasts

I submit, I perform gratitude that rises like sick at the back of my throat

Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

I shuffle and scrape and I can even do a jig in traditional clothing

I cannot be trusted with money or a job or a bank account or a driving license

But I am your frontline worker and am trusted to care for your elderly

I massage

I braid

I lacquer your nails, dress your chickens and deliver your food

All for a bargain 39 pounds and 63pence a week

Your prisons will not hold me

The cold winds disperse my body through your high security fences and barbed wire

Your prisons will not hold me

I bleed into the earth

Your prisons will not hold me

I am …that howl in your long night

This was shared at the virtual event Our Changing Climate- Local Women Respond hosted by Glasgow Womens Library.

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