Over the last few years, it has become heartbreakingly evident that being an environmental activist these days is not only difficult, but dangerous as well. In Mexico, being a women environmental activist brings with it anti-activism abuse and gender violence, and being an Indigenous women environmental activist often means an increase in these attacks and the general threat these women face to their lives on a day to day basis.
As this article via Telesur shares, “Women environmental activists in Mexico usually face both abuse over their activism and gender violence. On top of that being Indigenous makes it even more difficult, as Mexico has a big systematical discrimination problem against its Indigenous people.“
According to [Angelica Simon, Media Coordinator for Greenpeace Mexico] women play a crucial role in the environmental struggles in Mexico, being one of the social sectors most-affected by the loss of natural resources and climate change. “A general ecological perspective should also be promoted within the gender struggle. Today more than ever we know there can’t be social and environmental justice without equality.” [Furthermore,] the National Network in Defense of Human Rights in Mexico reported 615 aggressions against women human rights defenders between 2012 and 2014, with an average of four per week.
WEA is acutely aware of critical role Indigenous women environmental leaders in Mexico play, ensuring the preservation of communities, culture and the earth. This is one of the reasons we partnered with Semillas—the only women’s fund in Mexico—and the National Network of Indigenous Women Weaving Rights for Mother Earth and Territory (RENAMITT) in 2014 to support Indigenous women who were gathering together to protect the earth in the face of development and land dispossession. Our hope is that through efforts like these that bring communities of women together, we can also increase the safety of these brave leaders as they stand on the frontlines of this movement.
Across a number of different sectors globally, women are among those most vulnerable to inequity and injustices. Research from the UN Women’s report shows that women between the ages of 25-34 have a 22% higher rate of poverty than men; there a 15 million girls not in primary school; and there still remains an alarming 23% pay gap between women and men in the job market.
Additionally, as research and WEA’s work points out, women often have less access to jobs, and face more legal barriers when it comes to owning land, accessing credit and inheriting wealth. Women are more likely to be primarily responsible for unpaid forms of work, including childcare, cooking and housework. As a result of a combination of these and other key factors, women are often placed at greater risk of food insecurity, physical or sexual violence, and climate change impacts.
For these reasons, while the SDGs are inspiring and necessary in their work towards a more sustainable future, the way in which the UN measures the overall success of the SDG’s must go beyond siloed data points like “national averages,” and take into account the realities of people and communities that may slip through the cracks of this data. Gender equality is not a single issue struggle. In order to see true progress on Goal #5, each and every Sustainable Development Goal must be analyzed with accurate gender-specific data to ensure equality is being met, something that is currently lacking in measurements for success and progress.
“The evidence is clear: If we want to solve the world’s biggest problems, we need to break down the silos and work together across issues, sectors, and geographies — with women at the center,” – Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver.
The UN Women’s report states that, though achieving the SDGs is indeed a global priority, there has been limited action by governments to reshape policies, investments and programs to support gender equality around the world. The way forward, the report suggests, is a revolution in democratic governance and public action to make theory a reality. This includes action and cooperation between communities and powerful global players (sovereign states, international financial institutions and transnational corporations). The report suggests that better gender-specific data collection, aligning policies and programs with this data, increasing financial support for women’s organizations, and creating community participation in this work will help us move to a more equitable future.
“Women’s rights organizations were effective in building coalitions and alliances to put gender equality at the center. Such participatory processes and strategic alliances are also needed to ensure effective and gender responsive implementation, follow up and review.” –Turning Promises into Action Report
Since our launch in 2006, WEA has been dedicated to nurturing these efforts by uplifting and connecting grassroots, women leaders around the world. These leaders know first-hand the impacts—social, economic and environmental—their communities continue to experience that are often caused or exacerbated by gender inequality.
WEA’s work strongly aligns with the goals of the SDGs as well as UN Women’s findings. We know that the way forward is through the leadership of these grassroots women who are building the strategies, solutions, and solidarity needed to address the threats and injustices their communities face.
Around the world, WEA women are preserving indigenous seeds and plant knowledge key to our survival; selling clean cookstoves that save lives and reduce the destruction of the forests; modeling the small-scale regenerative farming practices that will feed our planet; protecting our dwindling water sources; staving off destructive and toxic energy extraction; and shaping cultures of peace. They are winning political positions, building grassroots movements, expanding economic opportunities, and most importantly, passing on their knowledge to thousands of other emerging leaders.
To achieve these Sustainable Development Goals, putting women at the center is essential—not just as beneficiaries of policies and aid, but as architects of transformation.
The 2nd Annual Women4Climate Conference took place yesterday in Mexico City, where women leaders from across the globe came together to discuss the response of cities to climate change and the important role women have in shaping our collective future, particularly in urban areas.
Women leaders in government — such as mayors from cities including Rome, Washington D.C., Madrid, Seattle, Capetown, and Montreal — gathered together with innovative women changemakers and business leaders to focus on critical issues like air quality, climate resilience, social inclusion and innovation, sustainable global food systems, climate change through a business lens, and how men and women can work together to create a sustainable future.
When looking at the future of cities, questions arose such as will decision-makers in these urban spaces choose to build new luxury apartments, or instead redesign pavements so that more water will return to the earth rather than runoff into the oceans? Will they choose to design new malls, or instead build sea walls to protect communities from frequent storms and sea level rise? Answers to these questions facing city planners will decide the impacts that climate change will have on the communities living within these city boundaries, as well as the global population effected by these choices.
Not only did Women4Climate attendees discuss the future of cities, but also the future of the next generation of women leaders. As part of the conference, young women dedicated to climate action are receiving training and mentorship to transform their visions for a sustainable future into reality. During the inaugural Women4Climate Conference in 2017, Paris and Mexico City launched the first mentorship programs for emerging women leaders. Each mentee developed their own individual project alongside their mentor, with topics ranging from on site clean energy for businesses in Mexico to strategies to hold restaurants accountable for their ecological impacts in Paris. Take a look at all of the inspiring women leaders and their projects here.
“Men have had their time in power and brought us here; now it is time for women to also lead. Yes, we are unstoppable. And our movement keeps growing. Join us and be a part of it.” – C40 Women Leaders
We’re always on the lookout for inspiring reads, and we’ve got one we can’t wait to share! Wonder Girls: Changing Our World is a call to action that shares the stories of 90 courageous young women activists from around the world who are boldly stepping forward to protect our Earth and uplift communities.
Author Paola Gianturco set out with her 11-year-old granddaughter and co-author, Alex Sangster, to uplift the voices and stories of these young women, and weave them together into a powerful anthology about truly being the change they wanted to see in the world.
“As girls came into their early teens, they were so outraged at the social injustices that they experienced and observed that they marshaled that outrage into activity. They tended to cluster in groups and find power and strength in numbers. I saw that they were causing real change, and I wanted to document it.” — Paola Gianturco, author
Paola traveled for three years and spent time with 15 different girl-led non-profits, documenting and photographing their stories. She worked with interpreters throughout her solo travels who helped to create space for the girls themselves to ensure their voices were portrayed authentically. Paola’s journey took her to across the world, from Malawai to Indonesia, Krygistan to India, and to the United States as well.
What if we told you that Bali’s government is working to be plastic-free by 2018 based on the initiative of two sisters aged 10 and 12 years old? Or that the youth of the Shaheen Women’s Center in India create art that influences police surveillance in high harassment and molestation zones? These are just some of the stories featured Wonder Girls which show that change is not only possible, but it is most impactful when it comes from the ground up with visionary women leading the way.
“These are all women who are actively changing the world, starting in their own communities, and just as you all encourage support for the kinds of issues that the women in my books are supporting, my books also encourages readers to take action on behalf of women and girls they are championing.” — Paola Gianturco, author
Paola has published six other titles and had her images exhibited at the United Nations, UNESCO, and The Field Museum/Chicago. Her granddaughter, Alex Sangster, a wonder girl herself, launched a children’s program at a global poverty conference in Mexico alongside her sister. Alex contributed meaningful and action-oriented sections at the end of each chapter of Wonder Girls titled, “How You can Change Our World” and conducted many of the interviews herself. She also contributed much of the photography for the Los Angeles and Mexico regions.
Olanike Olugboji, the Founder/Director of Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment, and WEA Project Lead for the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstove Project in Nigeria, recently attended the Inclusive Global Summer Institute at the Sié Center in Denver, Colorado. This gathering brings together women-identifying activists from around the world for a three day workshop that creates space for women to grow in their leadership skills for promoting peace, security, and human rights.
Olanike — who is also a WEA Founding Mother — has forged an amazing path for sustainability and economic independence for women in her community and beyond. She has initiated and held capacity building trainings for over 3,000 women to develop entrepreneurial skills to run their own Clean Cookstove businesses. These businesses provide the opportunity for women to have a positive impact on the environment, their health, and their household savings.
You can listen to Olanike speak on gender equality and women’s empowerment in this video from the Inclusive Global Leadership Summer Institute. You can also follow her initiatives on World Pulse.
“We can’t wait for leadership to be handed to us, we have what it takes. And we can move from that place of seeing ourselves as victims or people who are seeking help and change, to people who are creating change, people who are leading change. And that is why women must rise up”– Olanike Olugboji.