Meet the Interns: Hi, Fiona!

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We’re wrapping up our summer intern series and are so excited to introduce you to Fiona! Fiona is a smart, passionate and committed advocate who has been busy supporting our Programs + Operations team this summer, specifically through our local efforts (have you seen her blog post on the upcoming Run4Salmon?). Her insights and care have helped to shape our summer, and we’re so honored to have her with us!

Please help us in giving Fiona a warm welcome!


Name: Fiona McLeod
Hometown: Berkeley, California

If you had a superpower, what would it be (and why)? I would want to be able to teleport myself around the world. I love traveling and exploring new places. If I could teleport, I could walk out of the library, hop on over to the Pacific Crest Trail or the Great Barrier Reef for a study break, and then get back in time for my next class.

Why did you want to intern with WEA? I have been following WEA’s work for many years, and always knew it was an organization that I wanted to be a part of. At school, I am majoring in American Studies with a concentration in Native and Indigenous Studies, and I hope to focus my future studies (and maybe eventually my career) at the intersection between human rights and the environment. WEA, with their Shedding Light on Environmental Violence project and other work with local indigenous communities, is the perfect place for me to become involved with this type of work!

Tell us about a woman who inspires you. My mom and her three older sisters are some of the most empathetic, passionate, and resilient women I know. These women are artists, teachers, and leaders in everything that they do, and they ground my entire extended family with an appreciation for the incredible strength that they show every day.

Why women and why the environment? Especially in the current global political climate, I believe it is more important than ever to invest in communities that are disproportionately affected by social and systemic injustices. Investing in women means supporting the health and well-being of entire communities and the environment at large, and provides women with a higher degree of agency to create positive change in the world.

What does your life outside WEA look like? When I’m not at WEA, you can usually find me reading a book by the ocean, hanging out with my family, or wandering around taking photos. I also work at a circus camp during the summer and am currently interning at an environmental law firm, Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA). In between all that, I’m planning an upcoming three-month-long solo trip to Argentina and Chile!

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area? When I’m away at school, the thing I miss most about home is spending time outdoors with my friends and family. The Bay has an unbelievable wealth and variety of beautiful places that are all so close together…if you live here you can be in the mountains, the woods, and at the beach all in one day, and I can’t imagine anything better than that.

What are you currently reading / watching / listening to? So far, my favorite books of the summer have been On Beauty by Zadie Smith and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m currently reading The Glass Castle and get basically all my news from listening to Pod Save America with my brother.

[In the News] A Look at Land Rights for Women Farmers in India

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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Here at WEA, we recognize that women are the backbone of communities and often play a much more significant role in community care-taking and resource management (i.e. food, water, energy, etc.) than they are often recognized for. This article published by The Indian Express discusses this dilemma. Women comprise up to 65 percent of all agricultural workers, yet despite their work and contributions to both family and community, they are still not legally recognized as farmers. This is because of current land ownership laws — ownership of land by women is not something that is protected or governed under the law. This often exacerbates unequal gendered norms, such as a lack of access to bank loans, crop insurance, and other government subsidies and benefits for farmers.

Source: Express Photo By Prashant Ravi

As many as 87 per cent of women do not own their land; only 12.7 per cent of them do. There are two primary reasons for the alarmingly low number: One, land being a state subject is not governed by the constitution under a uniform law that applies equally to all citizens but rather is governed by personal religious laws, which tend to discriminate against women when it comes to land inheritance. Second, the cultural aspect of the deep-rooted biases that hinder women’s ownership of land in patriarchal societies cannot be discounted.

Providing women with access to secure land is key to incentivising the majority of India’s women farmers. This, coupled with the need to make investments to improve harvests, will result in increased productivity and improve household food security and nutrition. As has been determined from numerous studies conducted worldwide, women have a greater propensity to use their income for the needs of their households. Land-owning women’s offspring thus receive better nourishment and have better health indicators. Land-owning mothers also tend to invest in their children’s education. Ultimately, this is a win-win situation all around — for the farmer, her family and the larger ecosystem.

Another recent article published by The Daily Mail discusses this issue of a lack of land ownership recognition of women even further:

Nearly three-quarters of rural women in India depend on land for a livelihood compared to about 60 percent of rural men, as lower farm incomes push many men to the cities for jobs. Yet land titles are nearly always in the man’s name. Only about 13 percent of rural women own land, which keeps them from accessing cheap bank loans, crop insurance and other government subsidies and benefits for farmers.

The macro-level results of securing women farmers’ land tenure are clear, but consider for a moment the impact it would have at the micro-level — the wiping away of the debilitating feelings of insecurity and vulnerability for rural women. The chance of propertied women being physically abused is reduced from 49 per cent to 7 per cent due to an increase in the wife’s bargaining power. If female farmers are provided security of land tenure, they will be officially recognised as farmers and hence, will see their household bargaining power increase. Women farmers’ self-confidence and agency will slowly grow and expand outside just their household.

These articles underscore the need for investments in locally-led grassroots efforts to secure land rights for women farmers. For these reasons and more, WEA Projects over the years have focused on these very issues. For more on our work to support rural women farmers in India, visit our Projects page.

Read the full article by The Indian Press here, and the full article by The Daily Mail here.

 

First Public Preview of Land and Lens Photographs

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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In March, WEA’s Seeds of Resilience Project partner Vanastree, a women farmer’s seed-saving collective in Karnataka State, India, held their first photography training for project participants and community members, kicking off the storytelling component of this work called Land and Lens. This unique initiative supports the project’s ongoing efforts to ensure rural women farmers are equipped with multimedia and storytelling tools that will enable them to tell their stories of seed sovereignty, food sovereignty, and the future they envision for their communities.

We’re thrilled to share this first public preview of photographs taken by project participants trained through Land and Lens.

Showcased in this video is the photography of 9 intergenerational women from rural India — none of them had ever held a professional-level camera before. As part of Land and Lens, each photography student received basic camera training and as many as 3 week-long, self-guided sessions with their donated camera. The photos you see in this video were taken during those independent sessions.

For more information on Land and Lens, visit the official Facebook page for this initiative. For more on the Seeds of Resilience Project, visit our project page.

WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves entrepreneurs take next steps in their clean energy businesses

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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The WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves entrepreneurs have been busy lately! Recently, representatives from each cookstove micro-enterprise team gathered together with our project partner WISE in Kaduna city to meet their new project financial advisor, Mrs. Regina Poto. We are thrilled to have her as an advisor because of her long tenure in the banking sector — she is a perfect fit for our WISE team!

During this meeting, the women entrepreneurs were given a refresher course on the financial topics and tools covered during our April and May training intensives. In addition, they also had the opportunity to update their business plans based on real order numbers and operating costs they’ve experienced since being in the field these past two months.

It has been so inspiring to watch these leaders grow their commitment and businesses to provide clean, safe cooking solutions to their communities!

To learn more about the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project, be sure to visit our project page!

Running the Salmon Home: Lifeways and Waters of the Winnemem Wintu

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When we first bubbled out of our sacred spring on Mt. Shasta at the time of creation, we were helpless and unable to speak. It was salmon, the Nur, who took pity on us humans and gave us their voice. In return, we promised to always speak for them.  

― Winnemem Wintu Spiritual and Cultural Belief

Photo Courtesy of Toby McLeod

The Winnemem Wintu are the indigenous peoples whose homelands are found in Northern California along the McCloud River. With the Sacramento River to the west and Pit River to the east, Winnemem Wintu means “Middle Water People,” and for thousands of years, the tribe has protected the sacred waters that give them their name.

As their creation story shares, when the Winnemem emerged from a sacred spring on Mt. Shasta, they were unable to speak. Salmon took pity on them and gave the Winnemem their voice. In exchange, the Winnemem promised that they would forever honor this gift by speaking for and defending Salmon. However, their abilities to uphold this promise and maintain this sacred relationship have been compromised over time by chemical agriculture, extractive industry, and resource development in the region. During the California Gold Rush, the Winnemem population decreased from around 14,000 to 395 in a period of about 50 years, and settlers devastated the tribe’s ability to access and carry out traditional practices such as hunting and fishing. Today, the tribe’s population is approximately 150.

But in strength, resilience and prayer, the Winnemem Wintu have fought to honor their lifeways time and again. In the face of a settler society and the injustices it has imposed upon this land’s indigenous peoples over time, the Winnemem stand up to government officials and disruptful tourists alike in order to continue their traditional customs and ceremonies. WEA is honored to have worked with the Winnemem Wintu and Chief Caleen Sisk –– Spiritual Leader and Tribal Chief –– through our Advocacy Network, which coordinated legal advocacy services for indigenous environmental campaigns in North America. WEA stands alongside them this year for the second annual Run4Salmon event to raise awareness for protecting their waters, lifeways, and sacred relationship with Salmon.

Photo Courtesy of Toby McLeod
The Run4Salmon

In September of 2016, Chief Sisk led the Winnemem in organizing the first Run4Salmon, a 300-mile journey from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region to the tribe’s historic village site on the McCloud river. The two-week long event marks a call to action for public awareness about the need to restore the endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, which were once abundant along the McCloud River but are now severely threatened by climate change and construction of dams in the area, namely the Shasta and Keswick dams, which block the fishes’ access to their spawning waters. A philosophy of respect and reciprocity is central to the Winnemem way of life, and the entire Run4Salmon campaign is informed by this understanding of the importance of honoring and maintaining the ecological and spiritual balance of the lands, waters, and our place within that cycle.

After last year’s Run4Salmon, the Winnemem were able to meet with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to request that their proposed plan for restoration of the winter-run Chinook be considered for funding. Planning for this year’s Run4Salmon –– which will take place from September 9-23 –– is well underway. Rooted in prayer, advocacy, and care, the Run4Salmon invites allies and community members to support the Winnemem in this remarkable effort to lay down blessings and guide the salmon home.

The Run4Salmon honors an ancient bond and facilitates the formation of a widespread alliance of warriors and protectors. This blog series intends to spread awareness about the Run4Salmon and the important work that indigenous women lead in our immediate community as part of a larger movement for indigenous rights and the rights of Mother Earth.

Read Part 2 of the Running the Salmon Home series here.

For more information on the Run4Salmon and ways to get involved, stay tuned for the next post in our Running the Salmon Home series. You can also follow the Run4Salmon journey on Instagram

And to learn how you can immediately support the Winnemem Wintu in their efforts to bring the salmon home, visit here.

 

Blog post by Fiona McLeod, WEA Program + Operations Intern