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Spring Edition of the WEAvings Newsletter: BIG things at WEA!

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Read the latest WEAvings Newsletter today

As we enter our 13th spring at WEA, we know more than ever the power of global grassroots action. Global movements like the recent climate protests led by youth around the world, remind us that ideas can germinate faster than ever, and indeed, no person or idea is too small to change the course of history. The message shared by Greta Thunberg took to the wind and was picked up by millions of us– poised and ready to act. Before we could say “World Wide Web” the biggest day of climate action in history occurred, with the next level of urgency articulated by none other than our world’s next generation.

Truly, this is an incredible time to be alive and to know in every cell of our bodies that we are all on the frontlines. The climate reports can be paralyzing but they don’t have to be. Inside these predictions and warnings is a blueprint for action across every sector of society–from our individual choices to our economic systems. There is an act, a choice, and a stand that each and every one of us can take at this historic juncture.

As Spring blossoms, WEA is digging deeper into our commitment to ensuring women’s grassroots environmental solutions can flourish. We are reminded of what makes WEA who we are — YOU. Since our start — one circle of 30 women — WEA has given rise to thousands of more circles around the world.  Many of you have been in these circles.  Many of you have supported these circles to multiply.

In WEA’s latest WEAvings Newsletter, you’ll find more on:

  • Our exciting new partnerships, like our work with the Sierra Club
  • New initiatives in the U.S., Indonesia, and Kenya and calls for applications
  • A global event hosted by EILEEN FISHER that supports WEA
  • And more!

Check WEAvings out here, and be sure to sign up on our website to get all our latest updates.

Meet the Interns: Hey, Alana!

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One of the best parts of doing what we do is meeting and working with the next generation of change-makers committed to a healthy and thriving Earth through our internship program. We’re honored to have had a chance to work with Alana this fall. Keep an eye out for her — she’s poised have a beautiful and lasting impact for women and our communities!

Name: Alana Young
Hometown: San Mateo, CA
 
If you had a superpower, it would be (and why): 
I would love to be able to fly so I can travel all over the world (and avoid Bay Area traffic!)
 
Why did you want to intern/volunteer with WEA?
I am passionate about environmental issues, global health, and women’s empowerment, and I think these issues are all deeply connected, so interning with WEA seemed like the perfect way to integrate all of my values into impactful work.
 
Tell us about a woman or women-led movement that who inspires you. 
I am extremely inspired by my grandmother. She grew up during a time when women were discouraged from going to school, but she still went to college and fiercely encouraged my sister and I to pursue our education and passions because she knew that education is vital for improving one’s life.
 
Why women and why the environment?
I profoundly agree with the way WEA frames this issue: when women thrive, the earth thrives. The environment and women are uniquely linked in that they are both beautiful sources of nourishment and life, yet they are often taken for granted and abused. If we can reverse our extractivist mentality about both women and the environment, I think we can mend past harms born of ignorance, selfishness, and inequality to ensure that women and the earth thrive far into the future.
 
What does your life outside WEA look like?
My life outside of WEA includes a lot of reading in bed with my dog, exploring San Francisco on weekends, taking care of my plants, and spending as much time as I can outside hiking and camping.
 
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area?
I love to explore the diverse art and culture that the Bay Area has to offer. You can usually find me on some form of public transportation trying to get to a museum, concert, restaurant, or art fair.
 
What are you currently reading / watching / listening to?
I am currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (which is extremely important for anyone who has ever benefited from modern medical advancements to read so they can understand the deep intersections and inequalities involved with race, gender, education, class, and health) and a trilogy by Philip Pullman. For comic relief I have been watching Broad City and The Good Place. I am listening to Shakey Graves, Kendrick Lamar, and several podcasts including Nancy, Ear Hustle, and The Moth (all highly recommended!!).

Puerto Rico and Gendered Natural Disaster Resilience

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In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and wiped out much of the island’s infrastructure. Hurricane Irma touched down on the island first, and left approximately 1 million residents out of the island’s 3.4 million without power. Two weeks later, Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 Hurricane, left more than 60% of the island without water and almost all without electricity. It was the worst hurricane to have ever hit Puerto Rico.

(US Department of Defense)

The hurricanes severely damaged the island’s power grid, and nine months later, Puerto Rico’s residents are still frustrated by the lack of power and stability available. Although electricity has at long last been restored to a majority of neighborhoods, many are still struck by random power outages which, at times, lasts for hours. This instability has kept residents in a state of perpetual limbo, uncertain when they’ll be able to return to anything resembling normal.

As Puerto Rico continues to grapple with the catastrophic scale of destruction on the island, it is crucial that we lift up those who are most often disproportionately impacted by natural disasters. While natural disasters affect all in its wake, research has shown that women and girls are at greater risk in post-disaster regions. Using data from more than 140 countries, the United Nations Development Program recognized the complex relationship between gender equality and natural disaster resilience, finding that natural disasters lower women’s life expectancy more so than for men – 14 times more. Many times, this is because women traditionally serve as primary caregivers in families and are often tasked with caring for (and therefore ensuring the safety of) children and the elderly.

Even in the aftermath of natural disasters, women remain at risk, often experiencing high levels of violence as a result of cramped and overcrowded shelters. Furthermore, UNDP found that women are more susceptible to sexual and domestic violence following disasters when possible perpetrators’ feelings of helplessness and loss of control are heightened. Prior to Hurricanes Maria and Irma in September, women in Puerto Rico already experienced high rates of violence as well as higher rates of poverty among women. These are often compounding factors; in post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana, for example, many of those who faced the most violence were also those who experienced the deepest poverty – African American women and children.

(FEMA Photo Library)

As climate change-induced natural disasters increase, we will undoubtedly be faced with more hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, flooding and brush fires. It is critical that we center the needs of women and girls, both in disaster prevention and relief efforts. While women’s vulnerability post-disaster is great, so too is their strength and leadership to connect, support, and rebuild communities.

Here are just a few local organizations in Puerto Rico working to rebuild their communities:

 

Indigenous Women Taking Active Role in Bolivia’s Agriculture

Project: Women Collaborating Towards Food Justice in Bolivia

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WEA’s 2006 Transformative Advocacy Exchange in Bolivia

In Bolivia, women play a large role in the agriculture sector. They work to harvest crops, raise livestock and provide food for their families. The changing climate has impacts on the livelihoods of these women as unpredictable storms and irregular rainfall affect the productivity of their crops and security of their income and food.

For the last 10 years, Bolivia’s government and local NGOs have been focused on empowering women and creating decision-making space for them when it comes to adapting to these issues. NGOs have financed projects to empower women farmers, creating space for them in political contexts and empowering them to make changes in their communities.

Here is an excerpt from Al Jazeera’s photo story on women farmers in Bolivia. You can view the whole story here.

“Because of deep-rooted gender inequality, women are less informed, less valued by men and excluded from the decision-making process in the community, making them even more vulnerable.”

WEA’s 2006 Transformative Advocacy Exchange in Bolivia

In 2006, WEA partnered with Global Exchange on a Transformative Advocacy Exchange which led a team of women environmental attorneys on a journey through the regions of La Paz and Santa Cruz in Bolivia. Through this project, these advocates worked with indigenous and women-led organizations to encourage sustainable, indigenous-managed land use and agricultural practices, a necessary focus for agricultural communities as they face these irregular rainfall patterns, higher rates of erosion and inconsistent yields.

It is inspiring to continue to see the incredible skill and knowledge Indigenous women hold as they ensure and preserve their communities food security resources!

Being an Indigenous Women Environmental Activist in Mexico

Project: Mexican Indigenous Women Uniting for Land Protection

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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.

Photo: Semillas
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.

Read the entire article from Telesur here.