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!!).
Name: Alana Young
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.
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.
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:
- Colectiva Feminista en Construcción
- Coordinadora Paz para la Mujer
- Casa Pueblo
- Unidos por Puerto Rico
- Operation Agua
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.”
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!
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.
Read the entire article from Telesur here.
The Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 are striving to reduce poverty worldwide, increase the number of people in schools, eliminate hunger, and mitigate climate change. And there is one goal that remains at the center of all others — Goal #5: Gender Equality.
A new report from UN Women, “Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” puts the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the spotlight, looking at its progress in terms of gender equality and the current status of women worldwide.
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.
For more resources and insights on the Turning Promises into Action Report, see:
- Borderline: reliable data on women is crucial to measuring empowerment and equality (UNCTAD)
- Women are Poorer and Hungrier then Men Across the World, UN Report Says (Washington Post)
- Progress on Gender Equality ‘Unacceptably Slow’: UN Women (Devex)
- Opinion: How to Make Progress on the SDGs? Prioritize Gender Equality (Devex)