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.
Here at WEA, we have spent the last 7 years committed to small scale, regenerative farming practices that restore rather than deplete our lands. Currently, industrial scale agriculture is consuming Earth’s resources in a grossly unsustainable manner and is a primary driver for the destabilization of the worlds ecological balance. A revolution of ecological agriculturalists is necessary to shed light on and bring momentum towards the shift to regenerative farming, a practice that incorporates ecological principles into closed loop farming systems to provide more sustainable means for food production.
“As a farmer, I have spent the last few years making transformative changes to my own thinking and agricultural practices… I have studied how other farmers are applying this approach in Australia, Africa, and North and South America. The results, as on our farm, have been remarkable: Healthy landscape function was restored, production increased, biodiversity rebounded, climate change factors were ameliorated, and vastly healthier food was produced.
It is our beliefs that will determine our fate. And there’s reason to believe a new cohort of ecological agriculturalists can alter the course of our civilization with new ideas and practices. They understand that we must embrace a new way of feeding the world, or there won’t be any people left to feed.”
“The women have gathered together to be pioneers of this clean cookstove. I see a lot of passion in them – passion to change lives, passion to go out there and talk to people about the usefulness of the clean cookstove – and I believe with time and with the enthusiasm I see in them, it’s going to go beyond the shores of this nation…clean cookstoves will become a household name.”
Regina Poto has been an invaluable member of our WISE Clean Cookstove Training team! She is currently serving as Financial Advisor to the 30 women clean cookstove ambassadors and has brought a wealth of knowledge in entrepreneurship, financial management, profitability, marketing, scalability and long-term sustainability. We are thrilled to have her as a Financial Advisor on this project because of her long tenure in the banking sector — she has been a perfect fit for our WISE team!
In August 2017, Regina led a refresher course on the financial topics and tools covered during our April and May training intensives for the women entrepreneurs. Since then, she has been working with the women to regularly update their business plans based on real order numbers and operating costs they’ve experienced since being in the field.
In the video below, Regina talks about the WISE Clean Cookstoves Training program and the promise of this work:
To learn more about the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project, be sure to visit our project page!
In a recent article by Suresh Babu of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Babu points out that “As both a contributor to climate change and a victim of its impacts, agriculture needs to become climate resilient. This direct connection between climate change and agriculture is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in India, where recent research has shown climate change as the key contributing factor to the suicides of more than 60,000 farmers.”
For WEA, this shocking number and what it reveals about climate change and its deep impacts on smallholder farmers hits close to home. From 2014-2015 alone, farmer suicides across India increased by over 40% — from 5,650 to over 8,000. However, it’s Karnataka State in Southern India, where WEA’s Seeds of Resilience Project is based, that has seen the sharpest jump — from 321 in 2014 to more than 1,300 in 2015, the third-highest among all states.
So, what is the connection between climate change and farmer suicides?
As many other countries, India has borne the brunt of climate impacts, seeing increased flooding, variability in rainfall, extreme heat, and vulnerability to more severe storms. Especially for small-scale farmers, the risks become clearer, and more dangerous, with each passing year.
Failing to address India’s climate change can spell trouble for many smallholders who continue to depend on rainfed agriculture. To save farmers lives and livelihoods, making Indian agriculture climate-resilient must be a priority next step…
Empowering farmers to become financially independent will prove another key step toward [climate] resilience. Currently, farmers are trapped in a cycle of seeking out loans from high-interest money lenders. By making institutional credit available at affordable rates, farmers can avoid debt traps.
Further complicating the financial prospects of agriculturalists, government compensation policies seem to work against the farmers’ best interests. In a morbid sense, the compensation in the case of death of a farmer is seen as a route for farmers’ families to get out of debt. The money distributed to the farmer’s family is often used to pay off the predatory loans, to keep the farm afloat. This distressing cycle of debt further leaves farmers and their families most vulnerable to future climate-induced shock.
This crisis reinforces the need for community-driven solutions, not just to climate change, but to agricultural development and land ownership as well. WEA’s Seeds of Resilience Project aims to support the sustained organizing and capacity building of small-scale women farmers to preserve traditional agricultural knowledge, promote indigenous seed saving practices, support climate adaptation and mitigation through the cultivation of climate-resilient crops, and further the rights of women farmers.
This blog is part of a series on the Winnemem Wintu’s Run4Salmon, a two-week long prayerful event and call to action for public awareness about the need to restore the endangered winter-run Chinook salmon to the McCloud River in Northern California. To learn more about the Run4Salmon, read our first post in this series hereandoursecondposthere.
From the historic gathering of Indigenous Nations at the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock last year, to women-led grassroots groups organizing environmentally-centered social movements in South Asia; from the Lenca peoples’ effort to obstruct the Agua Zarca Dam alongside Berta Cáceres in Honduras, to West African women working to solve the water crises in their communities, women are at the forefront of environmental movements around the world. As Mohawk elder Katsi Cook teaches, “Women are the first environment.”
For Indigenous communities –– particularly Indigenous women –– this connection between land, body, and community is deeply felt; our previous post about the Winnemem Wintu’s sacred responsibility to Salmon shared that the harm caused by environmental destruction and environmental violence affects both the physical and spiritual health of landscapes and the lives that depend on them, both human and non-human alike.
This is why extractive industries and large-scale infrastructure projects like the Shasta Dam that alter –– and often damage –– indigenous territories are so harmful. The same can be said about the proposed construction of a $1.4-billion, thirty meter telescope at the summit of sacred Mauna Kea, which has activated strong resistance from Native Hawaiians and their allies. It is also why the Dakota Access Pipeline, which cuts through sacred territory and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux and poses an insurmountable threat to clean water sources in the region, led to historic inter-tribal gathering of Indigenous Nations and allies standing together in solidarity as water protectors.
The relationships and networks that exist between these movements for social change, environmental justice, and Indigenous rights are more visible now than ever before with technology and social media networks emerging as powerful tools for global connectivity. But these ties existed long before online platforms provided the accessibility and ease of information exchange we are used to today; this is work that indigenous communities and women leaders have been doing for centuries.
The Women of the Run4Salmon
“In a way I do this work to honor my ancestors and to fulfill my purpose and my duty on this planet to protect Mother Earth and to protect our waters. If you have a belly button, and if you bleed red, these are your causes too.”
Here in Northern California, women leaders like Chief Caleen Sisk (Winnemem Wintu), Corrina Gould (Confederated Villages of Lisjan/Ohlone), Niria Alicia (Xicana), and Desirae Harp (Mishewal OnastaTis, Diné)are working with a coalition of native and non-native supporters to organize the Run4Salmon, a prayerful journey that highlights the intersectional nature of Indigenous peoples, women, and our collective sacred connection to the environment. During the Run, for example, security teams will be led by women volunteers, and women activists and organizers have been instrumental in guiding this year’s journey.
Widespread support for the Winnemem’s efforts has come pouring in from allies around the world and is visible on the Run4Salmon Instagram, and the movement has also brought together women from many different places and backgrounds, uniting under a common cause for Indigenous rights and environmental and social justice.
Here are a few of the inspirational women leaders involved in the Run4Salmon and other movements for Indigenous rights and Mother Earth:
Chief Caleen Sisk is the spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu. Guided by the mentorship of her great-aunt Florence Jones, who was the Winnemem spiritual leader for 68 years, Caleen has led the tribe’s resistance against the Shasta Dam, as well as their efforts to return to customary Winnemem ceremonies and bring the sacred Winter-run Chinook salmon home to their traditional spawning waters along the McCloud River.
Corrina Gould is the Co-Founder and Lead Organizer of Indian People Organizing for Change (IPOC), an organization working on Indigenous issues in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most recently, IPOC has been facilitating the resistance against proposed development of an ancient Ohlone shellmound site in West Berkeley. Led by Corrina’s guidance, activists recently put forth an alternative proposal for the site, which features a museum, a monument to the Ohlone people and their sacred sites, and would re-surface Strawberry Creek, which was diverted underground during the first developments of the land. As the Run4Salmon begins in Ohlone territory, Corrina has been involved in organizing the opening days of the event, which will include a ceremony at the West Berkeley Shellmound to honor the Ohlone people and their lands.
Pua Case and Hāwane Rios (Kanaka Maoli) are a mother-daughter team whose efforts to protect sacred sites and lifeways in Hawai`i have brought them from Mauna Kea to Mount Shasta, to stand with and sing alongside Indigenous peoples around the world in a collective effort to preserve the mountains and waters that give and support life. Their songs are unforgettable, their message unignorable, as they call for solidarity and strength in the name of aloha ʻāina. They participated in the 2016 Run4Salmon and will be joining the Winnemem again for this year’s run.
Winona LaDuke is the Executive Director of Honor the Earth, which she co-founded with the Indigo Girls in 1993, and has worked for decades to advocate for the preservation of tribal land claims and traditional Indigenous lifeways. Winona is an environmentalist, activist, and orator, and she has been an active presence in Indigenous movements from Standing Rock to the Run4Salmon.
“It’s the Winnemem Wintu’s right to exist and the right of an ecosystem to live . . . And to stand here with the Wintu is important to my own person, as a spiritual being and a person who is a beneficiary of this ecosystem, and then also because it is this chance to do the right thing.”
–– Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), Executive Director of Honor the Earth
In a video called “Salmon Will Run,” which was recently released by Nahko and Medicine for the People, the voices of many of these women leaders help us understand the vital importance of supporting efforts like the Run4Salmon and standing in solidarity with movements for the protection of Indigenous peoples rights and lifeways, and the amplification of Native voices everywhere.
For more information on the Run4Salmon, read our previous posts in the Running the Salmon Home series here and here. You can also follow the Run4Salmon journey on Instagram and Facebook.
To learn how you can stand alongside the Winnemem Wintu in their immediate efforts to bring the salmon home, visit here.
The Run4Salmon begins with a Shellmound Ceremony at the West Berkeley Shellmound TOMORROW, September 8th. You can see a full schedule of R4S gatherings and the official itinerary here.
To volunteer for the 2017 Run4Salmon or register to participate in the journey, visit here.
Blog post by Fiona McLeod, WEA Program + Operations Intern