A Glimpse at Women-Led Movements

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

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Source: Rucha Chitnis, Yes! Magazine
Source: Rucha Chitnis, Yes! Magazine

Dayamani Barla, the Indian journalist who led an extraordinary movement in an effort to stop ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company from displacing thousands of indigenous people in Jharkhand. She discusses her views on development and explains them from an indigenous world-view:

“We want development, but not at our cost. We want development of our identity and our history. We want that every person should get equal education and healthy life. We want polluted rivers to be pollution free. We want wastelands to be turned green. We want that everyone should get pure air, water, and food. This is our model of development.”

In addition to Barla, there’s a group of Maasai women in Loliondo, Tanzania, who in 2013 braved threats and violence to prevent a “land grab” east of the Serengeti National Park. Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), fosters leadership and personal transformation in Latina immigrant women and promotes change for social and economic justice. After the Nepal earthquake in late spring of 2015, it became quickly evident just how crucial the leadership of women has been in rebuilding Nepal -from caring for the sick and injured, looking after children, growing food, to literally rebuilding the cities. You can read about these organizations and more, and the incredible women behind them, here.

Biodiversity’s Impact on Women

Project: Traditional agriculture solutions for women farmers in India

Topics: , ,

For many women, biodiversity is the cornerstone of their work, their belief systems and their basic survival. Apart from the ecological services that biodiversity provides, there is the collection and use of natural resources. For indigenous and local communities in particular, direct links with the land are fundamental

The United Nations Environmental Programme, has a series of chapters, or in-depth articles about women and their relationships with various aspects of nature. One of those chapters touches on Biodiversity, land protection and sustainable development. Aside from the ability to provide food, shelter, and resources for their survival, biodiversity in any given area has a profound impact on the inhabitants of said area. Loss of overall diversity can be devastating.  Biodiversity allows women the world over to sustain their livelihoods, bring themselves up from poverty and empower their children to follow in their footsteps.

You can read the full article here.

COP21: Time to Put a Cap on Global Gender Inequality

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By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern

COP21 (1)

“I will ensure this… the climate battle must be fought for, and with, women,” stated Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development. These words are Fabius’ bold commitment for the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP) which starts today in Paris, over which he will preside as President. For WEA and our global allies, his declaration is a real opportunity for world leaders to highlight and recommit themselves to addressing the intersectional relationship of women and the environment on an international level. The only question is whether Fabius and other decision-makers have the gumption to follow through on such promises made months ago? Or will COP21 be yet another international meeting that renders gender equality irrelevant to climate change, and creates an environmental protocol without the mechanisms to enforce it?

COP began as an international response to climate change with the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. COP21 represents a chance for representatives from over 190 countries to cooperatively create universal agreements, all in the aim of keeping our climate below 2°C or 3.6°F. The U.S., the European Union., Russia, China, and India will largely negotiate the next 50 year agenda, as they are all among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases. However, in the past these powerhouse countries have failed to prioritize the critical role of and impacts on women in the global environmental movement.

One of the many reasons women are so incredibly impacted by the effects of climate change is due to the vital role they play in securing the natural resources that their families depend upon for survival, such as clean water, food, and fuel. Around 70% of women work in agriculture in low-income food-deficit countries, though generally women own less than 10% of the land. These women are already forced to mitigate the effects of climate change that drive soil erosion, drought, and food scarcity, and through traditional methods and knowledge these women are able to adapt successfully. The2014 Copenhagen Consensus stated that agriculture research is the single most effective way to invest in fighting malnourishment. Combine this with the fact that agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, and the answer is straightforward: Invest in women as keepers of traditional knowledge and stewards of natural resources, provide them with the support and networks necessary to develop their community-based, sustainable solutions, and witness how the ripple of their efforts become a wave of transformation.

But one of the biggest challenges in constructing an effective international protocol is designing the mechanisms to enforce it. Past COPs have only created legally non-binding frameworks for treaty negotiations, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. So long as countries can opt out of ratifying treaties that might actually impact their emission levels, there seems little prospect for any sort of enforcement on pollutant control. However, at COP21 there is hope for change as the conference’s main goal is to, for the first time, create a universal, legally binding agreement with which to effectively combat climate change. A global accord where individual countries are actually held accountable to their actions is an opportunity to create environmental protocols that invest in the women leaders who are already adapting to these changes.

For WEA and our allies around the world, we can only hope that this rare opportunity for change will not overlook women—who are critical agents in any long-term plans for our earth and future generations—and that those world leaders like Laurent Fabius will hold true to their words. Because it’s time for a protocol that doesn’t merely cap our emissions, but asks us to restructure our world to a more sustainable way of life. So let’s make a change and invest in women to invest in a sustainable future.

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Further Reading:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurent-fabius/taking-climate-action-for-and-with-women_b_6819596.html
http://ecowatch.com/2015/07/06/carl-pope-paris-climate-talks/

Why were the elephants so angry?

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

Topics: ,

By: Katie Douglas, WEA intern

In Ulhara, a village in the city of Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, India, a group of women gathered for a cluster meeting and sat in thoughtful conversation on a rising issue: Why were the elephants of the forest so angry?

The women questioned what had driven fourteen elephants to wreak havoc and destruction in the nearby villages where many of the women were from, leaving one man dead and destroying numerous food grains, houses and crops. The women began to share how mining projects were destroying their homes and natural resources, and the mental and emotional strain these processes were having on them. They likened this to the experience of the elephants, who were losing their homes and corridors to mining and infrastructure development.

In the end, the women were not angry at the elephants. Instead, they understood the animal’s anger and vulnerability as their own.

Elephant-marks-1

Since 2013, WEA has partnered with Chotanagpur Adivasi Seva Samiti (CASS) to support their work to create a community development program for adivasi (indigenous) women of the Santhal tribe in eastern India. Large-scale open-cast coal mining and infrastructure development has resulted in the destruction of land, forest, and river. Not only are these resources the primary means of food and fuel that the Santhal women use to sustain their families and communities, but these resources also contribute medicine, peace, and spiritual sustenance. With the loss of their lands and rivers, the women have become increasingly dependent upon men and outside markets, which makes this not only an issue of environmental exploitation, but also indigenous rights and gender injustice.

In the face of environmental destruction and oppressive gender structures, CASS provides the women with different methods of support, all with an aim of helping them to exercise their rights, practice their culture, and enhance their natural resources for a future they have control over. This is facilitated through cluster groups, trainings, weekly meet-ups for female leaders, and by enrolling local girls in school. Cluster groups, like the one that met in Ulhara, are critical to the state of the community because they allow women to share stories and skills, collectively organize, and discuss basic human and forest rights. Here, they can find the space to reflect upon the state of the Earth, and relate that back to their personal experiences.

Ulhara-cluster-03

Through this partnership, adivasi women are also provided with trainings geared towards healing through the sharing of personal experiences, and building bridges of commonality and support amongst participants. These trainings ask the women to question what they know of gender. At one such training, Ms. Budhandi—a CASS volunteer—offered the group a song:

A group of men are sitting under the banyan tree
They have listened to the sufferings of women.
They are getting up and going.
The women beckon them 
To come back and listen.

Discussion of songs and stories like these allow the women to sit back and view the situation through a lens that considers gender as a social construct, and that then encourages them to take their place as leaders in their communities.

Driven by the destruction of the environment, once-sustainable communities like those near Hazaribagh have been reduced to dependent entities that are disconnected from their environment and unable to protect the rights of adivasi women. This partnership, and CASS’s tireless work, aims to provide the training, support, and networks necessary to uplift the leadership of grassroots women in some of the most impacted adivasi communities in the area, therefore promoting healing and providing peace to human and elephant alike.

Ulhara-cluster-04-opt

Historic Treaty Across Continents

Project: Coordinating Advocacy to Protect Native Lands and Rights

Topics: , ,

Source: Indigenous Rising, indigenousrising.org
Source: Indigenous Rising, indigenousrising.org

The Indigenous people of North and South America have come together through a treaty signed by women leaders Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca), Pennie Opal Plan (Idle No More Bay Area), representatives on the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Delegation for the COP 21 United Nations Summit in Paris, met with three representatives of the Amazon Watch Delegation: Kichwa leader, Patricia Gualinga and President of the Association of Sapara Women, Gloria Ushigua. Together they signed a treaty and vowed to stop the progression of extractive industries strengthening their grip on our environment and work together to solve today’s most pressing environmental problems.

“There have never been more unjust laws than the ones that exist now which are allowing the destruction of the environment that we need to exist. For these reasons we invite our sisters and their allies around the world to join us in teach-ins and nonviolent direct actions at all of the facilities and seats of power that are causing the destruction. We invite you to do this calmly, without malice, and with the love in your hearts for everything you hold dear.”

You can read the entirety of their statement here.