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Guatemala Women Standing Against Environmental Violence

Project: Shedding Light on Environmental Violence in North America

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Source: Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times
Source: Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

A woman in Lote Ocho, Guatemala are filing negligence claims (in Canada) against a Canadian mining company whose employees that forcibly removed a women from her home, raped her and then burned her home to the ground. She is joined in her suit by 10 other women from her village, who were also gang-raped on the same day.

However, she is filing her suit, Caal v. Hudbay Mineral Inc., in Canada, and there it is “sending shivers through the oil, gas and mining industry”. Of all the publicly listed mining and exploration companies in the world, more than half had headquarters in Canada in 2013.

Canadian companies, accounting for 50 percent to 70 percent of the mining in Latin America, were often associated with extensive damage to the environment, from erosion and sedimentation to groundwater and river contamination. Of particular note, it said, was that the industry “demonstrated a disregard for registered nature reserves and protected zones.”

You can read the entirety of the New York Times article here.

Why Women Have the Solutions to Climate Change

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According to Yannick Glemarec, deputy executive direct of United Nations Women, and mirroring what WEA has seen in our own work in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, “Women are the first to be affected by climate change in every single country in the world.” Furthermore, women in so-called developing countries are hit the hardest.

As primary caregivers, many women in poorer countries are responsible for trekking miles to collect water and fuel. When climate change depletes water, women notice first. Water is a climate change issue, and climate change is a women’s issue…

As climate change puts pressure on natural resources, fresh water is becoming scarcer, food prices are increasing, and infectious illnesses like the Zika virus are on the rise. Worldwide, women tend to be poorer than their male counterparts and have less representation in policymaking. All this means they are the first to be affected by climate change and the last to be heard on how to combat it.

But even as women are typically the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the ripple effect that causes (e.g. natural disasters, food and water scarcity, etc.), they are also the ones best positions to develop and implement solutions.

Read more about how this informs our work and what we do about it, and read the full article, “Why Fixing Climate Change is Women’s Work” over at Yes! Magazine.

 

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.

WEA not alone

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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“As a young child, barefoot women and girls carrying heavy containers of water on their heads, walking long distances under the searing sun were a common sight. The reality of this stayed with me, and I knew I would do something about it someday.”

 

Meet Olanike Olugboji, a WEA founding mother, who participated in our first Women and Water Training in Kenya, and then returned to Nigeria with a clear vision and a strong network. Equipped with technical skills, entrepreneurship training, and seed funding, Olanike launched her own NGO called WISE, which today has trained over 3,000 women in clean energy, safe water technologies, and entrepreneurship. Her work has created refuge for Nigerian women, who risk rape or assault on the long walks to fetch water and firewood, as well as opportunity for women to create a livelihood and secure a future for their children.

After joining WEA as a regional coordinator, Olanike linked with women around the world, and today has a global reach. Olanike is a correspondent with World Pulse, a recipient of numerous international awards, and a participant in several prestigious leadership trainings. WEA is now collaborate with Olanike and her team at WISE to train women in promoting and selling clean cookstoves, linking up with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in Nigeria. (If a woman cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner over a wood fire, she suffers the equivalent of smoking between 3 and 20 packets of cigarettes a day. Over 120,000 Nigerian women die annually from inhalation of firewood smoke.) Olanike’s impact on the environment and on women’s well-being and livelihood has only just begun.

Together, we can build the leadership of women who will create a future of balance, health, and peace for our world.

A Gendered Perspective: Reflections on the MDG and the potential of the SDG

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By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern

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A woman closes the door behind her and sets off into the early light of dawn. It’s the pre-monsoon season in India, and the air is thick with heat as she walks to her small kitchen garden. What began as a grant of seeds, has transformed into fertile beds of earth that are all her own. From her garden she can produce crops to both feed and financially support her family. From her garden she has been able to build alliances with other local women’s collectives around the importance of organic farming and how to improve their own self-sufficiency. From her garden her future is now one of abundance and opportunity.

This is our vision for the world because, we believe that when women thrive, communities thrive. When women are supported and resourced, they are able to lift their communities out of poverty, increase economic stability, and provide countries with sustainable practices to address and combat climate change. In light of this, the member states of the United Nation’s have been awarded a rare opportunity. As they reconstruct the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that will be adopted in September, these nations and participating NGOs have the potential for being the spark that makes the WEA vision for the world—a world where grassroots women leaders are heard, and their knowledge is honored and uplifted for the betterment of us all—a reality.

In 2000, the eight MDG were established by the UN to target global issues identified as being some of our world’s most pressing concerns. Over the past fifteen years, great strides have been made towards accomplishing these goals. The percentage of those living in extreme poverty has been reduced nearly by half, from 1.9 billion to 836 million. More girls than ever are now enrolled in schools, and gender equality in secondary schools in 36 developing nations is no longer just an aspiration, but a shining reality. Access to clean drinking water has also seen an increase for up to 90% of the global population. But while this incredible progress represents important steps toward creating global equality, the work of the MDG isn’t finished. We cannot regard this progress as a landmark triumph while millions of people—particularly women and girls—continue to face severe poverty, basic human rights insecurity and deep inequity.

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In this way, the MDG have come up short in shedding light on the intersectionality of the original goals, especially with regard to gender. In the final progress report the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, noted that of all the goals, gender equality and woman’s health were the most neglected. Even with an advanced education women around the world continue to earn 24% less than men. Less than 20% of government leaders in the world are women. And women in developing nations are fourteen times as likely to die as women in developed nations. When we look at this reality, we can clearly see how issues of climate change, food security, and environmental degradation continue—these are interconnected challenges existing in an ecosystem that is our world, and one challenge cannot be addressed while ignoring another.

Come September, all countries that participated in the MDG must re-evaluate and submit new goals, which will become the SDG. Of the seventeen SDG declared so far, one goal directly focuses on women, while many others have the potential to impact gender in positive and critical ways. Goal #5, the aim of achieving gender equality and empowering all girls and women, is only one of many and yet impacts almost every other issue at stake. In fact, a 2014 study by the Copenhagen Consensus Center providing guidance on which of the drafted SDG targets were the best investments rated those aimed at gender equality among the highest. Still, many governments fail to invest in the leadership and capacity-building of women, they fail to increase resources to address violence against women or to ensure access to reproductive health care, and they fail to recognize the disproportionate financial and environmental burden women bear as food producers and providers, community caretakers, and natural resource stewards. The global success of women represents our greatest hope for a reconciled world, and this is something that must be taken seriously by the SDG and world nations.

SDGs

The Millennium Development Goals gave us a glimpse of a world where change is possible. Through WEA’s vision of recognizing essential women’s rights, and building global networks of empowered female leaders, the Sustainable Development Goals have the potential to create a world where change truly is sustainable.
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Further Reading

http://iwhc.org/resource/10-red-flags-for-the-zero-draft-of-the-post-2015-development-agenda/
http://www.refinery29.com/2015/07/90279/united-nations-goals-report-gender-equality