Coming Soon: WEA Advocacy Training, November 4th-6th

Project: Convening Advocates for Protection of Indigenous Lands and People

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North American indigenous communities face both acute and chronic challenges resulting from environmental degradation.  In response to the systemic and intentional targeting of indigenous lands and communities for environmentally-destructive industrial projects such as mines, hazardous waste facilities, oil refineries and coal-fired power plants, the indigenous environmental justice movement – a grassroots-led movement with national impact – has arisen within the past several decades to demand sustainability and equity.
WEA’s North America Program links our Advocacy Network of pro bono legal, policy and business advocates nationwide with indigenous women leading grassroots environmental campaigns in North America.
This November, WEA will host its first ever Advocacy Training, “Building Capacity for Strategic Collaboration on Indigenous Environmental Justice.”  In solidarity, leaders in environmental and indigenous advocacy will come together to:
Learn :: Hear from leading activists and advocates on best practices for protecting land and health, and advancing renewable energy on Indigenous land.Connect :: Build a community of collaboration with the rapid response WEA Advocacy Network and long-term Working Groups.Act :: Map advocacy strategies using proven and emerging tools.

Be sure to check back with us as we get closer to November, and in the mean time, click here for more information!


Indigenous Women and the Way Forward from Fukushima

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Photo: Havasupai prayer items at uranium mine near Red Butte in Northern Arizona.
“In a [Navajo] creation story, the people were given a choice of two yellow powders. They chose the yellow dust of corn pollen, and were instructed to leave the other yellow powder—uranium—in the soil and never to dig it up. If it were taken from the ground, they were told, a great evil would come.”
—Winona LaDuke, Director, Honor the Earth
While Japan reels from tsunami and an escalating nuclear catastrophe, the Obama administration last week affirmed its commitment to nuclear power’s role in our national “clean energy” portfolio.  Our leaders can’t account for the safety of our 104 domestic nuclear power plants in a major earthquake, the national security risks of nuclear proliferation for energy, or the nuclearwaste disposal conundrum.  Nonetheless, uranium mining and the development of new nuclear power facilities continues apace.


Women are raising their voices to demand safe energy.  Renowned activists like Helen Caldicott and Joanna Macy, along with scores of concerned women at the grassroots, denounce nuclear energy as a dangerous and foolhardy enterprise from its cradle – the environmental and public health damage wrought by uranium mining, to its grave – the unsolvable problem of radioactive waste disposal. 

These leaders call attention to the unique and often disproportionate health impacts borne by women, children and fetuses from nuclear radiation.  They describe the outrageous risks of nuclear energy as an intentional or accidental weapon of war.  And they share a vision for a nuclear-free U.S. energy portfolio.


Indigenous women, particularly, stand at the front-lines of the nuclear energy debates, with their lives and the lives of their families and communities threatened by uranium mining.  Southwestern tribal peoples such as Navajo, Havasupai and Western Shoshone suffer the egregious impacts of uranium extraction on water, land, and health – especially because of the relative lack of federal protection for tribal natural resources and public health in the face of the uranium boom. 

In some Navajo communities, for example, one person on average from each family – thousands of people, overall – has died from health issues related to uranium exposure in the mines.  The largest nuclear spill in U.S. history took place on the Navajo Nation, at Rio Puerco in 1979 – and yet the federal government recently authorized the reinitiation of mining activities at that very site.  Lands surrounding the Grand Canyon are uranium-rich and targeted for mining – threatening the water sources and lives of Havasupai peoples who live downstream from many of the proposed mines. 

But women like Carletta Tilousi (Havasupai), Anna Rondon (Navajo), and Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) speak out about the dangers of nuclear energy to their peoples’ bodies and sacred lands. These courageous women are part of a larger movement of Indigenous leaders articulating a powerful vision for a carbon-free, nuclear-free future.  Tribal lands, currently exploited for coal, oil, gas and uranium, are replete with renewable energy resources – it is said that the entirety of the Southwestern U.S.’ solar energy potential could power the entire U.S. electricity grid. 


WEA’s Advocacy Network stands in solidarity with Indigenous women environmental leaders, providing critical technical expertise to support the realization of their visions for a sustainable, balanced, just energy portfolio.  Tribal lands, presently exploited as “energy colonies,” can lead by example towards a renewable energy-powered future.  The crisis in Japan calls us to move towards a stable, life-protecting energy portfolio – fortunately, Indigenous women leaders are offering us all a map to this powerful, necessary path.


Celebrating the 100-year Anniversary of International Women’s Day

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Rucha Chitnis, India Program Director, with women farmers in Uttar Pradesh

Rucha Chitnis, India Program Director, with women farmers in Uttar Pradesh

Today marks the 100-year anniversary of International Women’s Day. With ripples of change created by powerful movements world wide, our global community has come far since 1911. And, there is still a long way to go. The UN recently recognized that “longstanding inequalities in the distribution of resources have placed women at a disadvantage in participating in and benefitting from development processes.” This is despite significant research that places women’s empowerment as a necessary condition for healthy, politically stable, economically sound, and environmentally safe societies.

This is why we created the Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) – an organization that creates innovative solutions to issues of water, food, land and climate through collaborative initiatives that train, connect, and empower emerging women leaders.
Here’s the kind of change our programs create on a regular basis in the regions where we work: Lucy Mulenkei was a 2008 Global Women’s Water Initiative Training participant. Lucy’s home is in Northern Kenya, a drought-prone region experiencing the acute effects of climate change. Lucy took her rainwater harvesting, WASH education, water testing, and solar pasteurization skills straight to her community, where she organized women’s groups to launch tree planting projects, built rainwater harvesting systems, and created safe water supply for her community of 25,000 people. Every skill Lucy learned was multiplied by the dozens of other people she trained. In December, Lucy was even featured in Newsweek Magazine for her environmental leadership, alongside WEA allies Dr. Wangari Maathai and Vandana Shiva. This is the ripple effect in action. 

Over the last 5 years, WEA’s Africa Program has forged partnerships with 30 community-based organizations across 11 African nations providing water technology training, economic development, and seed capital to many African communities through the Global Women’s Water Initiative.  Our North America Program mobilizes support for the environmental justice campaigns of our 12 Native American partner organizations through WEA’s Advocacy Network of legal, policy and business experts.  Our newest India Program will provide funding and training on rights education, ecological farming and appropriate technology to grassroots Indian women leaders to improve food and economic security of local communities, preserve the environment and traditional knowledge systems, and build political will.
Why the need?
Women are water harvesters; but are not consulted about water projects. Women and children in Africa alone spend approximately 40 billion hours every year fetching and carrying water –Yet they are rarely consulted during the implementation of ‘improved water projects’ in their communities, resulting in outside technologies that are not designed to meet their needs.
Women are significant food producers, yet they struggle to access land. Women are the stewards of natural resources, and major participants in global agriculture production, yet only 1% of the world’s women own land and less than 5% of women receive farming extension training. 

Addressing these issues is a matter of survival, yet for decades traditional development programs have invested billions of dollars trying to “fix” these problems often without consulting women, the core stakeholders in communities. This has led to years of failed projects. Although women are cited as “target beneficiaries” women’s critical contributions to food security, water access, and community health, is overlooked. 

WEA’s collaborative work addresses these issues through partnership and listening, and is innovating new models for community development that are based on an investment in women. When trained, connected and empowered, women become positioned to guide the development of their communities away from degradation and dependency on outside international aid institutions towards self-reliance. 

On this day, we are honored to be another ripple in the legacy of women and courageous men who have been making waves and turning the tide toward a world we are proud to leave for future generations. Stay tuned in the coming months for stories of hope from inspiring women attending WEA training programs in Africa, India and North America.

Collaborations for the Sacred Earth

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Last Wednesday, over 200 people packed the theater and an overflow room at the Brower Center for WEA’s final Weaving the Worlds event of 2010! We are so grateful that so many of our community gathered to support our work in North America. Check out our Facebook page for beautiful photographs of the event.

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Our Collaborations for the Sacred Earth event began with a Solutions Salon, with indigenous environmental organizations from Northern California sharing their stories and work with our event attendees. Joining us were the International Indian Treaty Council, Black Mesa Indigenous Support, the Winnemem Wintu tribe, 1,000 Hummingbirds, Seventh Native American Generations Youth Magazine, Intertribal Friendship House, Rooted In Community, American Indian Contemporary Arts, Land is Life, Sacred Land Film Project, Native Bay Circle KPFA Radio, Shellmound Walk, and Cultural Conservancy.

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Musicians Cy Wagoner, Natural Man, George Galvis, and T-Hawk blessed the evening with powerful flute, drumming and song.

WEA artistic lead Nikila Badua opened the evening with a grounding song, with WEA Co-Director Amira Diamond on violin. Co-Directors Melinda Kramer and Amira Diamond told stories from our work in Africa and India. After sharing our moving video from the May 2010 Advocacy Delegation, Defending Sacred Places in the Southwest, North America Director Caitlin Sislin provided an in-depth look at the work of our Advocacy Network in promoting energy justice, sacred places protection, and environmental health in collaboration with indigenous women environmental leaders.

In her keynote address, Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth invited us to cultivate a shared sense of moral outrage and of hope – and named the crucial role of friends and allies in the movement for environmental justice and sustainability. We are honored to stand in alliance with Honor the Earth and our other project partners throughout North America.

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Come join us once again on Sunday, November 21st, 2010 at 8:30 P.M. for a celebration of the harvest at Gather Restaurant. Enjoy music, delicious organic seasonal fare, and one another. 100% of your purchases will be donated to WEA! Email for more information.

Thank you for joining us. Each time we gather, the world changes.

Power Lines

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Where do you get your power? Does it emerge from the ground beneath your feet? Do you look to the sky or to the waters for it? Does it coalesce within your community? As power flows towards you, does it render others’ lives bleak while it brightens yours? Will your great grandchildren’s great grandchildren be fortunate enough to derive their power from the same places as you do?

These are the questions that our team of delegates — women leaders from across the environmental and green energy advocacy spectrum — investigated during our Fall 2010 Advocacy Delegation, Promoting Energy Justice on the Navajo Nation. During our five-day journey from Flagstaff, Arizona to Shiprock, New Mexico, our team met front-line leaders of the Dine’ movement for a just transition from fossil fuels to sustainability. These courageous women and men generously shared their stories, struggles and strategies with us, together describing a shared vision for an end to the U.S.’ reliance on dirty power derived from indigenous lands, and a turning towards the abundant solar, wind and non-polluting energy potential of tribal lands.
5058502136_de57efd083_bOur Dine’ colleagues and hosts spoke to us of the potential for healing and transformation inherent in this power shift. They modeled the efficacy of coordinated grassroots action to bring that vision to life. And they named the importance of broad-based coalitions to support the vision for ecological and economic justice for indigenous peoples.

How do we unplug from these injustices and desecrations, when so many of us unwittingly or unavoidably rely on fossil fuels to power our modern lifestyles? Bound, as so many of us currently are, to cheap electricity and an economic system that ceaselessly plunders and contaminates the most sacred places of the original peoples of this land, how do we engender the transformation so critically needed at this time in history? As allies to indigenous leaders working for environmental justice, it is incumbent upon us to ask hard questions of ourselves and of our communities: who and what suffers so that we can turn on the lights, and what will it take to find another way?

5058499860_3dafce7328_oDiscovering the destruction is remarkably easy: anyone can follow the path of the gargantuan transmission lines crossing the Southwestern desert back to the coal mines, the power plants, the contaminated water tables, the birth defects and cancer clusters. But finding a new way is a more complex task that will require everyone’s participation. For some of us, it means employing our expertise at the federal level, demanding increasingly stringent air- and water-quality regulations, the overhaul of corrupt agencies, and the overturning of ill-advised permits to power plants and mineral extraction operations.
For others, it means organizing around state and local ballot propositions, working to build legislative bridges between economic development and environmental sustainability. For yet others, it means jumping into the trenches of business development, supporting the strategic planning, capitalization and implementation of far-seeing projects like utility-scale solar installations on reclaimed mine land on tribal reservations.And for all of us, it means becoming ever more aware of the effect of each of our actions – even the most minute, like flipping a light-switch – has on the web of life.Our dedicated Advocacy Delegation team learned that we have all the power we need – the power to say no to destruction, the power to say yes to an equitable, healthy future for all of us, and the power to act in alliance with the deeply-rooted vision for sustainability held by indigenous women and men throughout North America.5058479928_7b4cc9482d_bBy Caitlin Sislin, Former WEA North Amer