The Women’s Earth Alliance Gala, “From Ripple to Wave,” was an unforgettable night. The event marked another rite of passage for WEA as we celebrated our 7th year; reflected on our past, shared our vision for growth, laughed and celebrated, and thanks to all of you, made a wave of support for our efforts going forward. We want you to know that we are already working hard to translate your generosity into action.
Thank you to our special guest Rose Wamalwa for traveling to be with us from Kisumu, Kenya and sharing her incredible story. Rose spoke about her journey from being a little girl carrying water for miles on her head, to a community leader, trainer and entrepreneur with our Global Women’s Water Initiative bringing clean water to thousands in her community.
At the end of her talk she said, “my daughter now looks at me and says, ‘mama, I want to be like you some day.” Rose is a living testament to the wave of change that women environmental leaders generate, not only throughout regions but across generations.
Thanks to our event sponsors, who helped us with our commitment to make the Gala as low-cost an event as possible. Alcohol and beverages, centerpieces, take-home gifts, the lighting and photography were 100% donated. Production expenses, food, and table settings were generously discounted. And we couldn’t have done it without our dedicated volunteers!
As our Advisor Paul Hawken said so eloquently in his talk, “there is no solution to climate change unless women’s leadership is at the heart of it.” Grassroots women worldwide are bringing forth life-sustaining solutions to the mounting crises we all face — we are honored to stand with them.
Thank you for being a part of our community. We invite you to consider making a gift to WEA at this time to help us continue to thrive. Here’s to a wonderful and fulfilling fall season!
2013 WEA Gala Host Committee Tod Arbogast, Laura Belzer, Dondeena Bradley, Shirley Richardson Brower, Sara Ellis Conant, Kyia Downing, Stacey Frost, Claire Greensfelder, Paul Hawken, Sandra Hay, Nick Heldfond & Simmone LaCorte, Julia Butterfly Hill, Dana King, Catriona MacGregor, Joel Makower, Angela Mason, Konda Mason, Nick and Sloane Morgan, Marcy Taylor Pattinson, Ina and Fred Pockrass, Ahmed Rahim, Kavita Ramdas, Deborah Santana, Angela Sevin, Nancy Schaub, Molly Singer, Roselyne C. Swig, Pandora Thomas, Lynne and Bill Twist, Janet MacGillivray Wallace and Randall Wallace.
Guest speaker, Preeti Mangala Sekar, ED of Narika, read a poem written by Leena called “Penalty.” The poem framed the public response to Leena’s poetry, including demands from some right wing voices, who shunned it as “pornographic” writing. The poem’s content highlighted the feelings and situations that arise when the only path to follow is one that is honest, yet perceived by some as inflammatory because it expresses and asserts female sexuality and power. Leena relates to this through her own unconventional life path and through the stories of human rights activists, especially women, that she documents in her films.On June 18th, friends of WEA, old and new, trickled into the David Brower Center to meet a special guest speaker, Indian social justice film-maker, poet and actress, Leena Manimekalai. Rucha Chitnis, WEA’s South Asia Program Director, welcomed everyone to the event and shared how indigenous women were on the frontlines of global resistance against landgrabs that threatened their ancestral homelands, and how films, such as Leena’s “Ballad of Resistance”, are an important vehicle to highlight the crucial role women play in social movements and defending human rights.
Dayamani explains in the film that the Munda tribe has been resilient to many attempted impositions over the years. She notes that this area represented resistance against British colonizers, long before the time of Gandhi. Though the fights have not always been easy, their persistence has afforded them their land rights on multiple occasions. Today, women are on the frontlines of these movements against land grabs from powerful forces. One moving scene in the film showed women from Nagri communities tearing down walls of government-santioned construction sites to make way for business and law schools, despite police presence. The women featured in the film echoed the sentiment, “We will give our lives but not our land.” Dayamani stands for the dignity, rights and identity of her community and the ancestry that constitutes the foundation for their relationship with “Mother Nature”.Leena screened “Ballad of Resistance”, which follows Dayamani Barla, India’s first indigenous female journalist from Jharkhand, who has centered her life on protecting ancestral lands occupied by tribal communities in her state. “Ballad of Resistance” offers a breath-taking view into the longterm social action against the external pressures of development facing indigenous communities in India. The film shows how Dayamani works tirelessly at the grassroots, documenting the struggle through her journalism and efforts to organize tribal communities to stand strong against corporate landgrabs for mining and other industrial development projects.
Leena’s films are creative and effective means to highlight human rights violations, as well as the agency of local communities to demand justice and dignity. When Dayamani was arrested in 2012 for two and a half months, supporters used Leena’s film as a means to raise awareness to free her. Attendees were so engaged in the discussion with Leena that it continued well past the scheduled finish time.Throughout the evening, the audience gained fascinating insights into Leena’s own life as a feminist artist and activist. During the question and answer portion, Leena shared how she began making films to document lives of people, who are left out of mainstream media and development processes. She explained that she would go to communities and document their story of oppression, and then the oppressors of that group would also want her to document their story as well.
Leena closed with a statement about our role in these issues as international allies. She encouraged our role as funders, given the sparse monetary sources available for NGOs and social movements in India and profoundly stated that “Indian resistance is at a challenging point, but we can give them hope and solidarity that they are not alone.”
Special thanks to activist, Anu Mandavilli and Friends of South Asia for partnering with WEA to host this gathering.
As we talked, Casey looked at my pregnant belly and said, “Right now you’re creating a child, and your child is creating you simultaneously. Your baby is creating a mother.” These few words, for me, captured the soul of our work at Women’s Earth Alliance: we recognize that our lives are inseparable from one another and that only in connection with and service to others can we reach our fullest potential and offer our greatest gifts. Casey’s comment echoed the South African term “Ubuntu”, which loosely translated means, “I am because you are.” This wisdom reminds us that we are inextricably linked. Our choices and experiences, our triumphs and pain are bound together in a web of reciprocity.A year and a half ago, when I was still pregnant with my son, Dune, Ponca Elder and movement leader, Casey Camp, said something to me that I’ll never forget. It was Day Two of our IEN/Women’s Earth Alliance Advocacy Training, linking 60 advocates and activists from around the U.S. for collaboration on indigenous women-led environmental justice campaigns. Casey, a life-long advocate for environmental justice and founder of the Coyote Creek Center for Environmental Justice, sat with me in the WEA office as I interviewed her about her work, her vision, and the power of coming together across cultures for collaboration.
Today, as I reflect on my journey of motherhood and at WEA, I appreciate once again the truth of Casey Camp’s statement. I am humbled by the teachings my child has already bestowed on me: patience, presence, endurance, compassion. And I am proud to stand in solidarity with women worldwide, who are doing the essential work of mothering – for their own families and for other families; for their homes and communities; and for the Earth.
One week from tonight join us for an inspiring evening for “Women’s Making Waves: Global Women’s Water Initiative Report Back from Africa”. We’ll share stories of the women who have transformed from being water bearers to water providers. These women who had never picked up a shovel in their lives are now building rainwater harvesting systems, toilets and water filteres which has resulted in the provision of clean water and sanitation to over 15,000 people in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
It promises to be a night of inspiration and hope!