“Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man.” — Margaret Mead
In every community there is someone who people go to when things get rough. The WEA alliance is made of these people.
WEA women around the world are damming the river when it floods the village, saving the seeds during times of drought, tending to the sick when disease strikes, and rebuilding communities torn by natural disasters. These women are the community backbones — the healers, caregivers, village leaders, resource managers, mothers, and grandmothers. They heal what is broken, unite the divided, work in collaboration, and demand justice. They are ordinary people mobilizing others and creating extraordinary results. They are the true superheroes of our time. The men who stand alongside these women are superheroes too.
WEA invests in these heroes because when a woman leader has the resources she needs to be an effective agent of change, everyone wins. We’ve worked with Navajo leaders promoting solar and wind on tribal lands; Indian women farmers protecting their land’s living heritage through seed saving; and African women energizing their communities with safe water and economic opportunity.
Working Alone is a Drag.
In every project, WEA forms strategic partnerships with organizations sharing our vision. The unique pairing of several organizations with diverse skills, networks, and resources makes projects stronger, smarter, and more efficient. Rather than competing for funding and addressing water or climate change with a piecemeal approach, WEA and our partners focus on working collaboratively so that we can achieve exponentially greater impact, educate and enroll a broader population, and integrate a diverse set of strategies into the work.
Women leaders in WEA projects often participate in teams of two. Returning from a training with the task of introducing something new and innovative to one’s community is not easy. As a team, women can map out strategies together.
“What is the point of the revolution, if we can’t dance?” — Jane Barry and Jelena Dordevic
Unfortunately, celebration is too often skipped in work settings. Our colleagues are some of the best teachers in the school of joy. The 4 pm lull does not require a caffeine dose as much as a good ‘ol dance and song – an “energizer” if you will. All of our convenings include plenty of singing and dancing – it is simply considered part of the curriculum. We don’t celebrate because our work is complete, or because people are no longer suffering. We celebrate because we are grateful for the chance to gather, raise our voices, and feel our shared humanity.
Listening to Mother.
“WEA is a way for us to understand: WEAre this earth. WEAre this people. WEAre one group that has to make a difference in this world. We are not people from the United States or from Ghana or from India or from some other place. We have one mother, and she has borne all of us, and she is not interested in making these distinctions.” — Kavita Ramdas, WEA Advisory Council member
Let’s be honest, mothers often know best. Even when we don’t want to listen, they usually have something valuable or poignant to say. They often learned it from their mothers who learned it from their mothers and so on.
Across traditions, the Earth is referred to as our Mother — the provider and protector, who gave everything life. Without the Earth’s flowing waters, warm sun, rich soil and fresh air, even our most advanced technologies wouldn’t be able to sustain our collective life here.
When people ask, why should we care about the injuries to lands halfway across the globe that we may never know? We say that we all owe our lives to the delicate balance of the planet, and disruption of that balance in one place will impact all of us everywhere.
Our liberation is bound up with the health of the Earth. Heavy, we know. But it all starts with listening to mother.
“The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price…The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future.” — Abigail Scott Duniway
Most freedom we can express today is possible because someone who came before us fought for that freedom. The fact that any one of us might not have to fight for one of these freedoms is nothing short of extraordinary.
We honor the courage, selflessness and leadership of those who came before us, knowing that the work we do today will help others thrive tomorrow.
We are not about charity.
This work is not about hand-outs. It is about listening to the solutions that our colleagues are articulating and helping coordinate the tools they need to succeed. We are not here to help people in need “over there.” We are here to help the restoration of balance in our world by showing up, listening, and bridging access to resources.
Everyone contributes. Everyone adds value. Our strategy is centered around peer-to-peer learning and exchange. The results are extraordinary when everyone involved in a community development process gets to bring their skills, perspective, and resources to the table.
As Lila Watson, Australian aboriginal leader, said:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
The Global is Local, and the Local is Global.
More than ever before, everything is related and everything is local. There is no “away.” Air breathed in California has traveled from as far away as China. Everything that impacts our neighbors impacts us. Community-scale solutions can shoot outward as fast as you can say, “world-wide web.”
The simple, DIY water catchment systems built by our colleagues in East Africa could be applied to plenty of household rooftops in drought-ridden California. The small-scale farming taught by our colleagues in India holds within it key solutions to feeding the world.
We strive to build respectful relationships as the foundation of our work and to be consistent and transparent in our actions and processes. This means listening deeply, speaking truthfully, engaging feedback from our partners, and learning from our mistakes.
We acknowledge that legacies of power structures such as race, caste and class privilege are deeply embedded in all of our lives, and we strive to identify and uproot historic patterns of oppression where they show up in our thinking, planning and actions. With compassion, we hold ourselves and each other accountable to addressing the impacts of our intersecting privileges as they play out everyday.