Girls Rock! Environmental Changemakers around the Globe
This is the second installment of a new series on the intersection between feminism and environmentalism.
Our previous post on feminism and environmentalism looked at how women’s rights are environmental issues intersect — sometimes unexpectedly. Moral of the story: women are often disproportionately affected by environmental issues because of traditional gender roles and sexism.
Today, let’s look at something more inspiring. There are women working to address serious environmental issues on every continent, and rarely do they get the attention they deserve.
According to Jody Williams, the 2007 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ban land mines, “While people look at the environment and climate change — the health of our planet overall — very few look at it from the perspective of women.”
Williams was the leader of a 2012 expedition in which six female Nobel laureates trekked across Canada to find out how tar sands extraction was uniquely impacting the lives of women. They published their findings in “Breaking Ground: Women, Oil and Climate Change in Alberta and British Columbia,” which found that, “Women and their communities feel their concerns are ignored…or worse, they are deemed enemies of the state, facing violence and ostracism for asking difficult questions.”
Here, you can read a profile of one of the women featured in the report, Crystal Lameman, who is a member of the Beaver Lake Cree and a relatively well known anti-tar sands activist. And here’s her keynote speech from a 2012 environmental conference.
Europe / Antarctica
Yes, Antarctica. It’s not just activists who are combining feminist principles with environmental action. Originally, women were discouraged from working in the Antarctic. Climate science is still a boy’s club, but more and more women are entering the field. Check out this article on Corina Brussard, a senior scientist in marine viral ecology working at a Dutch research center in the far, far, far south.
And speaking of Europe, the UK based Women’s Environmental Network has a great resource page with links to reports and fact sheets on issues related to feminism and environmentalism. Bonus: the group lists lots of ways to effect positive change, rather than overwhelming readers with doom and gloom.
Australia / Pacific Islands
In Indonesia, Aleta Baun, 2013 winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, works to stop mining companies from destroying the forests essential to the Mollo tribe’s survival. Baun continued to work despite assassination attempts, and in 2007, the mining company ceased operations at four sites in Mollo territory.
Central / South America
Have you heard of the Cochabama water wars? In the early 2000s, members of the town of Cochabama, Bolivia, protested against the privatization of their water resources. Women were disproportionately impacted by the new scarcity of water. Along with her brother, Oscar Olivera, the leader of the popular uprising, Marcela Olivera helped organize the movement to regain water rights. Today, Olivera is the Latin America coordinator for the “Water for All” campaign. Here, she is interviewed by Amy Goodman for Democracy Now.
Vandana Shiva is one of the founders of Navdanya, “a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 17 states in India.” According to the website, “Navdanya is a women centered movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity.” Shiva is also well known as an ecofeminist and for authoring some of the key texts in that emerging philosophical field.
The Green Belt Movement was founded in 1977 in response to the needs of rural Kenyan women faced with a lack of food and water. Today, the group works on community empowerment and education, tree planting, and advocacy. It aims to help people create sustainable livelihoods and stand up for their rights. In light of the climate crisis, the group is focusing more and more on climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience.
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*All photos courtesy Wikimedia commons.