Wednesday, December 30, 2015

WEA not alone



“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.”

Through the support and investment of our friends and partners, WEA has unlocked the future for leaders like 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. She is not only a regional leader, but she has a global reach as well. Olanike is a correspondent with World Pulse, a recipient of numerous international awards, and a participant in several prestigious leadership trainings. In 2016, WEA will collaborate with Olanike and her team 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.

Our community of supporter such as yourself are a vital part of WEA’s efforts to build alliances. As we embark on our 10th year, please join with the others in this global alliance to ensure WEA’s impact and our solid beginning to the next decade. We are just $2,000 from reaching our Year-End Campaign goal. Please know that a gift of $100, $50 or $20 makes a huge difference. Together, we can build the leadership of women who will create a future of balance, health, and peace for our world.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wishing you peace this holiday season

The Peace of Wild Things

By Wendell Berry 


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

As we gather together with friends and family to celebrate the season of peace and joy, we hope that you offer this point for reflection and wish you all the peace of the natural world. Let us remember the tranquility that can be found all around us and give thanks. As we think about this beautiful poem, may contemplate the effect that the environment has on us as well as the effect we have on it, and the value of this relationship.

Happy Holidays from the WEA family to yours!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Women Climate Warriors

"I’ve got a 25-year-old son named Abe. I’ve got a 20-year-old daughter named Jessie. I would throw myself in front of a bus if it was coming at them. We all need to throw ourselves in front of this bus called climate change."

— Mindy Lubber, one of Vogue's 13 Climate Warriors 

Have you seen the absolutely stunning piece VOGUE published just as COP21 was getting underway? The articleand the profoundly beautiful photographs by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin that accompanied itfeature 13 of the formidable women leading the way on climate action.

Elizabeth Yeampierre. Photo: Vogue

Meet all 13 of these fierce women by checking out the full article here.

While we so deeply respect these women climate warriors and all they do, we also recognize that there are many more women living on the frontlines of climate change and taking action to protect their communities.  We are humbled and honored to support a number of these women and communities.

Monday, December 14, 2015

An Anthem of Climate Action and Hope

This inspirational music video from 1 Million Women, calling women from around the world to speak up about climate change and hope, is out-of-this-world amazing!

As we all look over the Paris Agreement, adopted just two days ago at COP21, and consider the message of hope it brings, this anthem is being spread around the world, creating sparks and starting discussions about how climate policies can be created and enhanceda critical message as countries decide whether to ratify the Agreement.


You can read more about 1 Million Women’s anthem and movement here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

[In the News] The First Woman Of Women: How Melinda Gates Became The World's Most Powerful Advocate For Women And Girls

We're loving this look at the life and work of Melinda Gates, co-founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and a champion for the health and rights of women and girls.

Photo: Forbes
For the first decade and a half of its existence the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation deployed its remarkable scale toward eradicating polio and malaria, and experimentation in education issues. But over the past few years Melinda Gates has embraced having her name on the letterhead of the largest-ever charitable foundation, along with the influence that comes with that. She has become the most powerful person on the planet whose singular focus is women and girls...

"When you get women in roles of leadership, we make things happen,” Gates says. “It takes us using our voice, and it also takes us making investments, huge investments, in women and girls.”
Melinda Gates has stepped up to use her voice and platform, as well as make those huge, critical investments. We are so inspired by the message this sends about the importance and global impact of investing in the leadership of women and girls.

It's through women leaders like these, believing in the women leaders on the ground, that we can change the world.

Read the full article on Forbes.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Women are the victims of climate change – and the keys to climate action

Are you keeping an eye on the goings on at COP21 in Paris?  We are, and we're especially interested to see if/how a gendered perspective is incorporated into any (and, hopefully, every!) discussions and mechanisms for moving forward on climate action in a sustainable way.

For more of our take on COP21, read our recent post here, and for an even deeper look at why a gendered lens is so integral to developing effective solutions around climate change, check out this article from The Guardian.

Photo: The Guardian

"As the nations of the world meet in Paris to address climate change, it is critical that women play a central role in these historic negotiations. Gender equality is central to effective climate action. The world cannot afford to neglect the needs of half the world’s population, nor ignore their talents and potential in innovating solutions...

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security recently released a new study that examines climate change as a human rights imperative, global security threat and a pervasive strain on economic stability. The report highlights how women bear severe gendered impacts of climate change – including adverse health, economic, social and physical consequences – but systematically lack equal representation in decision-making. 

The report also demonstrates – through a plethora of examples from around the world – that women are critical agents of change. Despite their vulnerabilities, women contribute to both adaptation and mitigation efforts in many parts of the world through creative, localized solutions. Numerous mediating institutions are working to provide women with opportunities to create their own sustainable businesses that also serve to reduce the global threat of climate change"
We'd love to hear what you think about COP21!

Monday, November 30, 2015

COP21: Time to Put a Cap on Global Gender Inequality

By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern


“I will ensure this… the climate battle must be fought for, and with, women,” stated Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development. These words are Fabius’ bold commitment for the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP) which starts today in Paris, over which he will preside as President. For WEA and our global allies, his declaration is a real opportunity for world leaders to highlight and recommit themselves to addressing the intersectional relationship of women and the environment on an international level. The only question is whether Fabius and other decision-makers have the gumption to follow through on such promises made months ago? Or will COP21 be yet another international meeting that renders gender equality irrelevant to climate change, and creates an environmental protocol without the mechanisms to enforce it?

COP began as an international response to climate change with the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. COP21 represents a chance for representatives from over 190 countries to cooperatively create universal agreements, all in the aim of keeping our climate below 2°C or 3.6°F. The U.S., the European Union., Russia, China, and India will largely negotiate the next 50 year agenda, as they are all among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases. However, in the past these powerhouse countries have failed to prioritize the critical role of and impacts on women in the global environmental movement.

One of the many reasons women are so incredibly impacted by the effects of climate change is due to the vital role they play in securing the natural resources that their families depend upon for survival, such as clean water, food, and fuel. Around 70% of women work in agriculture in low-income food-deficit countries, though generally women own less than 10% of the land. These women are already forced to mitigate the effects of climate change that drive soil erosion, drought, and food scarcity, and through traditional methods and knowledge these women are able to adapt successfully. The 2014 Copenhagen Consensus stated that agriculture research is the single most effective way to invest in fighting malnourishment. Combine this with the fact that agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, and the answer is straightforward: Invest in women as keepers of traditional knowledge and stewards of natural resources, provide them with the support and networks necessary to develop their community-based, sustainable solutions, and witness how the ripple of their efforts become a wave of transformation.

But one of the biggest challenges in constructing an effective international protocol is designing the mechanisms to enforce it. Past COPs have only created legally non-binding frameworks for treaty negotiations, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. So long as countries can opt out of ratifying treaties that might actually impact their emission levels, there seems little prospect for any sort of enforcement on pollutant control. However, at COP21 there is hope for change as the conference’s main goal is to, for the first time, create a universal, legally binding agreement with which to effectively combat climate change. A global accord where individual countries are actually held accountable to their actions is an opportunity to create environmental protocols that invest in the women leaders who are already adapting to these changes.

For WEA and our allies around the world, we can only hope that this rare opportunity for change will not overlook women—who are critical agents in any long-term plans for our earth and future generations—and that those world leaders like Laurent Fabius will hold true to their words. Because it’s time for a protocol that doesn’t merely cap our emissions, but asks us to restructure our world to a more sustainable way of life. So let’s make a change and invest in women to invest in a sustainable future.

___________________
Further Reading:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurent-fabius/taking-climate-action-for-and-with-women_b_6819596.html
http://ecowatch.com/2015/07/06/carl-pope-paris-climate-talks/

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why were the elephants so angry?

By: Katie Douglas, WEA intern

In Ulhara, a village in the city of Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, India, a group of women gathered for a cluster meeting and sat in thoughtful conversation on a rising issue: Why were the elephants of the forest so angry?

The women questioned what had driven fourteen elephants to wreak havoc and destruction in the nearby villages where many of the women were from, leaving one man dead and destroying numerous food grains, houses and crops. The women began to share how mining projects were destroying their homes and natural resources, and causing them great mental and emotional strain. They likened this to the experience of the elephants, who were losing their homes and corridors to mining and infrastructure development.

Ultimately, the women decided that they were not angry at the elephants. Instead, they understood the animal's anger and vulnerability as their own.

The natural habitat and corridors of elephants are being lost to mining and development, and they are venturing into villages where they can cause damage to both property and life.  Photo: CASS

Since 2013, WEA has partnered with Chotanagpur Adivasi Seva Samiti (CASS) to develop a community development training for adivasi (indigenous) women of the Santhal tribe in eastern India. Large-scale open-cast coal mining and infrastructure development has resulted in the destruction of land, forest, and rivers. Not only are these resources the primary means of food and fuel that the Santhal women rely on for sustaining their families and communities, but these resources also contribute medicine, peace, and spiritual sustenance. With the loss of their lands and rivers, the women have become increasingly dependent upon men and outside markets, which makes this not only an issue of environmental exploitation, but also indigenous rights and gender injustice.

In the face of environmental destruction and oppressive gender structures, these trainings provide women with different methods of support, all with the aim of helping them to exercise their rights, practice their culture, and enhance their natural resources for a future they can manage. This is facilitated through cluster groups, trainings, weekly meet-ups for female leaders, and by enrolling local girls in school. Cluster groups, like the one that met in Ulhara, are critical to the state of the community because they allow women to share stories and skills, collectively organize, and discuss basic human and forest rights.

Women gather in Ulhara village for a cluster meeting.  Photo: CASS

Through this training, adivasi women also share personal experiences and build bridges of commonality and support. These trainings ask the women to question what they know of gender. At one such training, Ms. Budhandi—a CASS volunteer—offered the group a song:

A group of men are sitting under the banyan tree
They have listened to the sufferings of women.
They are getting up and going.
The women beckon them
To come back and listen.

Discussion of songs and stories like these allow the women to sit back and view the situation through a lens that considers gender as a social construct, and that then encourages them to take their place as leaders in their communities.

Driven by the destruction of the environment, once-sustainable communities like those near Hazaribagh have been reduced to dependent entities that are disconnected from their environment and unable to protect the rights of adivasi women. This partnership aims to provide the training, support, and networks necessary to uplift the leadership of grassroots women in some of the most impacted adivasi communities in the area, therefore promoting healing and providing safety to human and elephant alike.

The Ulhara cluster group.  Photo: CASS

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Small-scale organic farming can feed the world

In our work, we've seen the incredible contributions women farmers continue to make in their communities when small farms and home gardens, and their caretakers, are uplifted and respected.  This is also something we're seeing in the news more and more each daybut it's not a new idea.  Obviously, small farmers have known this simple truth for years, and apparently, so has the United Nations.  

In a 2013 report by the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world, UNCTAD urges us all to make some big changes in our agricultural practices.

Image: eatdrinkbetter.com
"Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system."
Read the full article from TECHNOLOGYWATER here, and the Trade and Environment Review 2013 report here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Weathering the Storms Together: Grassroots Women’s Response to Climate Change

WEA shares our thoughts on women, climate change and more in Earth Island Journal's online edition.


"Tomorrow, September 29, is Global Women's Climate Justice Day of Action. As nations prepare for the UN COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, women across the world will tell their stories, demonstrate their solutions, and demand that our world leaders take meaningful action on climate change. As the late Dr. Wangari Maathai said, "...not only are women bearing the brunt of environmental and development setbacks — they are also a powerful source of hope in tackling climate and other environmental threats, and their voices must be heard." 
On this day of action, we have a chance to remind our global community that when we invest in women, we invest in food and economic security, community health and protection of land and our precious natural resources. Join us as we deepen the conversation: how can we powerfully stand with the leadership of grassroots women leaders who are on the forefront of struggle and transformation? Because when grassroots leaders can share best practices, access resources, and take collective action, they build a foundation that communities can stand on to weather storms together."

Read the full article here.  And we'd love to hear how women in your life are driving solutions to change!