Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pope Francis’ Encyclical: A Message of Hope for the Earth, but Where are the Women?

By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern

“Laudato Si” or “Praised Be to You”, Pope Francis’ recently released environmental encyclical, details how the collective actions of people are responsible for the irreversible degradation of our Earth. Subtitled “Care for Our Common Home”, the encyclical speaks boldly to the need for change to the structural injustices that drive environmental devastation. However, as the many years of WEA’s work has shown us, the Pope fails to identify one of the most prevalent social injustices that directly links to climate change: gender inequality. The question we—as women, as allies, as actors in our global community—are left with, then, is: how can humanity care for the planet while half of our population continues to fight for an equal position in ‘our common home’? 

In general, the encyclical takes an important stance as it calls for people to accept our role in and impact on the degradation of the Earth. This has been the most controversial point of the statement across religious and political spheres, with Pope Francis calling out the unrestricted rights of human “dominion”. He states that being created in God’s image does not give humanity justification for the domination of other beings, and such “dominion theory” has only encouraged the destructive exploitation of the natural world. Our greed, he says, has led to an alteration of the Earth’s natural cycles, resources and productive capabilities. To find solutions, Pope Francis stresses the need to bring impoverished and Indigenous voices to the center of environmental discussions. This is a critical steps since, as we have learned from our partners, these communities already face the damaging impacts of climate change in acute ways, even though they’re often not the drivers of this destruction.

What this landmark statement doesn’t do is highlight the fact that even within these communities, women are typically those most disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation due to their roles as mothers, food providers, and community caretakers. However, despite this overall lack attention paid to gender issues and impacts, the Pope does acknowledge that, "This sister [Mother Earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse.... We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will." As we read this, we are reminded of the direct link between the body of the Earth and our bodies as women. The violence to Mother Earth that Pope Francis talks about is seen reflected in the violence experienced by women through climate change, pollution and natural resource development. At WEA, this is one of many reasons we are committed to supporting grassroots women around the world who intimately understand the interconnectedness of our place in this world as both women and stewards of the Earth, who draw strength and wisdom from our relationship with Mother Earth, and who are stepping forward and leading our communities toward a future where we co-exist in equality with one another, and in reverence of the Earth.

Gender equality must become recognized as a central point to the environmental movement, especially in a world where women living in poverty are the demographic most affected by the effects of our actions. While we applaud Pope Francis for taking this important first step in directing humanity’s attention to our historically negative impact on the environment, and for boldly calling for change where it is so very necessary, we stand firm in the knowledge that respect for our Earth and respect for women are undeniably linked.  We must understand this simple truth: we cannot have one without the other.

Further reading:
Mother Earth Cries Out & We Must Listen and Act Boldly--Reflecting on Pope Francis's Encyclical on the Environment
"Sister Earth Cries Out": Did Pope Francis Just Proclaim an Eco-Feminist Theology?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Meet Our Summer Intern!

We love summer for so many reasons.  It's the time of year when seeds planted in the spring blossom, bloom and grow strong, and it's a time to prepare for the warm gatherings and occasions for sharing that seem to characterize the fall.  At WEA, the summer is when we tend partnerships, plan for celebrations to come, and welcome in the amazing interns we've been fortunate enough to work with in summers passed.

This summer is no different, and we're so thrilled to welcome Katie to the team here in Berkeley for her summer break. Meet Katie below!

KATIE DOUGLAS General Office & Research Intern 

1. Tell us about yourself your background/journey to WEA.  I’m a student at Brandeis University in Boston, and heading into my senior year with majors in Environmental Studies and Anthropology. I attribute my love of the natural world to my parents for introducing me to redwood trees and blue-bellied lizards. During college I became heavily involved with the organization Half the Sky, and was incredibly moved by their work in providing access to education for girls across the globe. When I stumbled onto WEA I was amazed to find an organization that seemed to perfectly address the intersection of my interests in women’s rights, the environment, and the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities.

2. What do you do at WEA?  I’m a General Office Intern so I mainly support Kahea with general administration tasks, such as filing and managing the donor base. Additionally I research ongoing environmental developments for women, and assist with current campaigns.

3. Share 2 unique/fun/crazy/weird things about you that your co-workers do not know! 
I worked on a farm for several summers, and seriously considered taking a baby goat home with me because I’m obsessed with goats. I have a secret skill for building camp fires.

4. What do you see as the biggest challenge in the intersections of women, indigenous issues and the environment?  I think that the mainstream western environmental movement can be very ignorant to what an integral role women and indigenous persons play in the protection of the environment. While I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the preservation of land, or the legal protection of endangered species, I think that the environmental movement can forget that millions of people around the world are already facing the direct consequences of climate change. Therefore their experiences make them experts on the current effects of climate change, and place them at the most important locations to develop sustainable change with equal access to resources and community training.

5. Tell us about a woman who inspires you and why. 
Sheryl WuDunn, the co-author of Half the Sky, is one of my biggest inspirations. She has broken so many barriers as a reporter, an educator on women’s rights, and a modern leader. Her work on the direct links from women’s education to a country’s economic prosperity, resource management, and levels of poverty has always reminded me how integral women are to the state of our world.

6. Tell us one thing that surprised you at WEA.  WEA is such a close-knit and welcoming community, and everyone made me feel so comfortable on my first day. I was really surprised by how small WEA is, but all these women have accomplished so much. And there are always so many kinds of tea in the office, which is awesome!

7. What do you hope to get out of your time at WEA?
  I hope to be continuously learning about current global developments and issues that deal with the intersection of women’s rights, the environment, and indigenous rights. I’m also hoping to gain a greater understanding of how non-profits like WEA function, and get to know an amazing group of women leaders.

Meet the rest of the talented interns that have worked with WEA throughout the years here!

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Mother's Day Call to Protect the Earth

This Sunday is the day of the mother, the day we honor the source of life.  As we give thanks for our very existence, for all the nurturing and resources our mothers provide for us so that we may grow and thrive, we also celebrate our shared mother—the Earth itself.  Without her flowing waters, warm sun, rich soil and fresh air, even our most advanced technologies wouldn't be able to sustain our collective life here.

It feels like just yesterday that WEA's Co-Directors, Melinda and Amira, were both becoming new mothers—and then mothers once more!  But today, they each have two sons, all under the age of three, and it's taken us just a moment to realize how quickly time has flown.

 The women of RENAMITT.  Photo by: Semillas, a partner of WEA
At its heart, our work here at WEA has always been about nurturing women at the grassroots—honoring and uplifting the work of women and community caregivers around the world who are mothering children and mothering movements.  We do this because we recognize the undeniable connection between our experiences as women—as mothers—and the experiences of our first mother, our shared planet earth.

Last week, WEA had the opportunity to attend the Indigenous Birthways convening at the BirthKeepers Summit here in Berkeley, CA.  There, we heard Mohawk elder and midwife, Katsi Cook, speak about these links, and her wisdom is reflected in her written work.  "Women are the first environment," she teaches.  "We are privileged to be the doorway to life.  At the breast of women, the generations are nourished and sustained.  From the bodies of women flow the relationship of these generations both to society and to the natural world.  In this way is the earth our mother, the old people said.  In this way, we as women are earth."

Our grassroots partners around the world remind us of the truth in these words.  In India, the traditional knowledge women hold of seed saving, home gardens and climate adaptation help rural communities usher in locally-centered and sustainable futures.  And in North America, young Indigenous women leaders resisting environmental violence bear witness to the simple truth that everything connected to the land is connected to our bodies.

These fierce women are birthing transformation, not only in their communities, but in the world.  WEA is committed to standing alongside these leaders as they do the essential work of safeguarding our environment and generations to come.

This Mother's Day, please consider making a tax-deductible gift in honor of Mother Earth and the amazing mothers in your world.  Your contribution will help us to continue supporting grassroots women today who are stepping forward to demand clean water and healthy food, protect sacred lands and traditional knowledge, resist dirty energy that harms our lands and bodies, and design sustainable solutions.

Most of all, we invite you to take a moment today to stand on the earth, give thanks for all that she provides, and make a commitment to protect her, for the sake of future generations and all life.

We wish you a peaceful Mother's Day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Meet our Fall Interns!

As we all shut down our computers and close our office doors to get ready for the holiday weekend, we at WEA are once again reminded of how so much of our work would not be possible without the support of our rockstar team of interns.  So to kick off our gratitude-sharing festivities, we're sending warm hugs and tons of thanks to these ladies!

Thank you both for all the energy you're bringing to your time with us!

And we hope everyone has some time this weekend to take a moment, give thanks for one another and the planet we live on, and do a little something to show that appreciation to the world. 

REBECCA OLSON – General Office and Research Intern

1. Tell us about yourself – Background / Journey to WEA.  I grew near the Blue Ridge Mountains in West Virginia and moved to Northern California a few years ago, where I managed an inn for several years and took community college classes. Now I am finishing my bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at UC Berkeley with a self-designed research focus on feminist perspectives in international relations, considering how traits traditionally associated with femininity and marginalized in the political sphere could contribute to policies that support a more sustainable and equitable international system. In my research, I focus on the experience of women and marginalized groups. I've always worked while in college, but starting this summer I took a leap of faith and decided to prioritize valuable learning experience over income-earning, mainly because I wanted to start learning firsthand about the issues that are close to my heart. I spent the summer volunteering for an international organization based in Rome that supports sustainable forestry and agriculture. Then I found Women's Earth Alliance through an Internet search and joined the WEA team this fall.

2. What do you do at WEA?
  I help with general office tasks and donor support. I am also researching the effects of energy development projects on Native U.S. and Canadian women's reproductive health, as well as its connections to violence against Native women, and I'm excited to contribute a few blog posts in the coming weeks as I learn more about these issues.

3. Share 2 unique/fun/crazy/weird things about you that your co-workers do not know!
  I used to volunteer at a monkey sanctuary in Maryland, and I just started learning Argentine Tango.

4. What do you see as the biggest challenge in the intersections of women, indigenous issues and the environment?  One major challenge is grappling with our economic mindset that prioritizes short-term income or profits over long-term prosperity. Also, I think that our conventional understanding of economics needs to expand to include those things that truly contribute to human well-being, such as healthy relationships with each other and with the planet. Treating the earth like a commodity is obviously not sustainable. Additionally, I think that development projects will tend to replicate or even exacerbate existing inequalities in society unless they are rigorously examined and take into account the concerns of all those who will be effected.

5. Tell us about a woman who inspires you and why.  Vandana Shiva, for her activism to preserve biodiversity and to support the work of women farmers. Many times I struggle with how to effect positive change in the world. I see Shiva's work as focusing on the regeneration of life, building life from the roots (in communities and working with small farmers), rather than coming down from the top with some big revolutionary idea.

6. Tell us one thing that surprised you at WEA.   On my first day, I was told that I could take the initiative in projects that I'm working on. I said, "Oh, you mean if I want to do something differently I should check with you first?" She clarified that I can just go ahead. I'm still getting used to this approach, and find that it makes me feel energized and excited about the projects I'm working on.

7. What do you hope to get out of your time at WEA?  I hope to learn about specific effects of environmental damage on the bodies and lives of Indigenous women and communities, and to learn about what these women are doing to stand up for themselves and protect their bodies, families, and communities. I am already learning so much, and wondering why I haven't seen more stories about these issues in the mainstream media. I hope to be able to share what I learn with family, friends, and others who I know.

KATALINA TORRES-GARCIA – General Office and Research Intern

1. Tell us about yourself – Background / Journey to WEA.  I grew up near Los Angeles and moved up to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley where I’m finishing my bachelor’s degree in Psychology. When I saw there was an opening at WEA I jumped at it. WEA’s work focuses on the subjects I am most passionate about.

2. What do you do at WEA?  I’m the general office and research intern. I update and input donations and information into WEA’s databases, transcribe testimonies, help cultivate donor support and correspondence and assist with anything else the team needs help with!

3. Share 2 unique/fun/crazy/weird things about you that your co-workers do not know!  I’m really fond of dogs, so much so that my attention span is temporarily suspended if I see one and I’ll only really be thinking, "Must pet dog..." When I’m not thinking about dogs I’m probably thinking about food, or traveling to different countries to eat food.

4. What do you see as the biggest challenge in the intersections of women, indigenous issues and the environment?  I see the biggest challenge in the intersections of women, indigenous issues and the environment as changing the embedded patriarchy within our systems. This challenge is exacerbated when corporations have their hands in environmental issues fueling injustices and are neglecting human rights. To create an environmentally sustainable future it’s necessary for women have agency over the environment that shapes their lives.

5. Tell us about a woman who inspires you and why.  Many women inspire me, but my mom is always who comes to mind first. She set the standards of equality for my life, and I'm thankful because now I won't settle for anything less. She encouraged me to learn and to question and to not hold back my voice or opinions.

6. Tell us one thing that surprised you at WEA. 
One thing that surprised me at WEA is the volume of new information I am exposed to. Before I began I felt relatively informed, but after just my first couple of days I learned about issues that I knew little about and will never forget.

7. What do you hope to get out of your time at WEA? Throughout my time here at WEA, I hope to get practice and knowledge about how a non-profit operates to move forward and continue to work to improve the environment and lives of women, including my own. I look forward to learning and seeing how when we women connect to share knowledge and resources, change can occur on small scale to become widespread.

Meet the rest of the talented interns that have worked with WEA throughout the years here!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

WEA Grassroots Partner Celebrated as "Woman Warrior"

Check out this great article on grassroots women warriors--including a WEA partner!--who are protecting their lands and communities against #environmental destruction.

Suryamani Bhagat is a brave forest activist and #Indigenous leader of the Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement in #India, and has mobilized a forest watch committee to stop illegal forest destruction in her state.

WEA partnered with Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement, part of the Bindrai Institute of Research Study and Action, over the last year to support their efforts to enhance decision-making power of adivasi women, who are crucial custodians of forests and #biodiversity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WEA's New Partnership to Address Environmental Violence

We are so proud to be in partnership with The Native Youth Sexual Health Network on a community-based research and advocacy initiative to address the environmental violence Indigenous women and  youth face as a result of extreme extraction.

Everything that impacts the land in turn impacts our bodies.

Visit the link below to learn more about this initiative, how it aims to address the impacts of extractive industries on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of Indigenous communities, how you can get involved or share your knowledge, or other ways you can support.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy Women's Equality Day!

Happy Women's Equality Day here in the U.S.! While this day commemorates the passage of women's right to vote, here at WEA, women's equality also means honoring the knowledge, expertise and leadership of grassroots women around the world who are standing strong for our communities, environment and futures.

What does Women's Equality Day mean to you?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Benefit Concert to Support the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and their Efforts

Where will you be tomorrow night?

Please join us at the Eastside Arts Alliance in Oakland, CA for Wintu Ch'aawa, a benefit concert to honor and support the Winnemem Wintu Tribe as they continue their efforts to protect their culture, lifeways, and sacred lands from the Shasta Dam raise. The evening will feature Redstar, Michael Preston, Almas Fronterizas, an art auction and surprise guests!

WEA, along with Idle No More HawaiĘ»i and Warriors Rising, is proud to be among the organizations and individuals co-sponsoring this event.

Please share far and wide, and we hope to see you there!

Ticket are $15 sliding scale. Space is limited, so buy your tickets soon, and thank you in advance for your support!

For more information: g.daniel.rodriguez@gmail.com

Thursday, July 17, 2014

WEA Partnership with GREEN Foundation Supports Women Farmers in Karnataka

In India, climate change, the steady degradation of natural resources, as well as political and social unrest and inequity, has severely affected the lives of millions of rural poor—a majority of which are women—who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. These barriers help to make women and girls more vulnerable to societal and health dangers, and reinforces patriarchal practices that deny them access to arenas where decisions affecting them are made.

That's why WEA was thrilled to partner with GREEN Foundation last year to recognize the knowledge and expertise of women farmers to promote food security and build community resiliency. Through this partnership and GREEN Foundations amazing efforts on the ground, women farmers in Karnataka were mentored, trained and supported as they shared and built their skills in sustainable agriculture, seed saving, income generation, community organizing, and leadership around climate adaptation.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Meet Our Summer Intern!

We don't know what we'd do without all the wonderful interns who have given of themselves to support our work over the past few years.

That's why we're so excited to introduce you to the amazing intern working with us here in Berkeley this summer!  She's a rockstar, and we feel so lucky to have her on board!  If you're in the Bay Area, come by and say hi to Kelsey and the rest of the team!

KELSEY RILEY – General Intern

1. Tell us about yourself – Background / Journey to WEA.  Born and raised in the Bay Area, I have always appreciated the incredible amount of cultural and environmental diversity Northern California has to offer. Even as a child, I knew that I was incredibly lucky to live in such an amazing area with countless opportunities. I grew up volunteering at school events and summer camps, and it has always been my passion to give back to my community. Here in Berkeley I volunteer through a mental health awareness org, as well as a homeless shelter for youth ages 18-25.

I just finished my second year at UC Berkeley and I am majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies. A good friend of mine interned with WEA previously and after I heard about her experiences, I knew I had to get involved!

2. What do you do at WEA?  Generally I help with daily operations, whether it be logging donations or writing thank-you cards to our generous donors. In addition I have been working on some graphics to add to WEA’s social media pages, as well as doing research on the Alberta tar sands and their impact on indigenous women and their communities.

3. Share 2 unique/fun/crazy/weird things about you that your co-workers do not know! I enjoy the movie Napoleon Dynamite a little too much! I won a pig-calling contest when I was seven… I am strangely proud of this accomplishment.

4. What do you see as the biggest challenge in the intersections of women, indigenous issues and the environment?  I think that at times it can be difficult to examine the intersectionality between these categories because they each have issues within themselves. We must be able to look at these intersections critically and search for ways in which they bring different identities together in order to make sense of these complex challenges and find ways to actively work on them.

5. Tell us about a woman who inspires you and why.  Emma Thompson. Other than being an Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter, she supports anti-poverty agency ActionAid, is the chair of human rights organization The Helen Bamber Foundation, and works to raise awareness of human trafficking. I deeply admire both her work in film and her philanthropy.

6. Tell us one thing that surprised you at WEA.  How such a small group of individuals can make such an impact in so many ways. WEA is a living, breathing example of women supporting women in a way that brings individuals of all experiences together to empower one another. WEA encourages women to continue being successful leaders within their communities.

7. What do you hope to get out of your time at WEA?  I hope to learn more about the intersections between women and environmental issues, and how women can work together to make differences both in their communities and on a more global scale. I also hope to contribute to hands-on, creative projects that assist the social media presence of WEA as an organization.

Meet the rest of the talented interns that have worked with WEA throughout the years here!