Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category
Two amazing conferences are coming up that will have some excellent speakers AND are affordable. I’ll be live blogging hopefully from both and of them and also will hopefully see you there!
The first is the Feminism and Climate Change conference at Barnard College in NYC on February 27th. One of my favorite environmental leaders, Majora Carter, will be giving the keynote address. For Barnard students, the conference is free but for everyone else the suggested price is $50.
The second is the annual Reproductive Justice Conference from April 9-11 at Hampshire College. It will be my first time attending, but friends of mine that have gone in the past say it’s an unbelievable experience.
Since I was away and wasn’t able to keep up with all the great reflections from women on Copenhagen I’ll provide you with a list of just that from the Feminist Peace Network:
Activist Naomi Klein kicked off the Klimaforum, the alternative people’s gathering being held in conjunction with the Copenhagen Climate Change talks by pointing out that the official talks had official corporate sponsors, which says it all when it comes to integrity:
Naomi also had critical words to say about Hopenhagen and its branding extravaganza. “The globe has Siemens logo on the bottom and the whole event is sponsored by Coke. That is a capitalization of hope but Klimaforum09 is where the real hope lies,” she said.
“Klimaforum is not about giving charity to the developing world its about taking responsibility and the industrialized countries cleaning up our own mess,” she concluded.
In a followup article, she writes,
A highlight of my time at COP15 so far was a conversation with the extraordinary Nigerian poet and activist Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International. We talked about the fact that some of the toughest activists here still pull their punches when it comes to Obama, even as his climate team works tirelessly to do away with the Kyoto Protocol, replacing it with much weaker piecemeal targets.
If George W. Bush had pulled some of the things Obama has done here, he would have been burned in effigy on the steps of the convention center. With Obama, however, even the most timid actions are greeted as historic breakthroughs, or at least a good start.
“Everyone says: ‘give Obama time,’” Bassey told me. “But when it comes to climate change, there is no more time.” The best analogy, he said, is a soccer game that has gone into overtime. “It’s not even injury time, it’s sudden death. It’s the nick of time, but there is no more extra time.”
Global Sister has an excellent article up called, A Feminist Focus on Climate Change which points to a fascinating study by BRIDGE that looks at linkages between gender and climate change, well worth the read.
UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid has this to say:
“Women should be part of any agreement on climate change — not as an afterthought or because it’s politically correct, but because it’s the right thing to do. Our future as humanity depends on unleashing the full potential of all human beings, and the full capacity of women, to bring about change.”
Women, Water, and Climate Justice—Cameroonian Human Rights Activist Asaha Elizabeth Ufei Leads the Way posted by the NAACP Climate Justice Iniative provides an excellent analysis of how the impact off climate change on water supplies influences women:
As the climate conditions worsen, women are finding it harder to provide food and water for their families. The once reliable and nearby water sources are drying up or contaminated; and the crops aren’t producing enough. So we are faced with questions: How many more miles must women have to walk to provide basic life-sources? What other ways can women sustain their families when the traditional agriculture and craft materials are gone? How many women will have to uproot their families and migrate to other places—that may be hostile to immigrants—because they can longer find food and shelter in their communities? How many more women and girls will be pushed into survival sex work because there are fewer economic opportunities? How many more people who speak up about human rights and organize for change will be severely punished, coerced to leave their countries, or forever silenced?
Dr Sue Wareham, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons’ (ICAN) Australian board member discusses whether nuclear power has a place in how we address climate change in this Q&A with IPS:
IPS: Is nuclear power, being carbon-free, the panacea for climate change problems and should it be a substitute for coal-fuelled power stations?
SW: We don’t agree nuclear power is a sensible way forward in response to climate change. Nuclear power cannot address the issue of climate change. There are physical limitations to the number of nuclear power stations that could be built in the next decade or so.
Even if there is further development of nuclear power, it will be far too slow because it takes 10 to 15 years to get a nuclear power plant at a point of producing electricity. We need action faster than that.
Particularly important also is the links with weapons. We know there are definite links between the civilian and military fuel cycles, and that is a particular problem that will remain as long as nuclear power is there.
There is also the problem of nuclear waste to which no country has a solution yet. We regard it as unacceptable that this generation should leave our waste to future generations. The technological and practical reality is that we don’t have any way of separating nuclear waste from the environment.
Our message is that the world really needs to put serious and significant funding into further promotion, development and implementation of renewable energies—solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels, which have been underused and under-resourced.
In this thoughtful piece, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai discusses what poorer nations need to combat climate change:
Unless the poor countries commit to development, they will continue to be under-developed and they will not be able to improve the quality of life of their people. Yet, any path that continues to encourage growth and use of fossil fuels will generate disquiet. It is for this reason that these poor countries need financial help, capacity building and transfer of not only available, but also affordable technology.
And towards the end of COP15, Maathai presented the People’s Orb to world leaders:
Maathai told politicians that while “They cannot negotiate with the environment they can negotiate with each other.”
Maathai’s call reiterated that of the UN Secretary General’s, who told heads of state attending the opening, “Our job here and now is to seal the deal … a deal that is in our common interest. For three years I have sought to bring world leaders to the table to solve climate change. Now they are coming. Three years of effort have come down to three days of action.”
In her address, Maathai said it was up to the developing world to convince the developed world that the threat of climate change is real, calling on nations to invest in the preservation of forests as a first line of defense against climate change.
Maathai directed the attention of her audience to a metal Orb placed near the head table, saying, “There is an Orb at the end of the table. This orb contains stories, images, voices and messages collected from around the world to create a global mandate for action. It is the sound of the collective spirit which should bring together all the efforts of all major climate campaigns from civil society this year.”
Vandana Shiva speaks to protesters in Copenhagen:
And Democracy NOW’s Amy Goodman reports on Shiva’s thoughts about U.S. responsibility when it comes to financial responsibility for fighting global warming,
Afterward, I asked her to respond to U.S. climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing, who said the Obama administration is willing to pay its fair share, but added that donors “don’t have unlimited largesse to disburse.” Shiva responded, “I think it’s time for the U.S. to stop seeing itself as a donor and recognize itself as a polluter, a polluter who must pay. … This is not about charity. This is about justice.”
Sister Joan Chittister in remarks at Copenhagen,
From where I stand, several strains were clear: Whatever agreements come out of Cop15, enforceability is key. Classism-poor against rich-is a danger. Multilateralism that does not support those nations who stand to be as smothered by the effects of national agreements that deny them economic development as they are by the effects of achieving it through the energy sources of the past will become a major political problem in the future. And, finally, this is only the beginning of a real struggle to resolve it.
“Where there is biodiversity, where there is wealth, where there is culture, that’s where corporate interests flock,”(Norma) Maldonado, deputy head of Ecumenical Services for Christian Development in Central America (SEFCA), an organisation working with women and young people for community development and political effectiveness, told TerraViva.
Special U.N. Advisor on Water, Maude Barlow talking about the water crisis at the Klimaforum:
Several years ago while working in Mozambique, she found a connection between inadequate sanitary protection for menstruating girls and women and lost income and education for towns, cities and entire countries,
Through research, she learned that menstruating girls and women lose up to fifty days a year of work or school because they are afraid of leaking through their make shift rags or bark. Scharpf decided to do something about it and launched SHE, which gives out micro-finance loans and basic health training to local women so that they can manufacture pads from local sustainable materials and sell them at affordable prices. Selling the pads is a source of income for the women and the girls and women who have access to the pads are less likely to contract infections and are able to participate in public life every day of the month.
Watch a promo video for the project:
While we take the availability of pads and tampons for granted in the United States, the lack of access to sanitary options has many dangers.
From the Huffington Post:
In developing countries, periods continue to be a serious handicap. According to UNICEF, ten percent of school-age African girls miss school because of a lack of access to affordable sanitary products. In Rwanda, it’s much worse. According to on-the-ground research by Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), half the girls are missing school due to menstruation and the main reason given is that sanitary pads are too expensive. For women, 24% miss work–up to 45 days per year–for the same reason. This not only limits girls’ educational and women’s professional achievement, but leads to a significant economic loss for nations. SHE estimates that a lack of affordable sanitary pads reduces GDP by $115 million per year in Rwanda alone.
There are also serious health repercussions of not having pads. In Asia, many women still use rags; less fortunate ones use newspapers, banana leaves, even sand or ash. While rags were common before the pad was invented, the problem in developing countries is that often women don’t have access to clean water to wash them. And the taboo of menstruation means that many women cannot hang their rags to dry in the open. So, instead, they hide them in dark, damp places where no one will find them. As one might imagine, infections are rampant.
A gem from the feministing community:
By Annushay Hossain
I grew up knowing my country was drowning. My childhood memories are full of flashing images of annual monsoon rains making rivers out of our roads, lakes out of our rice paddy fields, washing away farmers’ harvests, pushing the rural population into our already overpopulated capital city. Of course the yearly floods alternated with even greater natural disasters- cyclones, tornadoes, you name it growing up I saw it. The rumor in the playground was that in twenty years Bangladesh would be completely underwater.
Today that statement is no longer a rumor, but very much a reality. According to the UK ‘s Guardian publication, Bangladesh makes up not even 10% of the land mass of South Asia , but over 90% of the region’s water passes through it. Experts state that Bangladesh ‘s shifting and intensifying weather patterns are making a bad situation worse. The case of Bangladesh shows us that climate change is real, and is already impacting populations and ecosystems around the world.
But the case of Bangladesh shows us something more: That it’s the world’s poor who will feel the impact of this change the hardest. And who exactly are the poor? Women, who make up approximately 65% of the world’s poorest populations.
Because of the traditional domestic responsibilities which fall on women and girls, experts state that climate change is having a disproportionate affect them. Women are the primary caretakers of families, primary managers of everything from food production to water management in their households. As UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) puts it, women are the ones who cook, clean, and farm for their families, in addition to providing health care and hygiene. Women are not only on the “frontlines” of climate change, but their work and relationship with the environment is so intimate that their experience with it changing is often just as personal.
Let’s look at the issue of water for example, a natural resource especially sensitive to climate change, and one that traditionally women are the managers of in their households. According to UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), women and girls on average travel 10-15 kilometers, spending up to 8 hours a day gathering water for their families. Droughts caused by climate change are shrinking up and eliminating existing water supplies, making the distance to walk even longer. Because of the distances women and girls have to walk to fetch water for their families, millions of girls around the world are unable to go to school. Imagine that. The average person would never make the connection between accessing water and girls’ education. Yet it exists.
As the gendered impact of climate change becomes increasingly palpable, my question is- where are the feminist voices? Why are more women’s rights advocates and activists not picking up and rallying around this issue vigorously? Everyday you see articles in the news, but where is the real action? More importantly, where is the outrage? Just yesterday I read an article in the LA Times talking about how the newest kind of refugee is not from war, but from of climate change. They are called “climate refugees” and the LA Times states that almost 10million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes for “reasons ranging from rising (or falling) sea levels, lack of rain, and desertification.”
Back home in Bangladesh , the list of innovative ideas to combat and more importantly, adapt to climate change is endless. International aid organizations are working with local NGOs to build “floating villages,” clinics on boats, and help women educate their communities about securing flood and cyclone shelters.
But there has to be more. Women may be in the frontlines of climate change, but they are not only its victims. Their personal and intimate experience of the harsh impacts of climate change means that within them lies very real solutions to combat it. If the voices from the women’s rights movement don’t pick up this issue, loudly, clearly and unanimously, climate change will not only drown out countries, but the agents of change, women, with it. And that is simply not an option.
It is the responsibility of the women’s movement, both here in the US and abroad, to make the issue of our altering environment, our issue, otherwise everybody loses. Climate change is a human rights issue, but its very obvious gendered impacts make it a women’s rights issue.
The Feminist Peace Network put out a great post for Climate Change Blog Action Day on how climate change, specifically in the form of natural disasters, affects women.
In conjunction with the Climate Change Blog Action Day, I want to focus in particular on the gendered impact of climate change. Nowhere is this more obvious than after natural disasters, when women and children are particularly vulnerable, a point illustrated all too well in the post earlier this week on the horrific situation for pregnant women in refugee camps in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Parma.
Gendered harms are also a consideration in understanding why utilizing population control is not a solution to Global Warming.
In the Different Takes Climate Change Series Winter 2009 issue, Betsy Hartmann lists 10 reasons why the linkage of population control and global warming is problematic. Note in particular points 3 and 4 below regarding reproductive and gender justice. She writes,
Climate change is clearly one of the most urgent problems of our time. It is also a highly contested policy arena with different actors from all sides of the political spectrum struggling to get a piece of the action. The population control lobby is no exception. Today, a number of mainstream population and environment groups are claiming that population growth is a major cause of climate change and that lower birth rates are the solution. This view threatens to undermine a progressive climate justice agenda that seeks both to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce economic, social, gender and racial inequalities. It also poses a danger to reproductive rights.
1. The numbers don’t add up. The industrialized countries, with only 20 percent of the world’s population, are responsible for 80 percent of the accumulated carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere. The U.S. is the worst offender. In 2002 the U.S. was responsible for 20 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per person, compared to only 0.2 tons in Bangladesh, 0.3 in Kenya and 3.9 in Mexico.
2. Blame games target the wrong people.Wealthy countries, corporations and consumers are getting off the hook. The challenge of climate change presents an opportunity for affluent Americans to rethink their wasteful lifestyles and get on board with a transition to a just and green economy. The problem is not ‘those people over there’ — it is us, right here.
3. Population control programs erode reproductive rights. Viewing family planning as a means to solve the climate crisis will set back progress on the delivery of safe, voluntary and ethical reproductive health services. That’s because there’s a big difference between family planning programs designed primarily to reduce birth rates and those premised on reproductive rights as an end that is worthy in itself.
4. Population control is no substitute for gender justice.
5. Linking population and the environment bolsters anti-immigrant agendas. By attributing environmental degradation to population growth, population and environment groups play into the hands of conservative anti- immigrant forces. In the greening of hate, anti- immigrant groups strategically deploy population arguments to gain support among environmentalists.
6. Fear-based stereotypes of overpopulation contribute to the militarization of climate change.
7. Population stereotypes victimize the displaced.
8. Population alarmism encourages apocalyptic thinking and distracts us from
the search for practical solutions to the climate crisis.
9. Shifting the blame for the climate crisis to the Global South prevents international solidarity.
10. Inserting population into the climate change debate divides the environmental movement at a time when we should be coming together. The implicit and explicit race, class and gender biases of population control are detrimental to building an inclusive movement for climate justice. This narrow worldview also blocks a deeper understanding of the economic and political forces that both drive climate change and prevent effective solutions.
In her conclusion, Hartmann writes,
Climate justice, not population control, is the starting point from which we can begin to build the kind of national and international solidarity that is needed to address climate change. The world is waiting. we are way behind, and there is no time to lose.
In framing this as an issue for which the solution is solidarity, not control, Hartmann crucially addresses the point that the human made causes of global warming and climate change are, at their root because of our attempts to control our physical world using a power over paradigm which inevitably means that those and that over which power is asserted become powerless. In contrast, solidarity implies the utilization of power by connection which is a far more sustainable model for transformative change and empowerment. Hartmann’s work exemplifies the kind of matridynamic paradigm shift that is an absolutely crucial requirement for responsibly addressing the issue of climate change.
Addenda: The latest issue of Sister Song’s Collective Voices is devoted to Environmental Justice and has several excellent pieces regarding reproductive justice, gender and climate change. Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice also has a report, Looking Both Ways: Women’s Lives at the Crossroads of Reproductive Justice and Climate Justice which should be considered essential reading in understanding why the holistic linking of these issues is so crucial.
Please also see my post on Reclaiming Medusa, A Plea For The Planet.
The concept of Angry Green Girl, a supposedly “hot, green and shameless” blogger/vlogger is offensive to both sexes. First, she’s playing on the concept that men are fat, lazy slobs and will listen to anything if a hot girl takes her clothes off. Also, her tips aren’t even that good. Take the recent video on water she made. The first thing she does is drink the water out of a PLASTIC WATER COOLER. The video may have been a tad more affective if she went for the tap:
Besides not being green, it’s also offensive to women. On the “who we are” page, Angry Green Girl says her blond intern thought “recycling newspaper meant reading it over and over again.” Really? A blond joke? At least strive for a bit more creativity. The “News” section may be the only useful thing to look at on her website. While it does have some good information, it’s not enough to make me visit Angry Green Girl ever again.
The Feminist Majority is co-hosting the 2009 “Women, Money and Power” Summit which will include guest speakers such as Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, Lorraine Cole, and Amy Brenneman. The Summit will take place at the Washington Court Hotel on Oct. 4 and 5. To register and check out the agenda in development, click here
A few weeks ago I wrote about Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s new book, “Half the sky”. While I still think the husband and wife duo made an impact with their NYT article, Yifat Susskind, the communications director of MADRE, said there was a lot left to be desired.
Kristof and WuDunn tell the stories of women facing catastrophic circumstances, but with little thought to the forces that created such circumstances. Why do women suffer abuse, poverty and discrimination? Because, we are meant to understand, the culture “over there” has always thus sentenced them.
Susskind then lays the punch: an agenda that truly supports women’s rights, would contradict all US policies.
In Afghanistan, it would mitigate against troop surges that risk women’s lives by bombing homes and neighborhoods and strengthening the hand of anti-occupation fundamentalist groups. It would put an end to the common practice of propping up warlords whose miserable record on women’s rights is conveniently disregarded, so long as they serve as useful political allies.
A women’s rights agenda in US policy would eliminate regulations in US aid, like the Helms Amendment, that limit women’s access to abortion and other basic reproductive rights. It would ensure that women farmers responsible for the vast majority of small-scale agriculture around the world are supported and not sold-out to corporate agribusiness. It would pave the way for the US to ratify the international women’s human rights treaty CEDAW, without harmful reservations.
The reality is that US policy has often stood in the way of women’s rights worldwide, throwing up obstacles to women organizing to protect their communities and lives. Yet, Kristof and WuDunn cautiously avoid any critique of US foreign policy in discussing the atrocious conditions of life that so many women face.
The difference, she explains, between groups like MADRE and NGOs is that many times NGOs will undermine women’s knowledge and set up their own program while MADRE provides support to existing projects that were formed by women. She reports that many times when NGOs leave, their programs collapse.
Susskind is basically talking about the point that I try to reiterate in all the posts: trust women. They have the knowledge to sustain their families and community, so work with them.
What bravery! The piece is too descriptive to paraphrase, so here are some highlights written by Anna Badkhen for Ms. Magazine.
On a bullet-scarred side street in Baghdad’s downtown, where U.S. Marines famously helped tear down the statue of Saddam Hussein in April of 2003, an inconspicuous entryway tucked between a steel-shuttered shop and a rickety candy stall leads to a flight of steep concrete stairs. Rusted water pipes run precariously over and across the poorly lit top step, tripping first-time visitors. The second-floor landing bottlenecks into a dark, empty hallway. Women in black abayas hurry across the buckled floor tiles in silence and quickly disappear through an unmarked plywood door on the right.The decrepit two-bedroom apartment behind this unassuming portal is an essential junction of what activists in Iraq and their U.S. supporters call the Underground Railroad. This Railroad is a small, clandestine network of several shelters, located mostly in Baghdad, for the countless but commonly overlooked victims of the war in Iraq: women who have been raped, battered or forced into prostitution, or women who, accused of bringing dishonor to their families by having been abused, have been rejected or even threatened with death by their relatives.
In a country ravaged by war and fractured along sectarian lines, these shelters serve women who have nowhere else to turn for help. Operated despite recurring threats and lack of government support by a team of 35 Iraqi activists who call themselves the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), the shelters offer a glint of hope for civil society.
The Underground Railroad was founded in 2004 by Baghdad-born architect-turned-feminist-organizer Yanar Mohammed, head of OWFI, along with MADRE, an international women’s rights group based in New York. It provides the only sanctuaries for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence outside the quasi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, where the local government and NGOs operate several similar shelters. In addition to providing temporary asylum, it helps women resettle in places where their abusers cannot find them easily. Since its inception, says MADRE Policy and Communications Director Yifat Susskind, the Railroad has helped thousands of women. Several have been transferred to Turkey, at least two now live in the U.S., but most of the rescued women have remained in Iraq.
Read the rest here!