Archive for the ‘women’s rights’ 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.
Jessica Yee, a special correspondent to the blog Racialious is doing excellent work with her group the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. Recently they produced a collection of short pieces called “Protecting the Circle, Aboriginal Men Ending Violence Against Women”. Here is what Jessica had to say about it to Racialicious:
Along with the support of our partners, we have produced a short written collection of submitted works by Aboriginal men from across Canada. We would like to acknowledge them for all their remarkable contributions and commitment to ending violence against women, but also of recognizing the full spectrum of gender identity and self determination when violence is committed against all persons.
The whole collection can be seen here in PDF form and below is the first piece in the collection.
Woman – by Walter Woodman
Strength is something all men want
to shed tears or have fears
is something we taunt.
To show force against mothers, sisters, girlfriends
isn’t something you do
as REAL men.
To be humble yet strong role model to others
to not only see women as things
but all of them mothers.
For without them where would we be?
no mother earth, no mothers womb
no mother you, mother me.
A woman has given you life as a gift
so respect her, cherish her
so your soul can lift.
A woman is creator
A woman is love
A woman is mother
Mother earth, and the sky above.
Women’s groups all agree on one thing about the earthqauke disaster in Haiti: to rebuild successfully, start with the women.
When relief is distributed by women, it has the best chance of reaching those most in need. That’s not because women are morally superior. It is because their roles as caretakers in the community means they know where every family lives, which households have new babies or disabled elders, and how to reach remote communities even in disaster conditions.
Unfortunately even before the earthquake, women were struggling in Haiti. Now, with no resources, they are left open to violence and hunger. The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is “cautiously optimistic” about a new plan that distributes rations to the female head of the household.
The programme, launched yesterday, provides women with coloured and dated vouchers that can be exchanged for a 25-kilogram (55-pound) rice ration at one of 16 centres in Port-au-Prince – including at the Sylvio Cator Stadium, which before the earthquake was the country’s national soccer stadium and now houses a tent-city of displaced Haitians.
Both Madre, AWID and other women rights groups remain adamant that helping women will result in a faster rebuilding process for the rest of Haiti. For more excellent analysis on the ongoing crisis in Haiti check out the AWID’s new section devoted to earthquake relief.
Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but there was a week long internet breakdown here on the Ashram. Now I’m back and decided to share my excitement about traveling to Nepal with a Nepal-themed story.
From Women’s E-News:
Rajin Rayamajhi, a lawyer with Women for Human Rights, likened the proposal to “buying and selling a woman.”
Many single women, as widows here prefer to be called, are illiterate and only 2 percent have higher education. Rayamajhi said the proposal would be difficult for many to understand. This makes them vulnerable to men who would marry them for the money and then leave, taking all the funds.
She also slammed the payments for increasing the risk of violence and trafficking once widows were again under the control of a husband. Critics further say that the proposed legislation encourages a different kind of dowry, though the Nepali government has been trying to eliminate that system, and advances the notion that a woman’s security and empowerment is dependent on marriage and men.
Although the group encourages young widows to marry, they stress the importance of independence before remarrying. Widows in Nepal face many rules as single women.
Single women are not to wear jewelry or bright colors, especially red; they are not to eat meat or seasoned food; not allowed to participate in celebrations; and often not even allowed to touch other people. Their increased dependency on living relatives makes them more vulnerable to, and often the victims of, verbal, physical and sexual abuse and frequently their property and inheritance rights are violated. The practice of Sati, where women were ritually burned on their husband’s funeral pyres, was outlawed a century ago.
“One minute you have everything and the next it’s gone,” said Thapa, whose own husband died 20 years ago while serving as a physician with the United Nations in the first Iraq War. She was left with three sons aged 4, 9 and 10.
Almost immediately her relatives forcibly removed her treasured diamond nose ring, which she’d worn since receiving it at 14 from her parents as a gift for completing high school. She was made to wear colorless clothing and at her brother’s wedding she was not allowed to help with the preparations. As a widow, she was considered bad luck.
Read the rest here
The poorest billion people on the planet contribute only 3% of the global carbon footprint. Those same billion people will also bear the brunt of climate change. Those people tend to be farmers, and they tend to be women.
The UN Population Fund has issued a new state of the world’s population report about the impact of global climate change on women, stating that “Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes…Girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks. This cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality undermines the social capital needed to deal effectively with climate change.”
In response to the stunning inequality of the impact of climate change, UNFPA calls for measures to improves the lives of women and mitigate the impact of climate change. That includes supporting education for women and girls, expanding access to reproductive health services, and doing better research on gender and population dynamics in climate change. It’s small stuff compared to the magnitude of the problem of climate change. Better, though, than nothing.
By Kathambi Kinoti
This article is the third in a four-part series that explores the gendered impact of climate change. The first article discussed how women are impacted by climate change, while the second examined how women address climate change. This third article looks at how some women’s organizations are engaging with the process leading up to and during the UN Conference on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The Earth Summit, which was held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, established United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which came into force two years later. While the UNFCCC is aspirational, its Kyoto protocol which came into force in 2005, goes further in setting binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.
Since the Earth Summit, parties to the UNFCCC meet every year to negotiate targets for mitigating climate change. This year’s talks will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in December, and are particularly critical to ensuring that a comprehensive international climate change mitigation framework is in place by 2012.
Neither the UNFCCC nor Kyoto recognise the gender dimensions of climate change, and women’s organizations have been working hard in the lead-up to Copenhagen to ensure that the conference’s outcome document is gender responsive. One of the organizations at the forefront of this work is the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). Cate Owren, who co-ordinates WEDO’s gender and climate change work, spoke with AWID about the participation of women in the Copenhagen conference and their hopes for the outcomes.
AWID: What has WEDO been doing in preparation for the Copenhagen conference?
CATE OWREN: WEDO has been working on climate change for several years now in a variety of capacities: by conducting research and analysis, broadening and strengthening our network of women’s organizations around the world, and engaging in targeted advocacy at the national and global levels, WEDO seeks to raise awareness about the gendered dimensions of climate change, advocate for gender, and make project implementation more effective for both women and men. In 2007 at the Bali Conference of Parties, WEDO co-founded – together with UNDP, IUCN and UNEP – The Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) . Now comprised of 38 UN and civil society institutions, the GGCA works toward a mission of ensuring that all climate change policies, decision-making processes and finance mechanisms are gender-responsive.
AWID: What concerns do women have firstly about climate change in general, and secondly about the content and process of the Copenhagen conference in particular?
CO: Women are caretakers and managers of natural resources around the world, so stress to or changes in the natural environment have a direct impact upon women and their families and wider communities. Women still make up the large majority of the world’s poorest, as well, which puts them at great risk. There are countless ways in which women, unfortunately, remain in the “most vulnerable” category. But what is far more critical right now – especially in the lead up to and outcome of Copenhagen – is that women’s capacity to act and contribute to climate change solutions at all levels is fostered and ensured. Women are innovators, teachers, caregivers, leaders, organizers, providers, and more. Their experience and expertise must inform all aspects of climate change decision-making and implementation.
AWID: What advocacy opportunities exist for women’s organizations within the Copenhagen process?
CO: Civil society participation has strengthened and expanded in the past few years – certainly in alignment with increasing global recognition of the gravity of climate change as a major crisis of our time. Women have participated in numerous ways and this year a major achievement was made: the Gender and Women Constituency was given provisional status. Finally, women and gender equality observer organizations have a formal opportunity to work together to input into the process.
For WEDO, and as part of the GGCA, we work with member institutions to work meaningfully with Parties to secure effective places for gender text in thenegotiating documents.
AWID: What outcomes do you hope for from Copenhagen?
CO: First and foremost, we are hoping for a strong, comprehensive agreement. Ideally, gender equality language would be reflected in each area: Shared Vision, Adaptation, Mitigation, Technology, Capacity Building, and Finance. Throughout this year, gender language has been in each of these areas! But as negotiations continue, language is streamlined, and the specific references have fallen out in most places. We are hoping that the momentum will not be lost and that a gender-sensitive strong outcome is indeed possible. We continue to work with our partners and with governments to find ways to make this happen.
1. Women provide the bulk of health care but rarely receive the care they need
2. Women live longer than men but these extra years are not always healthy
3. Despite some biological advantages, women’s health suffers from their lower socio-economic status
4. Policy change and action is needed within the health care sector and beyond
The study also concluded that HIV is the leading cause of death and disease of women ages 15-44
From the NYT:
In its first study of women’s health around the globe, the World Health Organization said Monday that H.I.V. is the leading cause of death and disease among women between the ages of 15 and 44. Unprotected sex is the leading risk factor in developing countries for these women of childbearing age; others include iron deficiency and lack of access to contraceptives, said the W.H.O., a United Nations agency. Throughout the world, one in five deaths among women in this age group is linked to unprotected sex, the agency said. The data was included in a report intended to highlight the unequal health treatment a woman faces from birth to death.
Since I’m all the way in India and can’t celebrate Halloween, I thought I would pass on some costume suggestions from Planned Parenthood of NYC Blog:
From Megan Carpentier, Editor, News & Politics at Air America Media:
- Dress normally. Since STDs often can’t be distinguished with the naked eye, it’ll be up to you to tell people what you are.
- Dress in pink and carry a pink hula hoop all night: you’re a NuvaRing!
- Dress all in copper and put copper pipe cleaners on your head: you’re an IUD!
From the writers at Slate’s Double X blog:
- Draw a calendar on your shirt and carry a bongo drum: You’re the Rhythm Method!
- Drape ivy over your shoulders and paint a big “F” on your shirt: You’re IVF.
- Dress like a baby and attach test tubes to yourself (or drink from them): You’re a Test Tube baby!
- Wear all your winter gear and curl into the fetal position whenever possible: You’re a frozen embryo.
From the pro-choice comic Katie Halper:
- Wear galoshes and carry an oar: You’re roe v wade
- Walk around with a bunch of babies: You’re “abstinence only” sex education
- Wear a Trojan helmet and a clear raincoat: you’re a Trojan condom. Alternative: wear a raincoat and put on a name tag that says “birthplace: Troy”
And a few ideas from the PPNYC staff:
- Wear all black, but then spell out the word “Damn” on your chest with bright green dental floss: You’re a Dental Dam!
- Dress in pink and don a knit cap: You’re a cervical cap!
- Wear all black and attach small pink erasers to your outfit – you’re a rubber!
Missed part 1? Check it out here
Since long before the issue garnered adequate concern on the world stage, women have been resisting, mitigating and even reversing the impacts of climate change, primarily at the local level. Moreover, not only do women tend to care for the environment, but they do so in a way that reflects how it is connected to the economy and livelihoods, health and social well-being.
This is the second article in a four-part series that explores the gendered impacts of climate change.
The first article discussed how women are impacted by climate change. Stay tuned in the coming months for part three, which explores how women are organizing in preparation for the December 2009 United Nations Conference on Climate Change; and part four, which discusses how the outcomes of the conference might impact women’s rights.
By Masum Momaya
Climate Change is now on the minds and lips of many people in local and international policy spaces. Yet, many women in large part due to their social roles as caretakers and their livelihoods as farmers, have been observing and mitigating the impact of climate change for generations. Today, they continue to care for the environment in their day-to-day interactions with it and also bring their experiences to legal and policymaking spaces at local, national, regional and international levels.
Because many live so intimately with the land and are often responsible for food, fuel, shelter, water and medicine in their families, women’s understanding of the climate change transcends science, statistics and physical changes to include the socioeconomic dimensions. Specifically, women have long been feeling the effects of agricultural policies dominated by corporate interests; the plunder and extraction of natural resource by governments and the private sector for profit; the oppression of indigenous peoples and their knowledge of biodiversity; the health impact of air, water and food pollutants; and the inadequacy of market-driven solutions in halting carbon emissions.
In Kenya, Wangari Maathai and the women of the Green Belt Movement have been planting trees and conserving water to replenish the rapid deforestation. What started out as a movement to simply replace trees that had been cut with seedlings has expanded to include a movement for peace, as Maathai herself found that environmental problems were a symptom and by-product of bad governance and widespread marginalization of women. The act of planting trees initially brought women together to exchange ideas and tap their knowledge of the environment. Yet, it eventually led them to work for peace and accountability, with some running for local and national positions. In this movement and various others worldwide, the destruction of the environment has politicized women and they have been at the forefront of an integrated analysis of and approach towards halting climate change.
In India, monocropping, or the strategy of planting one crop en masse for higher yields, and the increased used of harsh pesticides has eroded the soil. Large agribusiness corporations have developed and pushed the use of genetically modified seeds for these weaker soils, which have required harsher, more expensive pesticides and not necessarily yielded fruitful harvest. In desperation, such corporations have stolen seeds from local farmers, attempting to patent the seeds using intellectual property laws.  Women of the Navdanya movement in these farming communities have been selecting and saving strong seeds as a means of survival and resistance to large agribusiness and a means of maintaining indigenous biodiversity, and they are now fighting the patenting of their seeds in courts.
In Nigeria, partnerships between government officials and corporations have facilitated large-scale drilling and extraction of oil, releasing copious poisonous vapors and robbing local Nigerians of benefiting from or sharing in profits. Instead, local workers face low wages and hazardous working conditions while the surroundings environs are devastated. Using shaming tactics and strength in numbers, women in Nigeria have organized to either shut down the drilling or forced corporations to change their environmental and labor practices, ensuring that both people and the environment are protected.
In Bolivia, women played instrumental roles in community-based struggles against privatization of water provisions in Cochabamba. Faced with a government who decided to turn over the country’s water supply to be managed by large, multinational corporations, who in turn charged exorbitant, prohibitive prices for water, citizens rallied to create water associations and cooperatives, build water storage tanks, construct distribution networks, and drill wells, using limited resources. Acutely aware of the need for water for nutrition, disease eradication, sanitation, hygiene and farming, women worldwide are fighting the impacts of water privatization.
At the local level, many women lawyers are invoking legal systems to fight against environmental destruction and climate change. For example, Olya Melen has taken the Ukrainian government to task for allowing large cargo ships to dredge a canal across the Danube Delta wetlands, harming its biodiversity. In Papua New Guinea, Anne Kajir has been fighting for land rights on behalf of indigenous landowners who have seen massive logging in their rainforest. And in Kazakhstan, Kaisha Atakhanova has organized a movement to lobby against her country’s importing of nuclear waste, which has threatened to add to already high occurrences of genetic mutations, cancer and irradiated food resulting from decades of existing nuclear emissions.
At the national level, women form an increasing number of the ranks of Green Parties, which are advancing multi-issue social agendas, especially in Europe. In addition to pushing for environmental concerns to be at the forefront of policymaking agendas, many Green Parties are also concerned with grassroots democracy, sustainable development, nonviolence, women’s rights, indigenous rights and social justice – and many parties’ platforms are set and championed by women leaders in Parliaments.
Women’s rights groups and some researchers in various countries are also lobbying governments to include access to contraception and comprehensive reproductive health services in their agendas and funding to address climate change. A recent study concludes that universal access to reproductive health could be one of the most cost effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Also, according to RH Reality Check, an online publication committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, “rapid population growth can exacerbate existing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.” The publication explains, for example, that “population growth rates in highly vulnerable low elevation coastal zones in Bangladesh and China are nearly twice as high as national averages; and in Ethiopia, the combination of rapid population growth and climate-induced declines in agricultural production will heighten food insecurity.”  Nevertheless, advocates must be cautious that women are not coerced as population control targets in their efforts to curb climate change. At the international level, women’s rights groups have been documenting and raising awareness about the gendered impact of climate change and also building the capacity of local organizations and regional networks to integrate an analysis of and advocacy around climate change integrate into the other issues they address via resource manuals, trainings and convenings.
Women’s rights organizations have also been increasingly participating in high-level climate change discussions, including questioning the dominance of market-driven solutions such as carbon trading to curb emissions. For example, Yifat Susskind of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization, has explained that carbon trading “allows companies with high carbon emissions to fund projects that supposedly absorb carbon in exchange for their continued pollution. [This] does not address the root cause of climate change, which is unsustainable use of resources. It simply enables the continued emission of carbon. In a perverse way, [it] creates an incentive for carbon pollution by turning emissions into a tradable commodity.” 
Amidst a geopolitical landscape populated with powerful and marginalized stakeholders and influenced by complex political and private sector agendas, the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen will provide yet another space in which to influence global policy and campaign for gender equality to be brought about in concert with environmental protection.
Learn more about Women’s Strategies to Address Climate Change:
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.