International Women's Day: voices from women and trans environmental activists around the world

8 March 2017

Today on International Women's Day, we are sharing voices gathered by Friends of the Earth International of women and transgender activists around the world. Patriarchy is so entrenched in some cultures that some people do not realise it railroads their rights and freedoms. Some cultures feel the fight for equality is over. Some genders are fighting for recognition, the battle for equality has barely begun. We hope that the voices from the Friends of the Earth International federation give hope and inspiration.

One thing is clear from the women environmental activists: "The battle for environmental justice is also the battle for gender equality". As Emma from Young Friends of the Earth Europe explains, "One of the biggest challenges is the assumed distance between environmental and gender justice campaigning. The two are intertwined, but aren't always seen to be. To me, environmental activism is gender and social justice activism."

In Nigeria part of this problem is the "Lack of funding for gender justice campaigns or campaigns led by women in the organisation", according to Rita from Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

Sadly the connection between gender and social justice is all too real at the moment, following yet more murders of female activists in Colombia last week.

"It has been identified that female environmental activists are facing an increase in systemic and structural oppressions brought about by capitalism. We are still fighting for our right to a society where all forms of discrimination and violence against women have been banished," said Shenna from Friends of the Earth Europe.

 

Even in comparatively female empowered societies, such as the Philippines, where women hold leadership and activist roles, the movement has taken a huge knock backwards recently.

"The blatant lack of respect for women, as evidenced by our macho President's pronouncements, has set the gender justice fight back 20 years... we now have an environment which disempowers women and reduces activists to sexual objects men can talk down to. This makes our work all the more challenging, especially since the Philippines is still plagued by sex trafficking, prostitution, domestic violence, rape, incest and sexual abuse", according to Norly from LRC/Friends of the Earth Philippines.

In Japan in some people do not even realise that their rights and opportunities are taken or lost, they are unaware because they are so entrenched in the old system.

"Support is scarce especially for mothers, making it difficult for them to return to work. We work with mothers in Fukushima protecting their children and avoiding radiation exposure as best they can. However the patriarchal structure of the family restricts their decisions. This kind of patriarchy is so deeply rooted in our culture. Many people regard it as a sacrosanct tradition in Japanese culture", said Ayumi, from Friends of the Earth Japan.

For many the far-reaching effects of capitalism and patriarchy are veiled under complex issues.

According to Perth from Friends of the Earth Uganda, "Capitalistic and patriarchal systems reinforce land grabbing, forests degradation, water & air pollution. Women in particular have limited access to these resources leading to their subjugation and that of nature. Investors think it's only men supposed to bargain on compensation issues and yet when men get the money they run away leaving women and their children stranded."

 

Yet despite these challenges there is still much to celebrate today. We heard of a number of projects around the world that are bringing the gender issue and environmental justice to the fore. Here are just a few:

In Uganda, the NAPE/Friends of the Earth Uganda has initiated a "movement for women in energy, fossils and climate justice in relation to natural resources governance in Uganda. The movement will be led by the women for the women to achieve a cohesive force that promotes food sovereignty, fights against the harm caused by fossil fuel industry, energy production, climate and land injustice, poor natural resources governance and the patriarchy systems. NAPE has already mobilized 2000 women," said Peruth from NAPE/Friends of the Earth Uganda.

Norly, from LRC/Friends of the Earth Philippines: "In LRC we refuse to be shackled by partriarchal laws. Instead we find the interstices within the laws and the legal system, which provides solutions for those who really need it, the marginalised and the disenfranchised, in particular indigenous and rural women."

And the women of Friends of the Earth International who are on the frontline of the environmental and gender fight, had the following messages of hope:

"We understand that the environment cannot be separated from justice, and justice is not justice if there is no justice for women. The international feminist movement motivates us to continue to struggle for a sustainable world in which many worlds belong." – Natalia, Friends of the Earth Argentina

"I can't separate myself from experiences of femininity, even though I am not female. I was designated female at birth, and struggled through the first 20 years of my life. "We're here, we're queer and we're part of your activism: Recognise us, consider the spaces our bodies are safe or unsafe in, and put the time in to educate yourselves." – Emma, Youth Friends of the Earth Europe

"Women have long been rising against violations, but perhaps now that we are more connected virtually and sentimentally we can make amplify of our cry of 'enough'. We demand recognition, appreciation and respect." – Patricia, Friends of the Earth Brazil

 

"I feel so privileged to be one of the advocates of the rights of women and working in an organization that puts gender high on agenda" – Peruth, NAPE/Friends of the Earth Uganda

"I feel motivated, energised and united by the struggles of women across the world in their genuine efforts to dismantle patriachal systems and authorities, particularly those that undermine and demean the rights of women especially environmental justice activists." – Rita, ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria

"Being part of the Friends of the Earth International family has enabled me to feel connected with women's struggles around the world... The realization that even in the small recesses of our world, there are women flighting for their rights, lives, livelihood and families gives me strength to do more." Norly, LRC/Friends of the Earth Philippines

"Historically, many female-led movements have fought and won vast rights for generations of women. My ancestral women elders fought colonial and imperial powers to protect communities and nature. I feel connected to all women as part of a strong power base of worldwide resistance. We are nature and people protectors!" – Shenna, Friends of the Earth Europe

Young Friends of the Earth Europe