PASSPORT TO DIGNITY
CRITICAL AREA OF CONCERN K: WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT
...from the Human Rights Instruments
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3).
1.(1) All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
1.(2) All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
1.(3)The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
(International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 1, para. 1-3.)
1. Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.
2. The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.
3. All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.
4. To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.
5. All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.
8. To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.
20. Women have a vital role in environmental management and development.
Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.
25. Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.
(The Rio Declaration, Principles 1, 3, 5, 8, 20, 25)
"Human beings are at the centre of concern for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. Women have an essential role to play in the development of sustainable and ecologically sound consumption and production patterns and approaches to natural resource management..."
(Beijing Platform for Action, K, para. 246)
"Through their management and use of natural resources, women provide sustenance to their families and communities. As consumers and producers, caretakers of their families, educators, women play an important role in promoting sustainable development through their concern for the quality and sustainability of life for present and future generations."
(Beijing Platform for Action, K, para. 248)
"Women have often played leadership roles or taken the lead in promoting an environmental ethic, reducing resource use, and reusing and recycling resources to minimize waste and excessive consumption...Women, especially indigenous women, have particular knowledge of ecological linkages and fragile ecosystem management."
(Beijing Platform for Action, K, para. 250)
REFLECTING ON THE STANDARDS
1. How is the right to life, liberty and security of person affected by the environment? What other rights might be at stake when the environment is endangered?
2. Development projects frequently have negative effects on the environment. You probably won’t have to look too far to find a project in your surroundings that was or is now a source of controversy.
Whenever such a development takes place, there are always some gains for some people.
3.Check ICCPR above: The human rights of indigenous people have been especially abused by developmental destruction of the environments that provide their livelihoods and determine many of their cultural practices. How might indigenous peoples make use of ICCPR, Article 1, paragraph 3 in efforts to hold back assaults on the sustainability of their environments.
In what ways are women’s lives especially connected to and dependent upon a healthy environment and fully observed environmental standards? List some of the reasons women might have been at the forefront of the environmental movements? which of those reasons relate to your community? do they involve specific references to the human rights of women?
What provisions exist to assure that the human rights of women and indigenous people are integrated into environmental policies?
Draft a statement of principles for environmental protection from a gender perspective?
Would these principles call for new human rights standards?
Women and the Human Right to a Viable Environment
In pre-industrial societies, women have a wide-ranging knowledge of their natural environment, due to the nature of their responsibilities as food providers and caretakers; they play important roles in the management of natural resources, but current socio-economic structures do not give them full credit for this role, nor is their input used effectively by modern agencies.
The environmental movement proper can be said to have started in the early 1960s. Some people date women’s involvement in the movement from 1962, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a prophetic warning about the destructive consequences of widespread agricultural chemicals for the Earth's natural systems.
Others point to the earlier anti-nuclear activism of Women Strike for Peace: WSP agitation against nuclear weapons test was triggered by the discovery that mother’s radioactive breast milk was weakening their infants’ bones. Their concern was among the first linkage between human health and the health and well-being of the natural environment.
CLADEM’s Declaration of Human Rights from a Gender Perspective (see ch. 4) asserts that a balanced environment is a fundamental human right, and argues that women have a natural connection with environmental activism.
The BPFA calls for recognition of women’s significant role in natural resource management. It then goes on to plead for a much more active involvement by women in decision-making, production and management.
The truth is that women’s activism in environmental causes was part of the larger background from which Beijing eventually emerged. It is undeniable that, at this point in time, women are often in the forefront of the global movement to examine the consequences modern technology and organization for the planet and for all of us
Women’s Lives — a Stake in the Environment
Pramila Patten’s report to PDHRE reminds us that women's lives and work are inextricably linked to the natural environment, that their health, their economic survival and general well-being suffer significant harm from environmental degradation.If poverty at the turn of the century affects women disproportionately, it is partly the direct result of environmental damage and natural resources depletion in those sectors of the economy where women are mostly active. Regarding women’s health, exposure to toxic products at work, the presence of toxic wastes and nuclear testing all cause irreversible damage to women’s reproductive health.
Unless women’s contribution to environmental management is recognized and supported, sustainable development will be elusive.
(...) Women, especially indigenous women, have particular knowledge of ecological linkages and fragile ecosystem management. In many communities they provide the main labor force in subsistence production.
As potential mothers, as mothers of small children, they are particularly exposed to the effects of ill-designed developments.
Women are the main providers of food, fuel and water for their families in most of the developing world. To the extent that women’s economic limitations often force them to provide these basic necessities out of increasingly marginal environments, they often risk contributing to further depletion and pollution in their desperate quest for the basics of life. They are also, however, in the forefront of environmental preservation efforts in response to critical levels of pollution, deforestation and desertification.
The women's movement, working closely with bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, has played its part in formulating the new paradigm for development that has emerged over the past 10 years, one centered around people rather than around technological feats. Due to the crucial and versatile roles women play in the economic and social development of their communities, this new paradigm is almost by definition woman-centered.
At the same time, gender analysis and gender planning have emerged as logical tools for development specialists working with concepts of biodiversity, sustainability, multiple-use environment, local-global etc.
Particular recognition should be given to the role and the special situation of women living in rural areas and those working in the agricultural sector, The same discrimination against women that causes their poverty also pertains to environmental matters.Women remain mostly absent at all levels of governmental policy formulation and decision-making in natural resource and environmental management, conservation, protection and rehabilitation. Access to training, land, natural and productive resources, credit, development programmes and cooperative structures can and should help them increase their participation. In reality they have been fighting an increasingly uphill battle to get even minimal acknowledgement of their economic contribution.
Women have been leaders in the civil society’s movement for a healthy environment. They have helped changed behavior and policies by promoting an environmental ethic, reducing resource use, and re-using and recycling resources to minimize waste and excessive consumption. Their contributions to environmental management, including grassroots and youth campaigns, have often taken place at the local level, where decentralized action on environmental issues is most needed and decisive.
Their experience in monitoring and managing natural resources are generally marginalized in policy-making and decision-making bodies, as well as in the management of educational institutions. Despite the recent rapid growth and visibility of women’s NGOs working on these issues at all levels of society, their skills and particular interests in advocacy are neglected due to weak coordination between women’s NGOs and national institutions dealing with environmental issues,
The needed strategic actions require a holistic, multidisciplinary, cooperative and intersectorial approach that has become characteristic of women’s approaches to all human rights issues. Women’s absence from the world of corporate decision-making is the most serious gender exclusion that affects the environment. They are rarely trained as professional natural resource managers with policy-making capacities, such as land-use planners, agriculturists, foresters, marine scientists, and environmental lawyers. Often under represented in formal institutions with policy-making capacities at the national, regional and international levels, they are not equal participants in the management of financial and corporate institutions whose decision-making most significantly affects environmental quality. Their experiences and contributions to a sound environment must be central to the agenda for the twenty-first century.
(Adapted from Pramila Patten 1998 Women and the Environment report to PDHRE toward the publication of Passport to Dignity.)
The position of men and women within society has a strong influence in all spheres of human life. Therefore, the Platform for Action emphasizes the relevance of 'mainstreaming gender', which stands for an integration of a gender perspective in the overall policy. It implies that in the process of policy formulation, conscious efforts should be made to understand the specific knowledge and particular roles of women and men and - subsequently - to make effective use of them. The Beijing Platform states unambiguously that the protection of the environment goes through a redistribution of power, employment and income. It requires changes in the organization of the public domain and a redistribution of unpaid care. Furthermore, it asks for reevaluation of the designation of tasks as ‘male’ or ‘female’. In brief: it is about the integration of the gender-perspective in general policy.
Participation and resource Management : Indigenous Women’s roles
In the Hindu-Kush Himalaya, women are de facto managers of forests. They are the primary collectors of forest products, and forest management has depended on their patterns of resource use. Since modern organizational research tends to focus primarily on participation measurements in male-dominated spaces, measures of women’s participation remain poorly defined or undocumented.
Writing in 1997 on the basis of extensive fieldwork, Charla Britt and Kaji Shrestha brought to the fore the nature of women’s contributions to resource management. Their article challenges familiar perceptions about the respective roles of men and women; they show women’s crucial role in deciding and sustaining forest management practices and processes, seeking viable solutions, negotiating consensus among forest users, creating and nurturing processes for user group formation and sustenance.
Throughout the world, rural populations have been uprooted, their cultures assaulted by environmentally destructive development. Sithembiso Nyoni, the founder of the NGO ORAP and Zimbabwe’s Minister of State for Economic Development in the Office of the President of Zimbabwe. describes the accumulation of events that brought her own family and her country’s rural people to the brink of unredeemable poverty.
Sithembiso’s voice is part of a larger chorus. Indigenous women have been among the most articulate voices ,defending the integrity of the planet Earth and asserting the rights of indigenous peoples. In Beijing, women from many indigenous peoples’ organizations were actively advocating for environmental responsibility. They promulgated a Declaration that articulated their fundamental reverence for the Earth and critiqued the Beijing Platform for its failure to take into account the human rights of indigenous women. Following here is an evocation of one woman’s attempt to take on the multinationals in defense of her land:
(Susana Chiarotti 1998 Women and the Environment – report prepared for PDHRE)
Ogoni Women Struggle for the Survival of Their People
In 1995, nine men – among them writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged in Nigeria. Their execution put on the international human rights agenda the struggle of the Ogoni people against the destruction of their lands by the operation of Shell Oil pumping and refineries. Ken Saro-Wiwa was the son and nephew of women who had been in the forefront of the resistance to the oil companies’ destruction of the environment. Indeed, it has been said that his own journalistic work was nurtured by his many conversations with Ogoni women.
The story of the Ogoni women’s resistance to the oil companies is an important story of large scale mobilization by women, in protection of an assortment of human rights threatened by development. It is not a unique story. There have been very similar acts of resistance in other parts of the world against the destruction of the land, for instance in the Negros Islands of the Philippines, in the hills of Burma and India, in Russia and central Asia. For the most part, those stories are little known outside of the area where they happened. It seems important that this facet of women’s activism should be integrated in the perception of the environmental movement.
Ogoni women were dramatically affected by the ongoing globalization of land resources and food production. The resources they depend on are the ones being targeted by policies that result in the acquisition (legal or de facto) of natural and social spaces that are basic necessities for the women’s subsistence. Even when transactions involve women’s land, it has been common in Africa for colonial authorities and later for multinational to deal with local older men; but the struggle to preserve human habitats is led by women, and their allies are the disfranchised, unemployed youth.
Women were in the vanguard of anticolonial agitation throughout the first part of the twentieth century because women were most directly affected by the shift to a male-dominated paradigm of land-use and productive resource allocation. The shift undermined the women’s agriculture by divesting women farmers and their families of land and other crucial resources. The changes also constricted women's freedom to associate, to express cultural practices, to develop indigenous knowledge and to organize their own labor processes. Women (and more generally the poor ) suffer when cash crops take over because it means the loss of viable farmland and water resources. Women experience first, and most directly, the impacts of land enclosures.
For a community based on agriculture, the presence of oil industry affects destructively everything about the community. "It affects its culture, it affects its traditions, it affects its language. When that basis is completely eroded, there is nothing left."
The historian Terisa Turner, whose work is summarized here, has studied the longstanding confrontations between Shell, the major operator in Nigeria and in Ogoniland, and Ogoni communities. The latter’s grievances about compensation, pollution, hiring practices and a host of other concerns have remained unresolved. Most serious however, is the impact of oil activities on people's livelihoods based on fishing and agriculture. Women have been farmers and fishers. Losing land and water, they lose not only their work, but also their access to social influence.
The women’s rebellions of the 1980’s and 90’s hark back to Nigerian women's struggles in the earlier parts of the century. This contemporary resistance has been called an expression of 'indigenous feminisms,' now being shaped by the forces of global oil industry. Women who are losing access to viable farmland responded by attacking the oil industry with varying degrees of success.
These clashes were explosive moments in the ongoing resistance to the hardships brought on by the operation of the oil industry. In the 1960s, a civil war about oil and ethnicity brought social disruption and left more than a million dead in a population of about 100 million. It left an economically and ecologically traumatized society saddled with a massive military state. The oil boom of the 1970s and bust of the 1980s brought on a renewed and more intense quality of chaos and desperation.
Situations are not always as clearcut as that of the Ogoni oilfields. Various authors have described a handful of small ways in which global economic development over the past few decades has gradually thrown out of kilter what used to be highly symbiotic male and female farming activities, in West Africa with unanticipated consequences on the environment and on women’s lives in that environment.
The authors of one of those studies suggest that the interweaving of old and new economic practices, old and new systems of land-tenure, the conflict between homebased subsistance activities and cash-cropping result in a situation where forests are increasingly depleted, women’s work increasingly time-consuming, the rewards increasingly small, as men , with easier access to credit, enter what were traditionally ‘women’s businesses’. Even small changes can make an enormous difference, for better or for worse. An example of the first is the decision by Fante women to sun-dry their fish as a way to overcome the scarcity of wood. But the symmetrical is also true.
(cf.Baden S., Green C.,Oto-Oyortey N. and Peasgood T.(1994) Background Paper on Gender Issues in Ghana- BRIDGE Report # 19- International Development Studies, 1994)
This makes us appreciate the success of projects like the Papua New Guinea Women whose Fisheries Support Project broke from an unsustainable export-oriented, male-targeted focus of development projects to emphasize family food security and income generation through enhancement of women´s post-harvest fish processing skills, carrying out local surveys and environmental assessments to identify appropriate activities and potential constraints. Training workshops were adapted to different regions, with content based on local findings.The project is considered a model in the region,its success attributed to its emphasis on meeting the needs of women as identified by the women themselves, thus securing their involvement at every stage.
We are greatly disappointed with the way the current logging issue has been
handled..We feel we have been disgraced and betrayed of our birth rights by our leaders in selling our motherland to be raped and molested by foreigners while we...watch powerless to defend her (A participant at the meeting held at Isabel Club on 24th November 1991, Honiara, Solomon Islands)
Effective harmonization of environmental policy must include gender mainstreaming policies. Some countries are making this effort to move towards more integrated approaches. Much of this progress is due to local commitment to improved transparency and public participation in decision-making.(...) Such an evolution has been taking place in some Pacific Islands, with local churches playing a key role in the transformation .The involvement in environmental politics by the Mothers’ Union of the Church of Melanesia came as part of a multifaceted evolution by this originally quite conservative organization.
As it turned out, involvement in this issue of deep emotional significance served as an opening for the Mothers’ Union broadening of its objectives, leading it to tackle the sensitive issue of domestic violence at a time when other organizations were not willing to take any steps in this direction. In this way, the leaders of the Mothers’ Union in Honiara supported an empowerment approach, gradually redirecting their emphasis, giving their members more opportunities to become directly politicized and empowered.
Women’s Participation in the Management of the Urban Environment Rufisque (Senegal)
In Africa today, the urban population is growing more than 5% a year. More than 70% of African urban areas are completely excluded from the urban public service network of drinking water distribution, liquid waste drainage, or household refuse collection. Local communities suffer from dramatic levels of unemployment. Above all, they suffer from a sense of powerlessness.
But an alternative vision is emerging, based on ideas like decentralization, democracy, community empowerment, appropriate and appropriable technology, sustainability and integrated development, a vision which sees protecting the environment as an integral part of development, rather than an obstacle to economic progress. This approach says that local problems can be solved by local communities, with all groups in the community, including women, old people and young people, working and taking decisions together. The newly empowered local community, through democratic decision making and problem solving, matures into a body capable of interacting productively with the Local Authority and even with the State. Micro-solutions are integrated into the National Action Plan.
The new approach reduces technology to its proper place in human affairs: at the service of human beings, as a tool which they master, rather than a dominating, alien force which they buy at unaffordable prices from other cultures. It seeks to establish a friendly, familiar technology that even poor people can afford and appropriate, one that can be replicated from community to community, supporting and replenishing the environment, creating new jobs, new skills, instilling self-confidence and faith in the future.
The Rufisque experience is part of this new vision.
ted to 25 M FCFA (US $ 50 000).
HUMAN RIGHTS, WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Are there in your country indigenous or ethnic groups whose religious or cultural practices relate to or depend upon the natural environment?
Have their rights under Article 27 been fully respected by the development and environment policies of your nation?
Are women, indigenous groups and the poor represented among the environmental policy makers of your community and your country?
What provisions exist to assure that the perspectives of women and indigenous people are integrated into environmental policies?
In your country, do women’s groups, indigenous groups and environmental groups cooperate on a systematic basis?
Draft a statement of principles for environmental protection from a gender perspective.
How does it differ from gender neutral perspectives?
Does the implementation of these principles require new human rights standards?
Consumers and Environmentalists : Seikatsu Club Consumers' Cooperative
Minimata disease first appeared in the 1960s when the residents of Kyushu became sick after eating fish caught in local waters. The fish were contaminated by waste from the local chemical industry, and contained high levels of organic mercury. Many Japanese housewives saw this threat to their families' health as a call to action. They began to protest industrial pollution, and organized consumers' cooperatives in order to provide safe food and a safe environment to their families. The Seikatsu Club Consumers' Cooperative (SCCC) is one of these cooperatives,and the most ambitious one in its insistance that ecological issues cannot be separated from women’s economic equality, workers’ rights to healthy working conditions, or the larger political and economic environment. Its objective is to create an alternative to overindustrialized society. The Seikatsu Club was recognised by the Right Livelihood Awards in 1989.
( Text of Right Livelihood Award www.rightlivelihood.se/recip1989_1.html)
Focus on Water
One major environmental threat is just beginning to receive barely adequate attention: the looming scarcity of water. Although the United Nations proclaimed the eighties the International Decade for Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation, with a goal to provide every inhabitant of the world with access to safe drinking water by the year 2000, the response has been disappointing. Not only has the goal not been reached, but the contamination and pollution of water resources continues at an ever faster clip.
Women are particularly affected by this threat: in most part of the world the fetching and carrying of water, as well as the various processes connected with water (washing clothes, bathing children, cooking) are primary responsibilities of women and girls. Just carrying water takes up one third of a woman’s working day in some parts of the world, and increasing scarcity means longer and longer trips to the well. This also means that women have a capital of accumulated expertise about sources, access and quality of water, and often responsibility for keeping canals clear, maintaining wells etc. Their traditional role as consumer and small-scale ‘producer’ at the local level is still neglected in the process of strategic decisions related to water. And although access to water is indubitably a basic human right, it is often a low priority.
Shantinagar, a slum in Nagpur in central India, is spread over 14 hectares, has an ethnically diverse population. Over 35,000 people of all religions and castes live here. A key issue affecting life has been the continuous tension between women over unequal distribution of water. The water was not safe and the supply was erratic. In May 1997, GTZ and the Nagpur Municipal Corporation, under its Slum Improvement scheme launched a pilot project in Shantinagar. GTZ wanted to focus on emergency water supply scheme in 7 slums across Nagpur.One of the areas marked under this project was Shantinagar. The primary aim was to provide equal access to all members of the community to adequate and potable water. While the funding and infrastructure were taken care of by GTZ, YUVA (Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action), a NGO working in urban and rural issues for the past 15 years, stepped in to mobilise the community.
Women bore the brunt of the drinking water crisis in Shantinagar. Tension between them over unequal access to water vitiated the life in the colony. They had to fetch water from taps fixed over a drainage line that contaminated the water. Stagnant pools in the colony were fertile breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Like tens of thousands of slums in urban India, Shantinagar faced acute health hazards.
It was therefore decided that women were to be key players in the planning as well as implementation of municipality's new water project. YUVA facilitated meetings among self-help groups and the 'mahila mahilas' women's groups in the slums and GTZ and NMC officials.
The women learnt to collectively identify locations for water taps, and arrive at a consensus among themselves on timings, maintenance and use of these taps. It was decided that a location for the construction of an overhead water tank would be provided by the residents, or, alternatively, a public platform would be constructed on top of the underground sump. Minor repairs and maintenance charges were to be incurred by local residents while major repairs charges if any, by the corporation. Emphasis all along was for involving the NGOs/CBOs and users group from the slum for reviewing the developmental work in their area.
An overhead tank was installed in August1997. This provides water to 225 families in the area. Today, the mahila mandals play a key role in the maintenance, security and monitoring of the water distribution system.They themselves decided that users would pay Rs.10 a month (25 cents) towards charges for minor repairs and for the salary of the guard at the water tank site.
Buoyed by their success at negotiating with local authorities to sort out their drinking water crisis, the mahila mandals have now turned their attention to garbage disposal. They have installed dustbins bought out of the interest accrued to money collected by self-help groups. This spurred the Nagpur Municipal Corporation into providing additional bins need to cover the whole area.
Women Solve the Water Problem in Nepalese Villages
Nepal, a breathtakingly beautiful country, is also one of the world's poorest. Its per capita income is less than US$ 250. Ninety percent of the population lives in villages. Less than half of this tiny land-locked Himalayan nation's rural population has access to safe water, and less than three percent has access to sanitation. Life is particularly trying for those who live in the steep mountainous terrain of Central Nepal. Few roads and no railroads exist in these parts. Travel, communication, and delivery of basic services like drinking water are extremely difficult. Government water systems have reached only one third of Nepal's rural hill villages.
But women in the villages of Okhaldunga district are not waiting for the government to be their deliverer. In Sarsepu, for example, 22 illiterate women have banded together and undertaken small manageable projects linked to literacy, nutrition, protection of community forests, repair of footpaths and even countering social ills like alcoholism and domestic violence.
Finally, they felt they were ready for the big one. Water. There was a spring located about one km away. It served 18 families in the village and required a 30-minute round trip by the female water-bearers. They approached United Mission to Nepal (UMN), an NGO, for technical assistance. Construction of a drinking water system was split equally between male and female volunteers. The women dug the ditches, buried the pipes, carried sand and stones from the river, and helped to plaster the reservoir tank.
But not every family could afford to spare the time to be a construction volunteer. There were households headed by women with small children. Sometimes the men were simply away. The women's group came up with an alternative. Those who could not donate labour could pay a fee instead. At the end, the spring catchment was erected, the pipe was laid, a tank was built as were eight tap stands. Two local village women along with two men attended a one week maintenance and repair training course.
The next step was a maintenance fund. The Sarsepu self-help group made their own calculation. They assessed that each household could pay about 500 Nepali rupees (US$ 10). Now, the Sarsepu women's self-help group, along with men from the village, maintains the drinking water system. And they are on to other things - like arbitration in local disputes.
And they have had a ripple effect. Four years ago, Bhotechaur, another village in Nepal, was dithering whether to build a drinking water system itself -with the help of an NGO like UMN- or getting the government to build it. They eventually voted for the former. Government-built systems did not function, whereas Sarsepu's had lasted since the villagers had put in their own sweat and tears and had a stake in maintaining it.
Women's Organisation Tackles Water Pollution In Uzbekistan
DIAGNOZING THE PROBLEMS
Using various sources of information:(newspapers, radio stories, conversations with environmental activists, doctors, scientists ) start an environmental inventory of your community.
As you identify them , list environmental hazards: list polluting industries, sewage disposal areas, hazardous waste dumps, depleted forests,, etc.. You may r draw a map of your community including these sources of environmental stress. What are the effects of each of these sites?
Talk to people who live there or work there. How does it affect their life?
Interview some old people who knew the area in the past. How has it changed?
What are the laws regarding environmental pollution in your country/town? are they respected? if not, what reasons are you given for the disrespect?
Taking Risks for the Planet
As women pursued a wide variety of actions to protect the natural environment, some have put themselves at great risk,being harassed, threatened, subjected to legal sanction. Throughout the world, from Bombay to Kentucky to East Los Angeles, to Senegal to India individual women activist or women’s organizations have been in the forefront of the search for information about the pollutants that threaten their neighborhoods, building court cases and undergoing the protracted legal battles that go with such a path of action as in the case of the parents’ act in India. Throughout the world they have lodged public protests, organized demonstrations, launched; they have also organized their constituencies rural populations to create sustainable agricultural environments.
Seeking Environmental Justice in Warren County, Kentucky
When Dollie Burwell embarked on her struggle to fight the contamination of Warren County, Kentucky by PCBs, she was just doing what she had done before, as a young woman in the civil rights movement fighting racism.. This time, she was fighting for environmental justice, against environmental racism. She was fighting because for her:
It was this faith that carried her through several years of protests to prevent the construction of a PCB-laden landfill in Warren Country.
The Kenyan Green Belt Movement
Women’s struggle for the human right to a healthful and living environment is vividly exemplified in the work of the Kenyan environmentalist, the leader of the Green belt Movement,Wangari Maathai. She has taken many risks in her efforts to not only save her country’s natural environment but to do so in the context of a wider fight for human rights to sustainable economies and to the democratic control of economic development .
In 1999, Maathai and her supporters petitioned the High Commissioner for Human Rights , asking that there be an inquiry into an attack against them at a controversial construction site in the Karura Forest on the outskirts of Nairobi. 40 groups and organizations from more than 15 countries signed the petition. The petition, drafted in the form of a letter to then President Daniel Arap Moi, Chief Justice Zaccheus Chesoni and Police Commissioner Duncan Wachira, demanded an immediate investigation of the individuals responsible for this incident, which they considered indicative of Kenya’s disrespect for human rights.
The Greenbelt Movement was founded in 1988 and has been leading grassroots efforts to prevent the destruction of indigenous forests by planting saplings to replace trees felled by real estate developers. It is a national grassroots organization, which tries to empower women in particular, and civil society in general, to take action towards protecting the environment and breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and underdevelopment in Kenya. Women, in any case, have been considerably more active in the moverment for reforestation.
The Kenyan police had often been present at the Greenbelt Movement’s demonstrations and sometimes gave them access to the forest. On this occasion however, they withdrew , in effect allowing for the attack.
Destruction of the forest has provoked widespread debate and condemnation of the Moi government's policy for selling prime public land to his supporters at minimal cost, to construct high-income housing. Of special concern is the fact that some sections of the forest are being cut back to accommodate the growing of marijuana. In recent years, Kenya has developed into a conduit and producer of drugs A private army continues to occupy the forest and allows only agents of the land–grabbers to enter the forest in lorries and cars, often to deliver building materials. Dr. Wangri Maathai who was one of the founders of WEDO sees the protest as grounded in the larger issues of corruption in high places, inequity and undemocratic governance, as well as disrespect for environmental rights
Below is the call sent out by Maathai for the event at which she was assaulted.
Members of Parliament and the Green Belt Movement, Environmentalists and Friends of Forests will return to Karura Forest on 3rd July, 1999 at 10:00 a.m. All participants will converge at the gate of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and proceed to the main gate of Karura Forest for tree planting.
Elsewhere in the country, all people have been requested to continue mobilizing public opinion against land grabbing everywhere and use Karura forest as a symbol of high level corruption in the management of national resources. Throughout this week members of the Green Belt Movement secretariat are announcing the event.
Even though the Police have been informed about the event and the need to remind members of the public, they arrested members of the Green Belt Movement on Tuesday, June 29, 1999 and detained them for several hours accusing them of making public announcements without a license. That was in complete violation of human rights because no such license is needed. It was a way of harassing and intimidating them so that they stop reminding people that the March to Karura is on 3rd.
The "Human Rights Defenders Declaration," adopted by the UN General Assembly just prior to December 10, 1998, the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, declares that everyone has the right to strive for the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It further declares that States have a duty to protect and promote this right.
Please write to the authorities below expressing your outrage... Urge the president and police commissioner to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of these individuals against any violence as a consequence of their legitimate actions in the defense and promotion of their human rights.
(Karura Clash--Attack on Wangari Maathai in Forest Dispute Goes Before U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, WEDO News & Views, May 1999.http://www.wedo.org/news
Diverse Women for Diversity Listserv firstname.lastname@example.org Message from Wangari Maathai, Coordinator Greenbelt Movement July 4, 1999)
Rebuilding Civil Society Through Environmental Activism in Chile:
In 1997, the Chilean Sara Larrain’s work earned her a citation as an ‘environmental fighter’. She had played a lead role in coordinating the Chilean Ecological Action Network (RENACE), a national network of 145 local environmental organizations. Most are small organizations with few resources. Through RENACE, the leaders of Chile's environmental movement hope to rebuild Chile's civil society, devastated by the long years of Pinochet dictatorship. They believe that, through the power of an awakened civil society, it will be possible to transform the Chilean society and economy into a national model of a just and sustainable society.
Throughout the Pinochet years, Chile had often been presented as a shining model of export-driven growth -the Latin American Tiger economy- an example of the proper way to govern people, build democracy, use natural resources, and be a successful competitor in the global economy. It is a tempting image, hiding poverty, human suffering, and large scale environmental destruction. The coalition was determined to show the reality behind the facade. They aimed at putting into words, figures, and images the reality lived by the grassroots communities.
Member organizations throughout the country organize consultations, reaching out beyond their own network to other groups such as union, indigenous peoples, social, and farmers organizations. Special priority is given NGOs and social movements that represent grassroots people. Each organization participating in a consultation is responsible for engaging its own members in discussing the issues and reporting back. This, they hope, is a way to rebuild a social and political base. A similar process, involving as many as 300 organization, was used in developing a campaign against the proposed entry of Chile into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)- In addition to challenging the development model and intervening on national issues like NAFTA, Sustainable Chile also supports the campaigns on more specific local issues and concrete local agendas.
As to the larger picture, Larrain had the following to say:
We badly need a politics of hope. When people lose battle after battle in the struggle to stop the polluting of their communities, the invasion of their lands, and the piracy of their resources it is difficult to maintain the inspiration and hope that they are really capable of changing things. We have cases where pollution is so bad that children are warned not to engage in physical activities. Many children are sick from the pollution and babies are being born with deformities. When parents complain to the authorities they are often told, "If you don't like this city you should go and live somewhere else." It is humiliating and demoralizing, as well as infuriating.
" There are so many ways peoples' lands are expropriated. A company may come into a valley and tell people it is going to build three or four dams and they must move. They try to make the people feel they have no recourse and must simply submit.
One of my main challenges as a person and a member of this community is in the face of all this adversity is to help people maintain their sense of inspiration and hope-their confidence in themselves and their trust of one another. You first create a small space and then expand it. We work with people on their rights as human beings and as inhabitants of this land. We emphasize the significance of this land for their identity and the well-being of their children.
Our struggle is much like the struggle of the people of Chiapas in Mexico. The goal is not to go to the capital city and take over the government. Rather it is saying no to the continuing conquest. It is drawing the line and saying you are no longer permitted to come and take or destroy our lands and the resources on which our livelihoods depend. The people have only a small corner left and they are realizing they must defend it because it is their survival.
(Website of People-Centered Development Forum (PCDF) http://iisd1/iisdca/1996/larrain)
Wangari Maathai and Sara Larrain both have been highly visible activists but their work relies ultimately on the existence of a vast field of small organizations with purely local visibility, whose success in turns is dependent on working alliances with regional or international networks. For instance, Maathai’s recent activity is rooted in a longer course of more modest actions by the movement which she herself founded, but also by many other women involved in one of the longest reforestation campaigns, primarily conducted by women, most of whose names we may never know. One such woman moved with her husband from the forested highlands to a parched land north of Nairobi. In the normal course of duty of a Kenyan housewife, gathering fuelwood occupied great parts of her working day. Faced with the prospect of spending major parts of her life collecting firewood further and further away from home, in increasingly depleted forests, she asked for foresters’ advice and eventually opened a tree nursery, after an apprenticeship with an environmental NGO . She set about to "learn her environment", and ‘teach it" to others, distributing seedling trees to schools, hospitals and individual farmers, while at the same time getting involved in the campaigns to promote the use of energy-efficient, low-cost stoves using much less wood than the traditional firepits.
( seeJane Williamson-Fien Women, Environment And Development Training Module 10, Resource #9 1997 Queensland University of Technology, Australia
• While many now have heard about the grassroots protest against the building of the Narmada Dam in India, few have heard about one aspect of that protest. In numerous acts of resistance against logging companies and governmental agencies, protesters have been pulling up the ill-adapted plants with which the land had been reforested, and replacing them with plants better suited to the climate and the nature of the soil.
• In Nicaragua, women in the arid region of San Rafael del Sur organized into agroforestry associations, offering training in and assistance in soil conservation, nursery maintenance and reforestation. The women work both communal and individual plots, growing a variety of species adapted to their daily needs (house-construction, fuel, soil-preservation). Initially faced with opposition from their husbands, fearful the project would take them away from their home-responsibilities, they were able to convince the men to join in view of their results.
• In Mexico, Paty Ruiz, an Ashoka-Nature Conservancy Eco-Entrepreneur, is educating the population of Queretaro, Mexico to preserve the forests and ecosystem. Degraded by decades of deforestation, pollution, soil erosion, the land is becoming less and less productive for farming and ground water is becoming contaminated by sewage and other pollutants. Ms. Ruiz s efforts combine education in primary and secondary schools with community trash pick-up drives, composting, and tree-planting.
• Edvalda Torres of Brazil designed rural community education programs that combine ecological perspectives with traditional farming systems. Her methods create schools that build on the community’s own knowledge and needs, intertwining symbols and cycles from the natural and human environments into educational tools.
• Ximena Abogabir educated Chileans about the environment by generating teaching materials for trainers and the public. According to the Ashoka citation Ms. Abogabir views each ecological crisis as an opportunity to invest into more harmonic forms of cohabitation, and to motivate people to learn to act for the common good.
Phasing Out Persistent Organic Pollutants
Women have also been actively concerned with international negotiations aimed at phasing out the world’s most problematic, persistent organic pollutants (POPs). NGO activities were organized in conjunction with the meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (inc) on Organic Pollutants.
Pulling the Plug on Pollutants, report in- WEDO News & Views, May 1999 http://www.wedo.org/news/May1999/May99.htm)
MAKING THE CONNECTIONS: ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The Beijing Platform For Action emphasizes the integration of the issues of women, development and the environment and in turn linked these issues to all twelve areas of critical concern within the human rights framework.
Environmental pollution damages the health of all.
What are the deeper causes of the environmental threats you are familiar with? Are women you know challenging policy makers in government and corporations?
Do your government’s environmental policies and regulations protect your human right to a healthy environment?governmental commitments to protect that right?
The Women´s Caucus — Women´s Advocacy at UN Conferences
Since its inception, WEDO has facilitated the participation of NGO women through the Women´s Caucus, held daily, at five world conferences: UNCED, ICPD, the Copenhagen Social Development Summit, the Beijing Women´s Conference (where the name used was the Women´s Linkage Caucus), and Habitat II, held in Istanbul in June, 1996. A Women´s caucus at the Human Rights Conference in Vienna was a vital force in the recognition that Women´s rights are human rights. Women also participated in a key negotiating session prior to the November, 1996 World Food Summit held in Rome, to insure that prior commitments made to women in Cairo and Beijing were reaffirmed in the final Food Summit documents. As a result of the caucus process, governments are being increasingly held accountable by their citizens, especially women, to take international agreements seriously.
However, the constant need to protect the existing consensus on environmental human rights from continued attempts to roll them back has cost vital time, money, energy and human resources that would have been better applied to advancing consensus on critical areas of implementation.
The objective of the Women´s Caucus methodology, developed by WEDO and collaborating groups, is to mobilize women from every region around common agendas and to facilitate the participation of women from developing countries in policy advocacy.
Examining negotiating documents line by line, suggesting deletions and additions, women became skilled lobbyists, often working side by side with their national delegations in unprecedented peer acceptance. Success was sometimes achieved in a single critical word or paragraph.. But in the case of the ICPD documents, nearly two-thirds of the final recommendations of the Women´s Caucus were reflected in the final Programme of Action.
Conferences like the Copenhagen Social Development Summit and the Beijing Conference on Women, demonstrated that women are a powerful force in international negotiations. Largely as a result of the work of the Women´s Caucus and of many Women´s organizations, both the Copenhagen and Beijing conferences produced more concrete commitments by governments than had been expected during the conference preparatory discussions.
Women´s emergence as a force to be reckoned with at the U.N. is a major achievement since Rio.The task ahead is to translate the power women acquired in negotiating U.N. conference agreements to the institutions that oversee and control implementation.
Recommendations by Women's Organizations to the 2nd Ministerial Conference on Water Management
(An international networking project carried out by IIAV International Information Centre and Archives for the Women's Movement- Amsterdam, Netherlands- October 1999 - February 2000)
Based on a comprehensive vision of how sustainable, efficient and effective water management and conservation systems can be achieved
1.New water management policies should be designed in such a way as to safeguard and promote the livelihoods of women, especially those in vulnerable social sectors of the globe
2.Women should be drawn into the process of consultation at all levels when policy is created, systems developed and mechanisms designed
3.Women's capacities to engage in public consultation processes should be enhanced so they can contribute to this global endeavor. The constraints on their participation should be addressed: time and costs of participation; timing and location of meetings etc
4.Women's rights to water should be ensured, as well as women's rights to participate in water-related organisations and institutions. Creative legal mechanisms should be devised and enforced to prevent the restriction of water access and control only to those with land rights, and to prevent the restriction of participation in decision-making processes and institutions to those with land-rights or to 'heads of households
5.Women's knowledge and experience of water management should be acknowledged as a global resource to be developed, encouraged and used
6.Gender analysis should be integrated into all water research, problem diagnosis and formulation of solutions and actions
7.Strict systems of public control must be designed and put into place to ensure that private companies do not exploit the basic need for water for the sake of profit. Stepped tariffs are essential to ensure that households, small family business and large enterprises be charged for water on a differential basis
8.Pricing of water must take into account the fact that water is a human need as well as an input into economic activity. Stringent legal mechanisms at an international level should ensure that water is not simply sold to the highest bidder but is first made available on the basis of basic need. Careful studies must be undertaken to discover what women are able to pay for sufficient supplies to maintain adherence to health and nutrition targets, and home production of food. Pricing policies must take into account women's unpaid or underpaid contributions to the economy, and avoid adding further burdens on the shoulders of women.
9.Women should be encouraged to enter the water management industry at all levels, so they can contribute to and benefit from any additional resources going into this sector. Training programmes should be launched to ensure that women and girls are equipped with the relevant technical, managerial, organisational and social skills needed
10.Gender training programmes must be launched for water management personnel at all levels, so that the design and execution of projects ensure equitable access to all regardless of gender and class
11.Water conservation projects and programmes should be directed towards involving women - who often have a wealth of knowledge regarding local water circumstances compared with men and outside experts. Women's skills in waterconservation strategies should be upgraded.
12.Women's experience in setting up low-cost water delivery systems on a co-operative basis should be built on. Credit facilities should be made available and technical support offered to these initiatives.
13.The Polluter-Pays-Principle should be strictly applied in the case of water sources, so that those who have not benefitted from the fouling of the earth's water supplies are not forced to pay for remediation and increased costs of water delivery. The Polluter-Pays-Principle should also be applied retrospectively.
14.The use of chemical fertilizers and additives in agriculture should be more balanced. Further, the international system of food production, distribution, trade, and agriculture in general, should be critically and genuinely evaluated to discover where the wastage of water really occurs. A comparative analysis of mixed versus mono-cropping systems should be made to evaluate relative water efficiency and net nutrient depletion.
15.Governments and public bodies should be asked to enact strict regulation against pollution of groundwater and other water sources. Private industry should be brought into the process of establishing standards and control mechanisms.
16.Increased efforts to slow the rate of climate change and mitigate its impacts under the UN framework convention on climate change and protocols so as to limit its detrimental effects on agriculture world-wide.
17.Public awareness campaigns should be maintained to build a general consensus as to the need for changes in lifestyles to support water conservation and more efficient usage. Non be supported to use and develop their information channels for sustaining this campaign. Industrial processes must be redesigned to minimize water use whilst maximizing water recovery.
18.Annual water audits, based on gender-disaggregated data, should be published each year on the state of play regarding water resources, water issues, water conflicts, actions taken by national and local governments, and nongovernmental organisations.
19.Research into low-cost, innovative, conservation and delivery systems should be stimulated and their application encouraged by local communities and women's organisations.
20.Effective community-created strategies in this area should be documented, their guiding principles explored, and efforts at replication launched. Women's organisations and other community groups should be provided with the channels for sharing their knowledge and experience in this field, and for stimulating other groups to explore new methods.
21.Structural Agreement programmes should be examined and, if necessary, altered, so as to ensure that economic development programmes in the third world do not promote water-polluting or water-wasting industries and agriculture
MAPPING THE FIELD : PLANNING FOR ACTION
Earlier you will have ‘mapped’ the environmental hasards in your neighborhood, your town, or your country
You also will have done some work identifying the agencies which are responsible for dealing with these dangers, and the network of organizations that could be mobilized to take action.
Select one issue:( it can be water, but it could be something else: open space, farmland, the air, clean soils on which to grow healthy food)
Using the recommendations of the Women’s Organizations to the Second Ministerial Conference on Water, write Recommendations for approaches and decisions to be made in the foreseeable future regarding this issue.
To help you get started, follow the model of the Recommendations, and match concrete examples for each of the points they mention.
Plan on sending these recommendations to the appropriate recipients , i.e., governmental agencies, private corporations, activists, teachers, newspapers
As you do this exercise, go over your recommendations point by point. Are they clear? are they feasible?
You will find that on some points you just don’t have enough information
.Be ready to do some extra research to flesh out your recommendation.
If you can’t do the extra research, reconsider whether you should include this item in your document at all. As a rule of thumb, always be ready to ‘hold’ any comment or recommendation. Any weak item in your document can be dismissed and risks affecting the credibility of the whole of your document.
For more information, please contact PDHRE: