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...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)



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.

• List all the effects of the project, both short- and long-term.

• Looking back at the UDHR and government commitments, which human rights are being violated?e.g., right to housing? right to work? right to health? right to political participation? cultural rights? etc.

• Would some human rights be served by the project? Which ones?

• How does the project affect the lives and human rights of women?

Whenever such a development takes place, there are always some gains for some people.

• Who is gaining? What are they gaining? Short term gains? Long-term gains?

• Are the gains fairly distributed?

• If not now, might they spread more widely in the future?

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

earth-living ‘humans’

• Sithembiso Nyioni of Zimbabwe demonstrated extraordinary leadership in support of sustainable development for the rural poor. In 1981, she founded the Organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), a powerful alliance of local organizations for rural development that grew from a few families to a membership of 1.5 million people in more than 800 villages.

• Vandana Shiva of India is in the forefront of the world movement for the preservation of biodiversity and the intellectual property rights of women farmers and traditional seed-saver Vandana Shiva 1997 Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development, 1997, London: Zed Books)

• Wangari Maathai of the Greenbelt movement in Kenya has been facing harassment and threats in her struggle for Kenya’s Karura forest and against the corruption and mercenary practices of political and economic leaders.

• Helen Caldecott, an Australian physician organized International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War denouncing environmental dangers of nuclear weapons tests.

• The Chinese missile engineer Dai Qing spent 10 months in prison for alerting the world community to the dangers of the Three Gorges Dam. After publishing The River Dragon has Come, which documented China’s worst dam failures and governmental cover ups, she pursues her campaign in Beijing, where she lives under heavy surveillance

• The Women in Development Foundation (WID) based in Pasay City, Philippines, has long been dedicated to promoting Women’s empowerment through participatory economic development, feminist organizing and institution building within the conceptual framework of environmental sustainability. WID has been engaged in a lengthy campaign initiated by a group of women of Balinao, Pangasinan, against the construction of the world’ s largest cement plant complex in their village threatening to displace approximately 10,000 women farmers and fishers, causing irreparable damage to the environment, specifically to the Lingayan Gulf area.

Women have been leaders in the European Green Parties’ political action for environmental responsibility on a continental scale.

• Okinawa Women Against Military Violence have struggled to alert Japan and the world to the continued environmental harm caused by the military activities conducted on the many American bases on their island (see chapter 6).

• Patricia Mische, an American Peace Researcher has demonstrated that a healthy environment is essential to international security.

• When the IIAV started an electronic forum on problems of water management and women’s involvement in it, they were astounded to discover the range of organizations involved in some way or other with water issues. They discovered organizations in Africa involved in delivery systems, groups in Asia digging tube wells with money they had generated from credit schemes, an organization dealing with water rights in North America, indigenous people with entirely alternative concepts regarding water in Latin America, organizations initiating recovery schemes in Eastern Europe, water user groups in Indian slums, a women's university offering courses in water management in Germany, women farmers’ groups in Indonesia, many female scholars dedicated to research and activism on water and water related issues, architects, agriculturists, engineers - all with initiatives to reveal and results to share.


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.


Spurred by projections of massive declines in Himalayan forest cover, forestry initiatives in the mid-1970s emphasised the technical sides of reforestation. Responding to the urgency expressed in eco-doom reports, forest technocrats working for multilateral and bilateral agencies encouraged large-scale and quick-fix approaches to ground cover, at the expense of institutional development through local participation. Nurseries were built, seedlings were planted in vast plantations, forest watchers were hired, and barbed wire fencing closed off large areas of forests. The emphasis was on planting and protecting forests and trees, rather than considering the needs of local people who use forest products for their subsistence.

[Eventually], the concept of forest management as an endeavour where local people are part of the solution, not the problem, emerged out of the failure of these initiatives. The impetus for this community forestry process emerged out of ideas proposed and actions undertaken primarily by women forest users.


In the Koshi Hills of eastern Nepal early initiatives at forming user groups focused on women, because they usually collect products from the forests. While some men expressed an interest in women’s involvement, their perspective was more patronising than enabling. They suggested that women could learn "something" from rangers and project staff and envisaged a role for women as passive listeners.


Women were not viewed by their menfolk as individuals with opinions and capacities for decision-making. Slowly, however, they began to make their voices heard, especially as the discrepancies between the interests of men and women became more evident. In one case, women opposed men on the issue of charging for firewood, arguing that it should be free. The women won. In another case, the women opposed the idea of needing a paid forest watcher, arguing that this work could be done on rotation. Again the women won. The men tended to view the forest as a source of revenue creation. The women saw the forest as a means of meeting basic needs and as a support mechanism for increasing self-reliance. Men favoured committee formation, they were interested in assuming positions of power and propagating rules for forest use by decree. Women, on the other hand, insisted on the need for building consensus.


Their orientation was intrinsically inclusive; in effect, it was geared towards sharing and

cooperation, and learning through trial and error - a learning process approach. Once they

began to speak out, women offered clear, sensible,and definite views on the way the forest

should be managed, and the men listened. Until they built enough confidence to

speak-out, the women’s decision-making process occurred in informal settings, with

concerns and agreements mediated within the inner-circle of women collectors and then

to the wider community of users. The women understood the value of considering the

concerns of nearly-landless people who have few private trees and, therefore, are more

dependent on products from the community forest.


In Kumaun, in the Hills of Uttar Pradesh, in informal or actual collection patterns are changing. In effect, men are making the rules for forest use, and women are having to make do. Women have responded through ‘collection compromises’ ... expressed in unspoken agreements of "mutual understanding" based on mutual need. This is necessary, for as one woman remarked, "...the men don’t seem to realise where the fodder and fuelwood come from." Since resources are limited, women have devised composite strategies. They meet some demands for forest products through non-community forest means - combining resources from private land, community forest, and government forest areas. By seeking alternative sources for forest products, women are informally agreeing to restrict community forest use in order to foster important community forest by-products. In their actual use practices women are managing collection activities based on realistic expectations of immediate product returns as well as broader, longer-term ecological goals.


Though the boundaries of networking activities are still emerging, exchanges between men and women in Nepal and India, and regionally, between women from different South Asian countries, are starting to change the nature of interactions in resource management regimes. In particular, these initiatives provide previously unheard of opportunities for women to informally meet and discuss common concerns of resource management policies and practices in their respective situations. In this way, women can exchange ideas, share information, and build their confidence in public speaking.


Given the prevalence of women’s roles in relation to resources in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya, women’s inputs should be at the center of any forum which negotiates resource management. However, in order to better understand women’s contributions, those of us who assess actors and activities need to move away from androcentric biases in monitoring and evaluation which favour male-dominated spaces for understanding and exploring approaches to rural resource management and its sustenance.

By relying upon formal settings - such as public meetings and the decision-making therein - measures of participation and perceptions of consensus will be skewed in favour of those who speak loudest and longest. The physical presence or absence of individuals, the sheer number of comments or non-comments, is a crude measure of participation. Meetings are easily documented. For this reason they have become a central indicator for determining loci of power and control. However, this narrow approach to understand the tenets that underlie decision-making and resource management leaves out other, more pertinent, realities. [...]

In India, women sought a "middle path" approach to community forest management. This approach was somewhere between the "cognitive ideal" expressed by male committee members and the vagaries of unrestricted access. It reflected women’s needs for a feasible alternative to the exclusionary and protectionist bent of committee proscriptions, given the reality of household forest-product requirements. [...]

Studies of ecology sometimes overlook the fact that the relationship of organisms to their environment also includes relations between individuals of the same species to each other. Long-term resource management can be effected through better communication and cooperation between women and men, the young and the old, the powerful and the powerless. However, practitioners and researchers need to move beyond research approaches and monitoring mechanisms which favour public-space postures and formal settings over informal settings where the less powerful or less vocal can express their views.

Steps in this direction could be taken by bringing women into monitoring and evaluation processes, not as token participants, but as active research partners who are valued for their specific knowledge and skills. This would create a co-learning environment in which women could develop or identify indicators which concur with their understandings based on their subjective experiences. These indicators would in turn better reflect forest management realities and the opportunities and constraints that women face in their roles as managers and mediators. It is time to reconsider methods and mediums, with more emphasis placed on understanding the manifold informal and behind-the-scenes mechanisms used by women for negotiating power relations and resource management - access, control, and exchanges of information.

(excerpted from:

Charla Britt & Kaji Shrestha Hidden Faces and Public Spaces in-FTP Newsletter # 35 3/98 http://www-trees.slu.se/newsl35/35britt.htm

Dr. N. Kaji Shrestha, Ghanendra Kafle & Charla Britt Community forest user group networking and the emergence of a federation of community forestry users in Nepal in–FTP Newsletter # 32-33 2/97


The Rights of Indigenous Women and the Protection of the Environment

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.

"In 1945, my parents were moved south from their land in Matabeleland to the Midlands to make room for (White) soldiers returning from World War 2. What we lost was very good, fertile land. We were forced to move to virgin land and start from scratch. There was no compensation for our old homes nor for the loss of our land. We were just moved out and our homes destroyed.

" Each family was given about 10 acres in the new area but as the families grew, the land had to be worked more and more without any rest-periods. Before, on our old land, we had enough room to shift cultivate and the land could regenerate itself.

" I have seen a lot of changes in my own lifetime. When I was a child there used to be a lot of thick brush and a great variety of plants and animals and grasses. There was also a lot of underground water and the rivers were flowing full. But today these things do not exist any more because of the droughts, the economic situation, which has pushed people to stay on the land, and the land tenure system, which has pushed large numbers of people onto unsuitable land.

People had to rely on their surroundings for their livelihood. But sometimes, if you go to a village where there is soil erosion, for example, you will tend to blame the people you see there, rather than look behind at the history of those people and see why the situation is what it is. The environmentalists accuse people of ignorance and not caring, or having too many children, of over-exploiting the land.. no one asks why they are there in the first place.

(A Living from the Land, in Youthpower, No. 14, Spring 1992, pp. 5-7, reproduced as Resource # 4 In Janet Williamson-Fien, Women, environment and development,)

Andean Leader Meets Shareholders

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:

The construction of two gas pipelines--Gas Atacama and Norandino starting in the province of Salta (North Argentine) and bound to the north of Chile was approved by the National Gas Regulatory Organism (ENARGAS) without regard for their environmental impact on the area, and for the fact, admitted by both companies, that one gas pipeline is enough for the short- and medium-term demand of the region.

The Norandino gas pipeline of the Belgian company TRACTEBEL will start in Tartagal, Salta, and go through the Yunga Jungle, a valuable biologic corridor which unites the Baritu National Park in the province of Salta - an Andean community settlement - and Calilegua in the province of Jujuy. The work will cost $400 million dollars and has been started on the Chilean side. On the Argentine side, it was delayed due to a dispute with the Andean communities and the environmental NGO Greenpeace, over the environmental damage the installation of the pipeline will cause.

Dressed in her traditional clothes, the Andean leader Serafina Cruz appeared at the TRACTEBEL stockholders’ meeting in Brussels. The company, the largest Belgian energy company, is one of the most important electric dealers of the European Community.

Security officers tried to prevent her from entering, but with the help of an interpreter and members of the Belgian community, she exercised the rights to which she was entitled by two shares of the energy company previously bought by Greenpeace. The security officers had no alternative but to let her in.

With some bewilderment, the 150 shareholders, officers and directors ... who were present at the meeting were forced to listen to her denunciation (in the name of the TINKUNAKU Association of Salta Province) of the serious environmental damages which the construction of the pipeline will cause in the Yungas Jungle where the Andean community lives.

The indigenous leader had traveled to Belgium with a biologist. Together they explained who the Andean peoples are, where they live, the value they give to the Yungas Jungle, and the economic and social damage the work will produce, since the design determined by Norandino will destroy three cemeteries and numerous houses and animal pens, making the poor Andean economy even poorer...

Serafina Cruz, sitting in the center of the auditorium, won the attention of all the TV cameras and the press, awaiting her at the end of the meeting.

(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.

In 1984 the women demanded that the oil company pay them for lands seized, and for pollution damage... women seized control of a US oil corporation's production site, threw off their clothes and with this curse of nakedness won their demands for financial compensation for pollution and alienation of land.They demanded the drilling of a reliable water well and the provision of electricity.


In the 1986 uprising, women shut down the core of the whole region's oil industry. They demanded access to oil industry jobs for their children. They challenged (...) the very concept of compensation for land taken by the state for the oil industry. How, they asked, can a way of life be destroyed and 'compensated' through the payment of a small sum of money?


They raised the fundamental issue of who benefits from the oil wealth. This tremendous national treasure from their own communal lands was being used to benefit others and in the process their own lives were being destroyed.


In 1990, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) came together as an umbrella group of some nine other Ogoni associations and issued a declaration which (...) included demands for reparations of $400 million and the right to defend the environment from further deterioration under the impact of petroleum production.


In 1993, through the Federation of Ogoni Women's Associations, women organized what was probably the largest demonstration against oil companies in history. On the first Ogoni Day, 4 January 1993, some 300,000 Ogoni turned out to declare Shell persona non grata in the community. The conflict in Ogoniland was, from this point on, focused around efforts to stop activity by Shell, Chevron and the Nigerian National Oil Corporation. The pattern was repeated throughout Nigeria's oilbelt. Integral to this campaign was the popular campaign to assert the women’s movement's voice over the voices of indigenous male chiefs whose agreement the oil companies had historically sought as a basis for legitimately operating in the various oilbelt communities.[...]

(excerpted from Turner, Terisa E. and Oshare,M. O. "Women's uprisings against the Nigerian oil industry in the 1980s," Canadian Journal of Development Studies, XIV, 3, Oct. 1993: 329-357.)

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.

Solomon Islands Mothers’ Union

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.

Established in the Solomons in 1924 its activities until the 1970’s remained church-oriented with a welfare and home-economics focus on women providing for their families. Until the 1970s all activities were church-oriented and in line with the welfare approach, focusing on the role of mothers in providing for their families. On the surface the Mother's Union in the Solomon Islands still seems a very conservative organisation.

Gradually, however, there has been a move away from this conservative stance. This was reflected in the seventies with the introduction of health and sanitation projects, in the early eighties with awareness-raising about foreign logging companies and the start of village kindergartens run by local women, and in the late eighties with the initiation of literacy programmes.

The focus of the Mother's Union in the early 1990s was non-formal education. It has, for example, become one of the major organisations concerned with literacy training in the Solomon Islands. A pilot literacy programme was initiated in Honiara in 1989, which later expanded to Auki, Kohimarama, Buala, Lata and Kira Kira, thus spanning five provinces. Funds were provided so that teachers could travel more and additional learning materials were purchased. The Mother's Union has targeted women in its literacy programmes in attempt to bridge the large gap between 27 percent of men literate in English but only 17 percent of women (Solomon Islands National Literacy Committee, 1992). This means that women are less able than men to gain an education or paid employment and less able to communicate at an official level, where the written word is often required. Literacy classes have, therefore, expanded many women's life options. By inviting women to bring their children to the literacy classes, the Mother's Union actively supported women in their reproductive roles.

Prior to launching into non-formal education programs, the Mothers’ Union had been showing more concern for political issues, particularly logging. Logging well beyond the sustainable rate has meant that the island’s main commercial resource could be exhausted in 10-15 years. With timber sales accounting for nearly 60 percent of total exports in 1993, the government of the islands was unlikely to stop logging. To protest both the economic policy itself, and the lack of consultation with women when logging agreements are signed, the Mothers’ Union organized,a community meeting to raise issues of concern regarding the Axion logging company then establishing itself in the island.

The women put considerable organization into the meeting, which involved the MP for East Isabel, a representative of the chiefs and a church representative, as well as about 100 members of the Isabel Honiara Community. Mother's Union members presented economic alternatives to the logging of forests by foreign companies. A statement on behalf of the women of Isabel and the Mothers’ Union strongly recommended discouraging large-scale mining and logging development. It is at this meeting that one of the women’s leaders made the pronouncement which introduces this story.

Efforts to prevent the destruction of resources on Isabel were not limited to this meeting, however. Before the meeting, the women had raised their concerns at a Diocesan Council and gained the support of the church to write an open letter to Members of Parliament, the Premier of Isabel province, other prominent leaders in Isabel and various authorities. The Mother's Union also held membership meetings to which officers from the Environmental Section and Forestry Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources were invited. The officers discussed and answered questions regarding environmental degradation and the legal aspects of the logging companies’ gaining access to customary land. An awareness programme was planned whereby 600 women from around the Isabel diocese would come together to learn about the importance of their roles as the foundation of the family, to see what the future held for them and to highlight key issues in logging.

(Regina Scheyvens 1998 Church Women's Groups and the Empowerment of Women in the Solomon Islands – http://rspas.anu.edu.au/melanesia/papers.htm)

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.

Rufisque is a small township just outside the Senegalese capital, Dakar. It was given its name - Rio Fresco, fresh water river - by Portuguese sailors over 500 years ago. But in 1990, Rufisque’s ‘fresh waters ‘ had long since disappeared. Most family compounds had inadequate or no plumbing. Municipal refuse collection lorries could not reach many areas. Waste water was thrown into the street. The beach was an unofficial refuse dump. Diarrhoea topped the list of reported complaints at the Health Centers.

With active involvement of the population, including women leaders, ENDA Third World and the Canadian Host Country Participation Fund, in collaboration with the Rufisque Local Authority, a highly integrated and holistic approach was selected using horse-drawn carts, a common local form of transport, to collect rubbish, and low-cost narrow plumbing pipes, unsuitable in Northern climates but perfect for the ice-free African climate, to dispose of waste water and sewage.

Sewage, waste water and refuse all end up in a Purification and Recycling Centre, manned by young people who [make compost for use in market gardens]. The purification system, using water lettuce which is abundantly available in the area, is very cheap and has been used in Africa for centuries to purify water. The scheme is run by democratically elected Local Management Committees. The technical aspect is handled by local people, and is therefore both sustainable and replicable. One relevant indicator of the democratic level of local management and of real impact is that nearly one third of the total population has been involved.

Women and young people are active at all levels, from sorting refuse to decision-making, with women representing the largest number of active participants . Local culture is based on discussion and mutual agreement between all parties. In this case, the Inspection and Assessment Committee, a democratic district body is made up of district representatives, (mainly old men, patriarchs whose status is more traditional than political). Women, local representatives, elders and young people sit on the Inspection and Assessment Committee and the Joint Committee. Community meetings and mosque discussions provide fora for discussion.

Seed funding was provided by international funding agencies and is gradually being replaced by a local revolving credit system. Active participation in the scheme is seen by the financial partner as the host country's contribution.

ENDA Third World first got involved with the people of one local neighborhood in 1980 over a project to deal with this problem. The project drew up a plan for the construction of a series of twelve parallel dikes jutting out into the sea, During the building of the dikes, it was obvious that the people of Diokoul were very capable of getting organized to do something to improve their area. It was also during this exercise that ENDA Third World became aware of the extent of the pollution problems. This led to a discussion with the local community. Plans were drawn up and in 1991: The DIOKOUL and Surrounding Districts Sanitation Scheme, later called PADE ( Environment Sustainable Improvement Process) came into being.

The Scheme operates on a number of levels : ecology and health (the safe disposal of rubbish, the elimination of excrement as a source of disease, the reduction of flies and mosquitoes and their accompanying diseases, including malaria), economic (job-creation and income-generation), social (to make women's work easier, improve the quality of life and the social status of the participants, and increase the family budget), and community (to reinforce the independence of the community and give people a sense of citizenship, through training and interaction between various groups).

The project has enormously reduced women's workload. Women oversee the maintenance of the infrastructures, including the maintenance of the tanks in the compounds into which the waste water is thrown for filtering and removal of grease.

This unpaid labor is worth 50 ¢ per woman per day. The money contributed by individual households in return for the installation of private sanitation systems is put into a revolving fund, guaranteed by the Local Management Committees, and this is used to promote self-financing sanitation for the low-income districts. At the end of 1997, assets amounted to 25 M FCFA (US $ 50 000).

(http://www.enda.sn/modes devie/sante.htm)



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.

"We refuse to handle products if they are detrimental to the health of our members or the health of the environment." - Shigeki Maruyama, member.

The Seikatsu Consumers' Club Co-op (SC), an organisation of ordinary housewives, is not

an ordinary consumers' cooperative. SC has become a formidable commercial enterprise serving over 230,000 households since it's formation in 1965. It began when a single Tokyo housewife organised 200 women to buy 300 bottles of milk to reduce the price. The Co-op, which has developed since then, places emphasis on direct producer/consumer links to moderate and humanise the market. It operates on two basic principles: one is democratic autonomous management encouraging all members to participate, and the other is to maintain a cooperative close relation between SC members and producers.

With an advance ordering and joint buying system, SC enables its members to plan their consuming life and provides sustainability to producers. The SC is dedicated to the environment, empowerment of women and improvement of workers' conditions. Using environmental ethics that make economic sense, the Seikatsu Club provides low-cost household goods without sacrificing health or the environment. They refuse to handle products detrimental to the environment or human health and they oppose wasteful lifestyles. They procure quality produce by signing a contract with local farmers to ensure the produce is safe to eat. The club buys the produce in exchange for a guarantee that only organic fertilisers and the fewest possible chemicals will be used. When they cannot find products of adequate quantity, or products that meet Seikatsu’s ecological or social standards, they will consider producing it themselves as they have done with milk and natural soaps.

With the growth in female participation in Japan's labour force, the SC set up women workers' collectives to undertake both distribution and other service enterprises including recycling, health, education, food preparation and child care. Presently there are more than 200 organizations and 8,000 workers. The Seikatsu Club encourages political action and has managed to get over 100 members elected into various municipal offices, who through their principles and activities, "change daily life and change the society." The SC has also established a not-for-profit insurance company for its members.

The club is organised in hans (a local unit averaging about eight people). Each han elects a epresentative to its Branch (consisting of between 50 and 100 hans), which in turn develops it's own agenda and sends representatives to the General Assembly to set policy and elect the SC's Board of Directors. 95% of SC's members are women.

The fundamental principles of the SC are:

Create a new lifestyle in order to protect environment and health. Stop passive and resource-depleting lifestyles based on commercialism.

Abolish differentials and discrimination. Realising that "prosperity" based on the sacrifice of other people both in and outside of the country should not be pardoned, SC promotes and encourages fair trade.

Establish autonomy of people. As against control by the state or by industrial and trading corporations, make every effort to create a community of autonomy and cooperation through our basic daily activities of collective purchase.

Enable women, who are the majority of members, to be independent. Today's highly industrialised society pushed women and local communities into subordinate and decentralised positions. We are not only criticising and confronting the situation, but are proposing to create a new lifestyle and alternative work.

"We stand by the belief that housewives can begin to create a society that is

harmonious with nature by 'taking action from the home'" - Seikatsu Club, 1988.

( 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.

Women and Municipal Authorities Work Together in India

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

The Aral Sea, once bigger than the Netherlands and Belgium together, has shrunk to half its size. Reason: unsustainable water use. The hardest hit by is Karakalpakstan, a semi-autonomous republic in Uzbekistan. Today it is the poorest region in this newly independent Central Asian state. The environmental disaster has impacted the livelihoods of an estimated 40,000 -60,000 fisherfolk and fish-processing workers.

The Aral Sea crisis was triggered by the destruction of the traditional system of rice field irrigation and water pricing in the '30s and the introduction of a water-intensive large-scale irrigation system. The mega projects were considered necessary for growing cotton. Cotton production led to toxic pollution of the region. Pesticides like DDT and lindane were used to maximise the total yield of cotton. Today, the use of DDT and lindane is illegal but defoliants and other pesticides are still being used. The entire population continues to be vulnerable.

Dr Oral Atanyazova, a Karakalpak gynaecologist, was among the first to draw attention to the link between the ecological disaster and the deteriorating health of women and children in the region. The matter came to her notice after she studied the case histories of more than 5,000 women in Karakalpakstan for her PhD thesis. Atanyazova concluded that there was indeed a link between the levels of contaminants and the reproductive health of the women in the region. Today, she heads a NGO called Center Perzent which is spearheading the Karakalpak's women's demands for safe drinking water and greater attention to the health crisis.

Center-Perzent is an NGO based in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan. In Atanyazova's own words, "the goal of Perzent (a Karakalpak word meaning "progeny") is to unite the strengths of organisations and progressive people seeking to improve the status and health of women and children by empowering local women's groups." The NGO carries out projects in three areas, research, education and self-help community projects.

Specialists such as Atanyazova who have studied the subject in depth are convinced that the poor drinking water in the region has contributed to documented increases of certain morbidities such as hepatitis, kidney failure, birth defects and spontaneous abortions (Ataniyazova 1994, Abdirov 1993). Local doctors and voluntary organisations say there is a strong link between the environmental crisis and the emerging health crisis in the region. The worst affected are women and children who increasingly suffer from anaemia, liver diseases, cancer and birth defects.

Center-Perzent has initiated a number of projects in Karakalpakstan. These incorporate women's perspective into the research and analysis of the crisis as well as directly involve them in programs such as health education and organic food farming. Some of its key research areas are: assessment of the quality of environment and human health in the Aral Sea region. In collaboration with he another NGO, ECOLOGIA, Center-Perzent has also engaged the public in monitoring water quality, made recommendations on how to improve household water quality and developed several workshops with local authorities and physicians on water quality and health problems.In addition, it has linked up with Save the Children Fund to provide water filters to kindergartens and environmental educational programs for pre-school children.

Another Center-Perzent initiative is the project 'Sustainable Chimbay,' a self-help, organic vegetable and fruit farming program to improve women's and children's diet and avoid further contamination.The local authorities in the town of Chimbay provided 20 hectares of land for the organic farm. The goal is to use the vegetables and fruits from this farm in meals served at the school, thereby improving the health of the children. The income from the sales goes towards meeting the target group's most serious needs, such as securing additional food, repairing the kindergarten's heating system, building a hand pump, filtering drinking water and obtaining medicines and syringes for the children's clinic. The project also includes plans of capacity building training for women who work on the farm. The training sessions will look at methods of organic farming and methods to reduce exposure to pollution and improve personal health including hygiene, diet and water.

Atanyazova believes that the central issue is of 'cost'. Since women and children have been the worst hit by the Aral Sea crisis, they should not be expected to pick up the tab. Ataniyazova hopes to lobby with donor agencies to create a special fund with grants to pay for health care and monitoring programs, using a gender differentiated approach with special attention to the health impact on women and children.




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:

"environment is where you work, where you play, where you go to school. I think some environmentalists see the environment as being this place in space, or this place out on the ocean. It doesn’t make any difference what you do for the whales if little children are dying of lead poisoning or dirty water and pesticides. You’ve got to save the people first.

I believe that environmental justice is a human right. Even though I live in a poor community where the land is cheap and the population is 85% black, I’m just as entitled to clean air and water. I’m just as entitled to be free of industrial pollutants and toxic waste incinerators in my community as those people who live near the country club. Their right to life is no greater than mine, their children are no more deserving of human life than my children who are poor and live in Warren County. I believe that environmental justice is a human right that we all ought to b demanding because the Bible says "what you do to the least of these, you do to me."

(Dollie B. Burwell, in-Marguerite Guzman Boubard, ed. 1996 Women Reshaping Human rights- How extraordinary Activists are Changing the World, p. 175)

It was this faith that carried her through several years of protests to prevent the construction of a PCB-laden landfill in Warren Country.

Ultimately, the protest failed to prevent the landfill, but the community won some concessions from the governor. Landfill construction would be stopped and water would be monitored in the existing landfill. It was the first time in the U.S. that over five hundred people were arrested for seeking environmental justice. It demonstrated the viability of grassroots activism to secure human rights, and ultimately provided the impetus for the 1992 law on environmental justice. The protest had another happy effect: it got more African-Americans elected to political office, and in 1993, a newly elected black member of the state legislature successfully introduced legislation prohibiting hazardous and toxic waste facilities within a hundred- mile of the county.,Because of Dollie Burwell’s efforts, a connection was firmly established between human rights and environmental justice

(Dollie B. Burwell, in-Marguerite Guzman Boubard, ed. 1996 Women Reshaping Human rights- How extraordinary Activists are Changing the World, p. 175)

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 beb@igc.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.

( see Jane 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.

WEDO’s Pamela Ransom discussed the work of the women’s working group on POPs, part of the International POP Elimination Network (ipen). She called on women’s groups worldwide to raise awareness about the impacts of POPs, Karen Perry from Physicians for Social Responsibility, international negotiators [were] described her involvement in an action to control 12 POPs, sometimes called "the dirty dozen". Perry noted that all those POPs (which include dioxins, PCBs, and DDT as well as several other pesticides) are known to or suspected of interfering with the human hormonal processes.

Perry emphasized that POPs pose a threat to women worldwide because they are transported over vast distances, take years to break down and have a cumulative effect in the body. Panelist Elizabeth Guillette, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona, showed that POPs can affect reproductive abilities and children’s ability to mature as healthy, productive adults Diseases usually associated with old age, such as Parkinson’s disease, are occurring more frequently during middle age and young adulthood. Increases of up to 300 percent in some cancers of the reproductive tract –including testicular and prostrate cancer in men and breast cancer in both men and women– have been attributed to environmental changes associated with manufactured chemicals. Increases in human reproductive difficulties, ranging from infertility through the ability to produce a viable infant, parallel the increases in global contamination.

Infertility is reported to be as high as 40 percent in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, with only one-third attributed to complications in sexually transmitted diseases. POPs, ingested through breathing, eating and skin absorption, are stored in the fatty tissues. In pregnancy, when fatty tissues come into play, POPs are released into the women’s blood stream, thus endangering the developing fetus. This movement of contaminants through the placenta is implicated as a cause of overt birth defects. Other childhood growth and behavioral deficits are more hidden, but have been documented in research into the neuro-muscular and neuro-mental functioning of children living in contaminated areas.

During her research with the Yaqui Indian tribes in Sonora, Mexico starting in 1996, Guillette examined the differences between some 50 children living in areas with high pesticide use versus those in areas where traditional chemical-free agricultural practices were in place. Her research, found poor gross and fine detail eye-hand coordination, decreased stamina and memory lapses. She continues to evaluate behavioral differences in the two groups over time in her ongoing work. During her international travels, Guillette was impressed by the number of community leaders who wished to evaluate similar impacts in their areas and who expressed the need for concrete strategies for cleaning up their environments and eliminating further exposure.

(Pulling the Plug on Pollutants, report in- WEDO News & Views, May 1999 http://www.wedo.org/news/May1999/May99.htm)



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 makes the assault on women’s health of especially broad concern?

• How do human rights of women and the fate of the planet interact? Are there POPs or other such threats in your area?

• What is the evidence and how widely known is the problem?

• Has the information been made available to all sections of the public?

• Has the information been made available to the neighborhoods/towns most directly affected by it?

• One of the characteristics of POP is their unpredictability, the variability and lasting nature of their effects.

• How are your human rights concerns affected by this environmental issue?

• What can you do to protect the environment from POPs and other damage? How might you cooperate with others on these issues?

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?

• Do they hold large corporations, especially multinationals, accountable?

• How do current guidelines for corporations take into account their responsibility for environmental and gender issues?

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 water conservation 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




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.

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