Stories from the Grassroots: The Greengrants Blog

Share this page

    3 Awakenings From the 2014 Summit on Women & Climate

    Aug 20, 2014 | No Comments

    By Maxine Burkett, Vice Chair of Global Greengrants’ Board of Directors

    Ursula Rakova and me at the 2014 Summit on Women & Climate. Ursula is one of the most joy-filled women I've ever met.

    Ursula Rakova and me at the 2014 Summit on Women & Climate. Ursula is one of the most joy-filled women I’ve ever met.

    I have long been quite proud of my affiliation with the Global Greengrants Fund. This is an organization committed to providing small grants that can catalyze big acts of change in communities around the globe. This is an organization that is not afraid of activism but is very much drawn to sincere (and sometimes-life threatening) action in the face of injustice.

    As a woman of color, an immigrant from Jamaica, and one committed to teasing out the meaning of right action in the face of climate change, a summit on the intersection of “Women” and “Climate” seemed somewhat obvious at first blush. Of course this conversation should happen and I would attend. Of course I would learn about the individual and community stories others would share. Of course I would be deeply moved as women (and a handful of men) convened from 37 countries, some traveling more than 40 hours to participate.

    Yet, still there was so much that was unexpected. It was transformative. Serendipitous. Surprising. Enlivening.

    Here are three of my most unexpected moments of awakening:

     

    The needed bridge between “Women” and “Environment.”

    It was important for these two communities of activists, advocates, and funders to convene and understand each others’ stories and struggles with the status quo.

    Tulika Srivastava, of the South Asia Women's Fund; Suryamani Baghat, of the Jharkhand Save the Forests Movement; Hira, an Indonesian-language interpreter; and Mardiana Deren, of the Indigenous Peoples' Alliance of the Archipelago, in Bali.

    Tulika Srivastava, of the South Asia Women’s Fund; Suryamani Baghat, of the Jharkhand Save the Forests Movement; Hira, an Indonesian-language interpreter; and Mardiana Deren, of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago, in Bali.

    Of course, the lines between the concepts of women’s rights and environment are often quite blurry. To realize her rights as a woman, explained one attendee, she absolutely needed access to the forest, now threatened by deforestation. There is her right to food, water, and livelihood, as well as the means to access her spiritual and cultural ground. Earth is her mother. Yet often, women’s vulnerability is discussed as a solely political and sociological matter.

    The violence women experience—which we expect to increase thanks to climate-related heat—is often divorced from the environmental context in which it takes place. This environment is under increasing pressure, which will also deepen the already deep stresses on women’s access to sound livelihoods.

    How in the face of this do we create women leaders and facilitate further empowerment?

    There was, indeed, a gulf in understanding of the problems and possible solutions between these two funding and activist communities—one that needed bridging in order to address this fundamental question adequately. Whichever context we brought to the table, by the end, we agreed on principles we all use to inform our work and which will guide us going forward: trust, community, listening, and authenticity.

     

    “I haven’t heard that sound in years.”

    One afternoon a small group of us came upon a very striking bridge on the Green School campus. As we crossed the rambunctious river one of us from east Africa remarked, “I haven’t heard that sound in years.”

    This amazing bridge at the Green School spans an ice-blue river.

    This amazing bridge at the Green School spans an ice-blue river.

    The rivers have all dried up in her community and the familiar sound of water tripping over rocks is now foreign to her.

    I’ve read about, spoken of, and witnessed many instances of climate “surprises.” But I was jarred by the thought that the sound of water moving through a stream—this iconic aural representation of peace—no longer exists across vast regions of a continent. And, perhaps this is just the first of many generations of young women who will not know the sound of peace.

     

    Smile, sing, laugh. 

    I’ve spent much of my career thus far pondering the right mix of mundane to novel methods for adapting to climate change. Resilience is the key word, and perhaps if we tweak x, scenario plan y, and adaptively manage z, we’ll get it just right—at least just enough. Yet, I was completely unaware (at a gut level) of core ingredients. Indeed, after days in the embrace of the Green School campus it became clear that perhaps a smile and a song are the two greatest indicators of resilience.

    I spent a few short days at the Summit on Women & Climate with one of the most joy-filled women I’ve ever known. Ursula Rakova, who grew up on Papua New Guinea’s Carteret Islands, is in the process of moving her entire community from their ancestral home to a new, host community on the mainland because their island is disappearing beneath rising seas. She is attempting to lead her people, some of the world’s first to be recognized as “climate refugees,” to a new village and new livelihoods with courage and dignity.

    Despite her odd and unjust predicament, Ursula smiled, laughed, and danced with the utmost sincerity and ebullience. In those moments, it occurred to me that, more than policy and planning, ultimately the community we build with joy and laughter may say much more about who survives and thrives with the coming change.

    To Ursula Rakova, and the other remarkable women at the 2014 Women & Climate Summit—I am awakened and forever grateful.

    View and Post Comments »

    Share this page

      Voices from Nepal: Promoting Women’s Climate Leadership

      Aug 3, 2014 | One Comment

      When nature is out of balance, everything Nepali women need to survive is at risk. Sadhana Shrestha, executive director of Tewa in Nepal, tells how this women’s fund is addressing this issue and supporting women in the face of climate change.

      Read more

      Share this page

        Inside Chile’s “Patagonia Sin Represas” movement

        Jul 28, 2014 | No Comments

        Chilean environmentalists celebrate the country’s biggest environmental victory: “We always tried to maintain a positive ethical campaign that really showed alternatives. We didn’t say ‘no to dams.’ We said, ‘We want a Patagonia without dams.’ Read our Q&A with grantee in Chile, Peter Hartmann.

        Read more

        Share this page

          Defeating HidroAysén – Chile’s biggest environmental victory ever

          Jul 28, 2014 | No Comments

          This is the story of how a grassroots movement defeated the $8 billion HidroAysén dam project, and led to Chile’s biggest ever environmental win. Terry Odendahl writes about this incredible victory and Global Greengrants role.

          Read more

          Share this page

            Meet Marina Rikhvanova, Global Greengrants’ Russia coordinator and founder of Baikal Environmental Wave

            Jul 23, 2014 | No Comments

            Marina Rikhvanova grew up visiting the shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. Reaching a depth of nearly 5,400 feet, the lake holds more water than all of the United States’ Great Lakes combined.… Read more

            Share this page

              4 Takeaways On How Women Are Using Grassroots Environmental Grants

              Jul 22, 2014 | One Comment

              In preparing for this Summit, Allison Davis, Global Greengrants’ Deputy Director of Programs, has learned a great deal about how our grants support women’s groups and interests all over the world. Here are four themes that have risen to the top.

              Read more

              Share this page

                Women & Climate: 9 Great Articles & Resources

                Jul 21, 2014 | No Comments

                Use these articles and resources to understand the link between gender equality and climate change, and the importance of supporting grassroots women’s voices and leadership.

                Read more

                Share this page

                  Mama Aleta: one woman’s struggle to save Indonesia’s forests from mining

                  Jul 20, 2014 | One Comment

                  The riches hidden within Timor Island’s lush rainforests are extraordinary and problematic. Timor’s indigenous people consider the soil, water, stone, and trees their own bodies. But these fertile mountains are also rich in oil, gas, gold, and marble. This is the story of one woman leading a fight to save her people’s sacred lands.

                  Read more

                  Share this page

                    Sowing the seeds of grassroots change in Mexico

                    Jun 24, 2014 | No Comments

                    Why should environmental and women’s rights funders join forces to support grassroots change? Artemisa Castro Félix of the Fund for Solidarity in Action (FASOL) explains.

                    Read more

                    Share this page

                      The International Network of Women’s Funds takes on climate change

                      Jun 24, 2014 | No Comments

                      “The International Network of Women’s Funds sees a number of relevant intersections with climate issues that could potentially lead to very strategic funding initiatives.” Read more from INWF’s Executive Director, Emelienne de Léon.

                      Read more