International Women’s Day is the day to celebrate the many achievements made by women – by fighting against inequality. It is a day to raise awareness and take action for equality. Any basic right we, as women, enjoy today is because of other women who stood their ground and fought for us. Let us celebrate them by learning about some wonderful women who have fought and are still fighting today to make our Earth a better place.
Wangari Maathai is known for her activism to improve the environment and empowerment. She not only broke gender barriers in education and employment, but also overcame seemingly insurmountable political oppression in her home country – Kenya. There was a lot of violence in Kenya due to its lack of resources and corrupt governing officials. This ongoing cycle of poverty compelled Maathai to take action. She proposed the idea of planting trees to bind the soil, store rainwater, provide food and firewood, and receive a small monetary token to people for their work. In 1977 she founded the Green Belt Movement for this very purpose. The movement primarily focused on marginalized groups, such as women, the disabled, and the elderly, as disempowerment was embedded deepest in these communities.
In 1989, Maathai and her supporters staged demonstrations to oppose the destruction of one of Uhuru Park, the biggest public recreational spots in the capital of Nairobi. Maathai was also responsible for changing the face of Kenyan politics. Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement soon became a symbol of freedom and peace as it challenged the oppressive Kenyan regime, unyielding amidst all the blood and violence. She actively protested against
unjust government projects and demanded the release of political prisoners. Throughout her journey as an activist, she was insulted and even threatened with her life. Maathai not only advocated for the environment during her time, but also promoted women’s rights, democracy, and civil liberties. Her journey is filled with inspiration for each and every one of us.
Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist and a trailblazer food rights activist. She believes food sovereignty is sovereignty over our lives, livelihood and health. She was an active volunteer in the Chipko Movement in India. According to the Indian Express ‘The Chipko movement was a non-violent agitation in 1973 that was aimed at protection and conservation of trees, but, perhaps, it is best remembered for the collective mobilization of women for the cause of
preserving forests, which also brought about a change in attitude regarding their own status in society.’ Shiva also founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy (RFSTN), an organization devoted to developing sustainable methods of agriculture, in 1982. By championing greater food sovereignty, sustainability and seed rights for local farmers around the world, Shiva is determined to remind us that “food and culture are the currency of life”; – and that you can’t have one without the other. She anticipated the danger of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which allowed for the patenting of life forms and would therefore make it possible for corporations to essentially require farmers to continue to purchase their seeds after local varieties had been eliminated. She initiated a movement called Navdanya since 1991 where more than 150 community seed banks have been preserved. Shiva has been championing
seed saving and seed freedom for decades.
She is vehemently against engineering, patenting, and transforming seeds into costly packets of intellectual property. She accuses multinational corporations such as Monsanto, World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the United States government, and even philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for attempting to impose “food totalitarianism” on the world. The rapidly growing nutritional demands has had a growing ecological impact on climate change. While many scientists are convinced that those demands can only be met with help from the advanced tools of plant genetics, Shiva is a staunch believer that any seed bred in a laboratory as an abomination. Today, she continues to strive against agricultural biotechnology and obtain food sovereignty.
Becoming an environmentalist is not a choice anymore. It is the only way of life if we are to have even the remotest glimmer of hope for the future. There are so many wonderful women who are at the pinnacle of creating a positive and nurturing society for our children to grow up in. It is our duty as citizens and parents to understand what they stand for and why it is important to address those issues.
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Blog Image Credit: Kritika Rao
Written By Kritika Rao