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Shannon Doyle - Blog Post 1: Calling All Women

Shannon Doyle - Blog Post 1: Calling All Women

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I have been in the Philippines for one month already and time is flying by! I cannot believe how many things I have had the opportunity to be involved in since my arrival, both professionally and personally. For my first blog I am going to discuss a forum that I had the privilege of attending as a representative for CMA.  

The “Asian Women Forum on Climate Justice” was a two-day event held at the University of the Philippines. Those in attendance were mostly from small, grassroots NGOs from provinces such as Mindoro and Mindanao in the Philippines, as well as NGOs from Indonesia, Pakistan, France, and Amsterdam. Most participants were women, however some men were in attendance, as well as members of the LGBT community. The conference focused on the current global climate crisis and its subsequent impact on women. 

It began with a speaker from the IIRE (International Institute for Research and Education) who provided a theoretical basis for the two-day event, advocating for an eco-feminist response to the global climate crisis, or the eco-socialist crisis. Essentially, the conference focused on the role of capitalism in the current environmental and social crises of the world; capitalism is responsible for the destruction of the environment which is the basis for our social habitat. I am going to do the best job I can recapping what was spoken about and what subsequently occurred over the period of two days through an ecofeminist lense:

The current climate crisis encompasses extreme weather phenomenons, such as the super typhoon Haiyan, which had the strongest wind speeds ever recorded for a typhoon, and the rising sea level, which is expected to rise 1.5 to 2 meters by 2100. Millions of people will be significantly impacted by the rising sea levels in the world, and most of these people reside in the Global South. The current dominant form of food production is not sustainable, rather it has resulted in the large scale emission of fossil fuels, changes in the water table, droughts, along with the development and use of hybrid seeds, and pesticides. Corporate land grabbing and unstable food prices are also major issues, especially within the Asia region. This global crisis is not natural. Beginning with the industrial revolution there has been the introduction and domination of the capitalist system, and the exploitation of people and nature by a system that only emphasizes the generation of more profits. This system results in the exploitation of 99% of the world by the remaining 1%. Pharmaceutical companies spend more money advertising than on research, and land, water, air, and fossil fuels have been privatized and can be sold. A system where it is development for the few versus development for all. Even educational systems and universities are funded by capitalist corporations, resulting in the development of science based technologies that are not good for the world. Since these technologies result in profits they are pursed. Moreover, 70% of the world’s disasters occur in Asia, where 70% of the world lives. As a result of the climate crisis, areas in Mindanao that used to be typhoon-free now experience typhoons. In addition, the overwhelming majority of this population is the oppressed and the capitalized; an area where corporations continue to make profits off of the poor and vulnerable. There are endless examples of this throughout Asia and the Philippines. One topical example would be the “no-build zones” in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. 

Women have always been oppressed and faced inequalities, even prior to the introduction of capitalism, however they are particularly vulnerable as a result of the climate crisis. Women in poor communities are the most vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. Women play a large role in agriculture and the production of food, yet their access to land is extremely limited and many women do not possess equal rights to land, particularly in the Asia region. Rather, access to land often exists through male relationships, i.e. fathers, husbands, brothers, or is based on lineage. Access under these auspices denies women livelihood security, as well as political, economic, and social rights. Daily subsistence is threatened, land may be lost, and food scarcity and health issues become prevalent. A shortage of work in agriculture leads to the search for additional work, which often translates to domestic work. The concept of domestic work as an invisible labour, as a free labour, provides a significant savings for the current capitalist system. If domestic labour were considered work and women were not expected to cook, clean, and care for free, then the capitalist system would not be able to run like it currently is. 

Yet, at the same time women are the founders and strength of movements in places such as the U.S.A. and the Himalayas, where women have organized campaigns and fought against pollution and the destruction of the environment. Eco-feminism draws parallels between the destruction of nature and the oppression of women, and believes that all humans have a right to be educated, and that humans should be educated to care for nature. Some translate this into a spiritual connection between women and the environment, emphasizing that the caring role of women is the way humanity should care for nature. Thus, ecofeminsim asserts that in order to win the fight for climate justice we need to overthrow the capitalist system by motivating women, as the majority force, to do so. Our potential is being destroyed by being considered second-class citizens and working “informally”.

The rest of the forum was filled with experiences from women, from their communities, regions, and countries. In addition to this, thematic focus groups were formed to develop sustainable solutions in the movement for climate justice. Women spoke about their experiences with the climate crisis, the impact of it of their own homes and lives, as well as the ways in which they were fighting back. In their fight for climate justice, women have developed educational centers which teach community members and neighbouring communities about farming in sustainable ways. They have responded by rejecting hybrid seeds and GMOs, and have switched from mono-cropping to multi-cropping. Other projects include advocating for the end of violence against women and the education of young women in how to protect themselves. Women are exceptionally vulnerable to sexual abuse and rape in evacuation centers following environmental disasters. This last project was run by young Filipina girls.

All in all, the forum was an incredible empowering experience. I met so many interesting and inspiring women and formed many new friendships. As cliche as it may sound, the people of the Philippines are the most friendly, warm people I have encountered. The social activism and partnerships that I witnessed during this forum, and in the Philippines, has been incredible. Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, I was enlightened in what it meant to be a women. Growing up as a middle-class caucasian female in Canada, I have not had a significant reason to really examine myself (to this extent) through a gender-based lens. This was an amazing opportunity to do so and to join in solidarity for global change.