November 23rd 2012
Women's Earth Alliance is Empowering Women to Save the Planet
Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) emerged from a meeting in Mexico City where 30 women leaders from 26 countries gathered to create solutions to a common concern: the lack of support available to women working on the front lines of social and environmental challenges. Launching the group in 2006, after working internationally for organizations like Care and the Natural Capital Institute, WEA’s Founder and Co-Director Melinda Kramer is leading an organization that aims to strengthen women’s leadership, help secure women’s rights, and meaningfully address some of the biggest environmental challenges facing our world today. Melinda was kind enough to answer a few questions about how it all got started and what the future may hold for WEA.
1. What moved you to start this organization?
Environmental issues are women’s issues. The pollution of our water and the poisoning of our lands can disproportionately impact women. I was inspired to form WEA to respond to environmental threats by collaborating with women to generate solutions. Because women suffer most intensively from contaminated water, they are most invested in collaborating on technological solutions to ensure clean water. In many places in the world, women are the lead food producers for their families, so they have some of best ideas about how to foster sustainable agriculture. As their families’ primary caregivers, women regularly take to the frontlines of campaigns to stop pollution that threatens the health of their loved ones and communities.
2. Why WOMEN'S Earth Alliance and not just Earth Alliance? What role do you think women play in particular in the conservation movement?
Around the world, courageous women and men equally invest their time and energy into environmental protection and sustainability. At the same time, we see that across the world, women are often positioned as the caretakers of future generations and resource stewards for the community. So it can be said that when women thrive, communities thrive. When the women leaders who are so often at the helm of resource management and community care can experience full empowerment for environmental protection, everyone benefits.
3. What are your short-term and long-term goals for WEA?
In the short term, we are continuing to grow our work on three continents – Africa, Asia, and North America – building partnerships and coordinating resources in strategic and effective ways.
In the long-term, we want to see a network of healthy communities, moving together towards the common goal of a thriving earth. We want to see women in positions of leadership, influencing both global and local environmental decision-making processes. We want to see a healthy, protected global ecosystem, where abundance and sustainability are equally available to all people. And we want to have a great time while we’re doing it!
4. What are some of WEA's most notable achievements?
When you have six years behind you, you can really see the full cycles of the programs. For example, we’re very proud that this year, East African women graduates of the Global Women’s Water Initiative training programs helped 15,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa access clean, safe water.
I feel that we designed a model that is really getting at the root of issues like climate change, poverty and economic development by offering trainings to improve communities' health, self-reliance, and resilience. After seeing the impacts on the ground, we really felt that our strategy was working. We knew that by investing in women, they would invest in their communities and in future generations and that is really what we have seen.
5. How do you stay motivated?
When I’m working in the field, I never need sleep because between every yawn or slow moment is an opportunity for 50+ women to break out into jubilant song and dance. A typical day at a WEA training is continual celebration, as our diverse group of women leaders witness our shared vision for our communities. Singing and dancing doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. In fact, I’ve learned that it is inside the struggle that I must remember to laugh, give thanks and sing out. My colleagues taught me that it really is the only way to get the work done and have the energy to keep going.
Check out womensearthalliance.org for more information about WEA, their Through Our Weaving the Worlds program and events that highlight their work and bring community together to explore solutions locally and globally.