What WEN Wants

WEN

Across the globe, women are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change than men. They constitute the majority of the world’s poor, rely more heavily on threatened natural resources for their livelihoods, and often face multitudinous socio-economic and political barriers that limit their capacity to cope. From issues such as food security and agricultural practices to reproductive health and the cosmetics industry, the livelihoods and health of women are closely entangled with the health of our planet. As such, a gender-sensitive response to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation is essential.

Historically, women have the least responsibility for causing greenhouse gas emissions. Today they are underrepresented in climate policymaking, typically being the first affected by environmental challenges but the last to be consulted. One of the key challenges for women in the green movement today is therefore to make themselves heard. Women’s Environment Network (WEN) wants to see women included at all levels of policymaking, from the boardroom to the grassroots level, educating and empowering women at the local level to make positive decisions both for themselves and the environment.

We live in a world in which both nature and women are devalued as commodities to exploit. WEN wants to highlight the intersectionality of gender, ethnicity and the environment in order to induce policymakers to address the oppression of women and girls and of the planet together as part of the same problem. We want participatory grassroots organisations here in the UK to inform, educate, and empower women of all backgrounds to become agents of change in their families, communities and in society. We want women to be inspired to make environmentally-informed choices and to participate equally in a more environmentally sustainable future.

We want women to play a central role in the global food sovereignty movement, for example by participating in small-scale food-growing projects in order to tackle food security and dietary health on a local level, reconnect with nature in urban environments and build a stronger sense of cross-cultural community. We want the sanitary protection industry to be more innovative and catch up with the needs of menstruating women in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. We want women to be able to make well-informed decisions about the cosmetic products they use in their homes and on their bodies.

Women across the globe are a major untapped reserve when it comes to coping with contemporary environmental crises and innovating responses. WEN’s vision is of an environmentally sustainable world in which we have achieved gender equality. This can be achieved through participatory approaches which harness the potential of women and place them at the forefront of the fight for our planet. WEN fosters such a participatory approach within its own structure and, through cooperation with groups such as the Black Environmental Network, aims to create a space for marginalised groups of society to participate in the environmental movement.

Women will only get what they want in the environmental movement if they are given a platform for their voices to be heard. This was the founding mission of Women’s Environmental Network in 1988 and continues to be central to our purpose into the twenty-first century.

An honest journey

An early piece of advice we were given was: if we want to scale the What Women Want 2.0 campaign in the future by making it available to others, then forget tools and templates, the most valuable thing we can do is capture our journey.

Our dream scenario, like many campaigners, was that an organisation might spot the value and potential of our campaign early on and help us by financially underpinning the whole campaign, thereby ensuring a much smoother ride. (I should point out that we have a fantastic first partner in vInspired, whose money and value in kind has given us the best possible start).

The reality of course is that money is tight for everyone and we need to prove the value first. We knew there would be false starts, hairpin bends and even speed restrictions. We also knew that we might feel these more keenly because we are volunteers that need to also keep working elsewhere and because we are a collaboration principally between two organisations, Long Run Works and We Are Women. We are united by our shared purpose but what we need, want and can give, varies – and not just between the two organisations but as individuals and over time.