Feminist struggle

The feminist struggle is essential to achieving environmental justice. Dismantling and resisting patriarchy is integral to Food Sovereignty, forest management and democracy and the struggle against oppressive economic systems and political institutions. Below are interviews with three people leading the charge toward system change and a more feminist world centered on gender justice.

Forests & Biodiversity – Rita Uwaka, Friends of the Earth Nigeria

How do patriarchy and other forms of oppression stand in the struggle for democracy and forests and biodiversity?

There is a strong link between patriarchy and forest management as the patriarchal system leads the way in the governance of forests and biodiversity and is a key driver of forestland grabbing. The unequal power relations that patriarchy reinforces, promotes false solutions and destructive agricultural models that convert forests into agrocommodities

Patriarchy affects all people. Patriarchy influences decision-making processes in forest management at the expense of forest dependent women who are excluded from decision making spaces, whose voices are not heard, and whose concerns are not addressed in policies and practices that impact forests and biodiversity. Yet, women are the primary forest caregivers and caretakers, while also being the owners of traditional knowledge.

The lack of control in decision making translates into an imbalance of power that marginalizes women, local communities and other already marginalized groups. When considerations for these groups are not adequately captured by stakeholders and when decision making spaces are not representative and inclusive enough, progress can’t be made.

Yet, we manage to bring about change by continuing to speak truth to power and by advocating alongside women for their right to self-determination as well as their right to say yes and to say no. We’re building community leaders through empowerment and resistance against patriarchal structures. 

It is crucial that people understand both the ecological, social and cultural value of forests and what forests bring to their lives and communities. We also need to remain vigilant of the ongoing threat of corporate power and of the tactics companies use, like bribing communities with scholarships and loans, only to seize control of their lands and lock them out of the forests. Being able to make informed choices is key to our struggle for democracy, forests and biodiversity.

Dismantling the influence of patriarchy on decision-making processes in forest management and biodiversity conservation requires resisting, mobilizing and transforming existing power relations/structures, and creating inclusive and participatory decision-making processes that value the contributions of women.

Remember: No Environmental Justice Without Gender Justice. No Gender Justice Without Women!

Food Sovereignty – Joolia Angelica Demigillo, LRC Friends of the Earth Philippines 

What does feminism bring to the construction of Food Sovereignty, and how is democracy defended from there?

Food Sovereignty is an aspiration for an alternative to the current system that is unable to feed its people with nutritious, diverse and ecologically sound food. This is rooted in the fact that food is seen as a political subject that should not be devoid of its social, cultural and economic contexts.

Women across the globe play a very significant role in producing food, in addition to making sure that it is always available in their homes and communities. However, most if not all of these essential roles, are undervalued, unpaid, or left to be the sole responsibilities of women. This further limits women’s opportunities to take up space in tackling political matters. 

It is a daily struggle for women to confront asymmetrical power relations and gender-related oppression – at the personal and structural level. Women choose to be at the front line of many fights for democracy. Everywhere we see the rise of authoritarian governments undermining democracy and preventing the realization of the human right to adequate food. The fight for food sovereignty is a fight for democracy and against oppression. Via Food Sovereignty, women and people of all genders can express their rights, dignity and aspirations.  

We can live the dream of Food Sovereignty when it is left in the hands of the people, women and youth, to determine what, how and where food is produced, distributed and consumed. Therefore, this calls for a radical change in the systems and structures of our society.

The call for Food Sovereignty is feminist because it seeks to transform the system. It is when women and other gender expressions are liberated that we can finally say that we have emancipated our society from discrimination, injustice and oppression.

Feminist economy – Interview to Karina Moraes, World March of Women Brasil

What is the main contribution of Feminist Economy in the struggle and defence of democracy?

Feminist Economy is our objective response to the capitalist, neoliberal, racist and patriarchal system, based on the commodification of life. The hegemonic economic model is based on the separation between productive and reproductive work, which has historically created the idea that the former is linked to the public sphere and the latter to the private sphere. Productive work is understood as work that can be priced and therefore generates profit. Reproductive work, on the other hand, involves domestic and care work, in its various dimensions. This includes housework, caring for children, the sick and the elderly, as well as providing emotional support to family members.

These activities, in turn, are mainly carried out by women, based on the naturalization of a patriarchal social construct. What is seen as “natural” in the female universe, even as an expression of “love”, is in reality invisible, unpaid work that is not understood as a component of the economy. In other words, exploitation. It is what we call women’s double and triple workday. After all, they do productive activities, even if they are at a disadvantage in the labour market, as well as life-sustaining activities.

The transformation proposed by Feminist Economy implies the defence of democracy because the logics of the hegemonic economic model are imposed through violence and dispossession, and are combined with patriarchal and racist oppression. The expression of the free market that dominates the economy today is profoundly anti-democratic. Changing the economy to change women’s lives is a radical act of defence of democracy and freedom.

In this sense, since the founding of the World March of Women, we have argued that it is not enough to include women in the current dominant economic model, in which profit is above life and lives exist to generate that profit. We need to break with this paradigm and put forward a political project in which the sustainability of life is at the centre of the economy. This understanding is central to our formulations of Feminist Economy. It is a conceptual formulation, but one that starts from the practical reality of life, especially when we look at the range of alternative experiences that women have built against the hegemonic model, in the countryside and the city.

Friends of the Earth International stands in solidarity with the Palestinian People and supports their struggle to end the Israeli Occupation. 
As we address the question of democracy, it is impossible to celebrate the 8th of March and International Women’s Rights Day without honoring the past, present, and ongoing resistance of the Palestinian People, women especially, who are its pillars. It is imperative to recognize that addressing environmental issues cannot be separated from acknowledging people’s right to national sovereignty in their own land.

“Palestine is a cause of human rights and climate justice” as Rasha Abu Dayyeh and Abeer Butmeh, members of Pengon – Friends of the Earth Palestine, said in this interview published in December 2023