November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Even today, at least one in three women worldwide has experienced some form of violence. Friends of the Earth International wants to add its voice to those demanding an end to this pandemic of violence against women.
Where poverty, conflict and disease are common, women face increased risk of violence. Women are expected to take care of a variety of domestic tasks in much of the world. Securing food and water, acquiring fuel, and tending to the sick are responsibilities that fall more often on women than on men. Women bear the brunt of increased poverty. Where fuel, food and water are scarce women must walk further – often in remote, isolated or poorly-lit areas – to access these necessities, increasing their vulnerability to violence. Where conflicts, wars and natural disasters force people to move in large numbers, it is women who are most at risk of opportunistic assault.
Climate change is a threat multiplier – it not only exacerbates the threats that lead to conflict and violence, but contributes to crop failure, flooding and lost livelihoods. Poverty, food and water shortages, increased incidence of infectious diseases, and extreme weather, are all consequences of the climate crisis. As climate change worsens, so will these circumstances, creating the perfect conditions for social and political instability. And again, it is women who will be most at risk.
Apart from being victimized, women worldwide are exercising leadership in fighting climate change and the destruction of nature. From Honduras to Sri Lanka, women are working in difficult circumstances as environmental defenders to protest against dirty energy projects and highlight the impacts of climate change in their communities. In many cases they face government persecution, harassment from corporations or anonymous threats in response to these efforts. Berta Cáceres from Honduras, who has been at the forefront of her community’s resistance to a mega-dam, has been threatened, detained and tried for a crime she did not commit. Many women were violently arrested for their peaceful protests against shale gas (fracking) in Pungeşti, Romania. Meanwhile, the anti-fracking movement in North America is led by women.
Friends of the Earth International is working for a peaceful and socially just world. This world will remain out of our reach as long as the majority of women have to limit their daily movements and choices, and take risks in the most ordinary of settings because of the threat of violence. The likelihood of increased violence against women also demands that world governments take serious action on climate change, work to urgently reduce emissions, mobilize the resources needed to manage the impacts and end poverty. We are calling not only for gender equality, but for justice for all people. We express our solidarity with our sisters around the world who are fighting for sustainable societies and living in dignity and harmony with nature. Indeed, the causes of violence against women, and violence against nature are the same – both come from a system based on domination, exploitation and hierarchy. The time has come to change this system.