Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day One of the Green-Pink Regional Training Conference Inspires Activism

Last Friday, FMF and Ms. interns, along with about 20 feminist and environmental activists from across the Western states, participated in the Green-Pink Regional Leadership Training conference on Reproductive Rights and Health and the Environment, co-sponsored by FMF, the Sierra Club, and Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. The fusion of these three powerful groups resulted in a conference that was both informative and inspirational.

The first day of the conference served as an opportunity for FMF and the Sierra Club to explore the ways in which the issues of environmental responsibility and women's empowerment are inter-related, through info sessions as well as fun activities. In particular, the Global Reproductive Health and the Environment session outlined the connection between women's empowerment and ability to access and afford family planning, and environmental issues as they relate to overconsumption and population growth.

One issue that really sparked our interest was the impact that access to clean water (or lack thereof), has on women. We also learned some startling facts about the fate of women in Afghanistan. 1 in 6 Afghan women will die during childbirth and many more will suffer from obstetric fistula, which is an easily repaired medical condition, and results due to lack of access to medical care and skilled attendance during childbirth.

To give you a glimpse of some more of the shocking statistics and issues we discussed, consider the facts that:

- 200 million women around the world want to access family planning services, don't have them.
- Education is the single most important factor in determining how many children a woman will have.
- In democratic societies around the world, women only comprise 18% of parliamentary seats.

The list of depressing realities went on and on, but by examining these truths and injustices we were able to see that women's empowerment - through education, household bargaining power, political power, equal wages, employment opportunities, equal access to health care and nutrition, ability to access family planning despite financial or sociological barriers, and equal representation under the law - is absolutely crucial to changing the fate of the world!

After hearing about the reality of the problems facing women and the environment, we were all eager to discuss some solutions. The West Coast FMF interns took the stage as we presented our research on the United Nation's Milennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs were agreed upon by 189 nations in 2000 to develop efforts to combat poverty, hunger, discrimination and more. They truly consider issues of gender and the environment in all of their approaches. Unfortunatley, in our research, we discovered that while some progress has been made, more must be done to ensure that the lives of women have dramatically improved by 2015.

Throughout the day we also came across the fact that the U.S., the richest nation in the world, has consistently fallen behind on its promise to commit, at the bare minimum, .7% of its Gross National Income to international family planning funding. We must urge the U.S. to uphold its promises to the women of the world!

Cassie Gardener of the Sierra Club encouraged us to host a Green-Pink Party. This event raises awareness of the inter-relations of women's empowerment and environmental issues while raising $300 to pay for the life-saving surgery for a woman with obstetric fistula.

To conclude the day, Allie McDonald, FMF National Campus Organizer, and Cassie discussed how we can form effective campus organizations to address these issues. This was an opportunity for those who've been involved with campus activism to share helpful advice and ideas, and for those who want to launch a new group to learn the tricks of the trade.

Overall, day one of the conference was an excellent opportunity to discuss important issues with fellow social justice activists. In addition to learning more about these problems, we were inspired to implement solutions on our campuses and communities.

-Danae Garfield, FMF Campus Intern & Hastings College student
Photo: FMF interns Bonarene Wakam and Mary Kwan make their way through the "Barriers to Family Planning" obstacle course.

No comments: