Marching On for Women’s Rights and Climate Justice

Feeling fired up after the Women’s March? Join the Feminist Alert Network to remain involved in the movement—and to keep marching on with us toward equality!


I am a veteran of marches—starting with civil rights in 1960s and anti-Vietnam War protests in the ‘70s. But I have never seen anything like last Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. With my daughters, friends, colleagues and allies, I wore a bright pink “pussyhat” knitted by a dear friend and held up a homemade sign. It read simply: “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”

Back in 1978, I was a part of history when I joined feminists in Washington in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. At the time, our march—with 100,000 protesters—was the biggest women’s march ever. The numbers at Saturday’s protests far exceeded any marches in the history of the United States—and inspired hope for a future that looks grim.

Like the Peoples’ Climate March in New York in 2015, the Women’s Marches around the world called out a multiplicity of issues. My family and friends held signs that said: “Black Lives Matter,” “My Body is not Your Political Battleground,” “Celebrate Diversity,” “Queer Brown Immigrant for Women’s Rights,” and even just “Love.” It was not just Donald Trump we were marching against. It is all that he symbolizes and all he has put forward as his vision for this country. It is homophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia—the list goes on. The D.C. march ended symbolically in front of the White House—a sea of pink hats and signs.

We made it clear that we will resist. Again and again and again.

Unfortunately, threats to women’s rights are not just escalating here in the U.S. I just returned from India, where the oppression against women keeps them out of public spaces. If Indian women “loiter,” walk or bike—or just enjoy being outside in public spaces in cities—they are often harassed or even brutally attacked. The India Women’s Marches were multi-city protests focusing on women’s rights to be safe in public spaces.

The same type of patriarchal, autocratic regime that appears to be rising here already existed in India and many countries— including China, Guatemala, Honduras, Philippines, Russia and Venezuela. Authoritarians have risen to power in those countries over the last decades, and democracy and women’s rights have suffered. It is no coincidence that such regimes have also placed our planet under attack. The degradation of the environment and democracy is intimately connected to the degradation of rights of women. Where women are held down, progress slows or backslides.

I have the great honor of leading the 24-year-old international nonprofit Global Greengrants Fund—one of the farthest reaching environmental and human rights foundations in the world. We believe in the voices of people whose lives are most impacted by environmental harm and social injustice. Every day, our global network of people on the frontlines and donors comes together to support communities to protect their ways of life and our planet—because when local people have a say in the health of their food, water and resources, they are forces for change.

Wherever women are oppressed, they suffer disproportionately from environmental degradation and the increasing threats of climate change. Yet women are generally stewards of the environment and have solutions. As I have said before—and as a sign at the D.C. Women’s March proclaimed—“Women will save the world!”

Consider Cecilia Brito. She and other indigenous Shipibo-Konibo grandmothers in the Peruvian Amazon watched as oil development encroached on their ancestral rainforest and chipped away at the fabric of their communities. In response, they founded the Coordinating Body for Development of Indigenous Women of the Amazon. The group used funds from Global Greengrants to start small gardens that blend organic agriculture with traditional knowledge. Now women are growing crops—which allows them to feed their families, lay claim to their land and generate income without having to leave their community.

Under my tenure, Global Greengrants Fund has moved forward with a special emphasis on supporting women who struggle for environmental and human rights. We have partnered with key international organizations to support women and advance their rights to clean soil, water and resources. In 2014, we released a report on the intersection of climate justice and women’s rights that coaches groups on how to get resources directly to the women who are having the greatest impact in their communities.

Those women exist. They are mobilizing now. We must support their efforts if we want to have a real impact on the immense issues affecting human rights to a clean environment.

Most of us would never have believed that we would have to be marching yet again to protect women’s rights in 2017, and especially not at this scale. But here we are. We made history when we marched not just against Donald Trump, but for women’s and human rights everywhere. Let’s continue to raise our voices and amplify those of the most marginalized people around the planet.

Terry Odendahl, PhD, is President and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund.

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