Why climate and environmental justice storytelling, by young feminists?

Collective power for rights and justice cannot be built unless our diverse feminisms are heard and are at the table. Climate and environmental impacts are drastically re-shaping the world that we live in, and we know that we cannot and must not separate these concerns from our struggles as feminists. As young feminists, as young climate and environmental justice advocates, and as activists based in diverse countries and contexts, we have particular priorities and insights, and face particular brands of sexism, ageism and other multiple and intersecting forms of oppression.

The Young Feminists for Climate Justice Storytelling Project seeks to shine light on these experiences, and amplify these voices: to increase the visibility and diversity of youth perspectives and experiences at the intersections of feminist and climate & environmental justice struggles.

What is the story of this project?

The project was born out of conversations that young women and young feminists had at the Women and Gender Constituency at COP21, where we shared stories of constantly sitting in the minority within the movement, and what that experience was like. Realizing, for example, that we are the only young woman in the room, and very often, also the only young person of color; anecdotes of colleagues silencing us or not taking us seriously; of men making sexual and disrespectful remarks; stories of young feminists facing the worst consequences for their activism whilst simultaneously being erased from the movement

These stories ultimately point to how important it is to have a space to share anecdotes and perspectives, and to realize our experiences are not isolated. In the case of women environmental defenders at the frontlines of mining, logging, large-scale energy projects, climate and environmental impacts, and others, these experiences take on increased levels of danger, violence and risk.

We had more conversations throughout 2016 in various online and offline spaces, convened in connection to the Young Feminists for Climate Justice Facebook group, an independent platform that was launched with support from Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). In 2017 and 2018, FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund, with support from the Sierra Club, is providing resources to facilitate this project. However, the project, and the stories collected, does not belong or is branded by any particular organization, but rather is a platform by and for young activists who identify as young feminists for climate and environmental justice anywhere and everywhere.

Who is a young feminist for climate and environmental justice?

Primarily, anyone who self-identifies as such. However, some basic guidelines are:

Feminism: Recognizing that there are multiple feminisms, FRIDA uses the term ‘feminist’ broadly to refer to individuals working within women’s movements or in other social movements to promote and work towards the safety, equality, justice, rights and dignity of girls, women and other marginalized groups. Based on the understanding that fundamental discrimination occurs within patriarchal systems of domination, feminists are individuals from across the gender spectrum determined to challenge, address and change the root causes of these existing inequalities, rights violations and injustice.

For the storytelling project, there are no gender restrictions, though priority is given to young women and trans* youth.

Youth: We focus on activism led by feminists under 30 years of age, due to the prevalence of age-based discrimination and inequalities, and the key role of youth in activism. However, we accept that this age range includes young people who in many contexts are already social adults (mothers, married, income earners, voters, etc.) and that there is an inadvertent cultural and class bias in conceptions of what makes a “young” activist. We do not wish to reinforce an artificial concept of ‘youth’ as an identity or a universal category, for which age is taken as relative in each context, and 30 years is not a strict limit.

Climate and Environmental Justice: Movements for climate and environmental justice recognize that we cannot separate environmental and social struggles. Thus, they fight for a clean, healthy and safe environment, while addressing the inequalities and discrimination that are heightened by climate change and environmental degradation. Climate and environmental justice is guided and led by the priorities, perspectives and alternatives put forward by those at the frontlines of the climate and environmental crisis – those first and most impacted. It rejects “false solutions” such as risky and unproven techno-fixes, geoengineering, and market solutions that perpetuate the unsustainable industrial model. Finally, climate justice centers the responsibilities of the “developed” world for providing resources and taking action in the face of climate change, due to their historical burden of carbon emissions and industrial development.