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How do feminism, care practices and climate activism connect?: A conversation with young climate justice feminist activists

This is a conversation between Ledys Sanjuan and Majandra Rodriguez, facilitated by Maria Alejandra Escalante. The audio and original version in Spanish will be released soon!

Translation by: Maria Alejandra Escalante
Edits by: Ani Hao, Media Consultant at FRIDA
Illustrations by: Perrin Ireland

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Majandra is based in Lima, Peru where she co-coordinates the national youth network TierrActiva Peru and is involved in feminist and climate/environmentalist activism in different spaces. Ledys is based in Bogotá, Colombia, and currently works as Senior Advocacy Officer for FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund. Maria Alejandra is a Colombian queer and young feminist activist, part of the youth collective TierrActiva Colombia, interested in deepening the conversation around intersectionality and is the Climate Justice Consultant at FRIDA. The three of us have been involved in the creation, curation, and coordination of the Young Feminist for Climate Justice Storytelling Project. This conversation reflects upon the themes of this project, and intersectional, eco-feminist, and young feminist organizing, particularly in Latin America.

Maria Alejandra (M): Let us start from the beginning. What is the story of this project and what brought us to think about self and collective care for activists?

Ledys (L): The need to speak about care is important because it is a missing or is weak conversation in the climate justice movement, and something that young feminists are practicing. We have a need of centering self and collective care for the movementto talk about burnout, fatigue, how activists are working too much, which does not let us move forward as a movement. This perspective comes from personal experiences of burnout and normalizing it as a semi-permanent state. There was a moment in which I was exhausted for a long time. It was hard to heal and come back to life, to want to get involved in activism once again. I learned in the process and met many women who were going through the same thing. We realized how important it is to talk about care, and to stop, pause, spend time with families, and care for our bodies.

Majandra (Ma): I became involved in climate activism when I was 19 years old. 2009 was an important year in Peru, marked by a series of protests and violent confrontations between indigenous communities and the police/central government in the northern amazonian region over the sellout and appropriation of ancestral indigenous territories. It was shocking to witness this violence, particularly of indigenous women crying for their husbands, children, and dead or wounded peers. Also, as a young woman in Peru, a place with some of the highest rates of femicides in Latin America, I have come to identify and been identified as a woman in a sexist society. These struggles and contexts are not isolated; I am not a woman one day and an environmentalist activist the other. These are all parts of our identities. It was easier for me to become active in environmental struggles than to recognize myself as a feminist, because I rejected my perceived identity as a woman for years. It was painful to engage with issues of gender. It was not until a few years ago that I began truly processing how feminism and gender oppression can be a part of my political struggle.

M: I see the Young Feminists for Climate Justice Storytelling Project as a platform to make our experiences visible, and to show us that we are not alone in our resistance. This means that we have tried to create a space for different perspectives about feminism in a context of environmental crisis. Let us reflect on why these spaces are necessary for young and diverse feminists.

Interstitials_hands_01L: Through this project, we are recovering what young feminists, especially in the Global South, who work on environmental issues are doing: re-living practices to connect with the earth and our ancestry. This was either not visible or not legitimized as activism. In many spaces in the climate justice movement, largely dominated by men, protests, meetings, lobbying, petitions are things that get prioritized. This project wants to connect the struggle for our territories with these practices of care and healing that all of us as activists should be able to access.

M: It is also a way of re-conceptualizing what activism means. In many ways, activism has been framed by and from a Northern Anglo-Saxon perspective while people who are defending their territories in countries in the Global South may not be perceived of, or perceive themselves, as activists. In some ways, this project is about reconceptualizing how we see ourselves – we are as defenders of life. We chose the theme of self and collective care in the digital and physical space for this edition. This means we are also talking about how technology and its rapid development lends us tools that can be used in our advantage, but often also generates disadvantages. The use of technology is impacting our intersectional movements in so many ways.

L: For young feminists, technology helps us connect beyond borders. It also exposes activists, particularly those defending our territories, to threats, massive surveillance, physical and online harassment. At FRIDA, we have been working hard on building tools and knowledge for young feminists because they are also confronting states and multinational corporations that can use more advanced technology to attack and harass activists. This also has difficult physiological impacts on people who develop traumas and carry a lot of pain. In workshops that we have organized with FRIDA and Mama Cash around this topic, we have talked with activists about how their bodies are doing, if they were in touch with their families. All of this is crucial when we talk about security and wellbeing.

Interstitials_FistsMa: One of the biggest challenges for the Young Feminists for Climate Justice network is our virtual and remote connection. This not only implies lots of logistical difficulties, but also means that English becomes our main language. In my context, this is an obstacle for those who do not have the privilege and opportunity to learn this language. In rural areas, even if you have a smartphone, it is still pretty challenging to connect to an online call, webinar, or social media. Speaking of self-care, virtual spaces and remote organising can also feel isolating, which is why being able to meet, hug, look and listen to each other is so important. However, these physical meetups must be conceptualized beyond the idea of “let’s all fly to this or that conference or event”,which require lots of resources. As a global network, it is important not to forget the local bases and connect to those immediately around us. So the question becomes how to keep building an intersectional movement taking into account the differences and inequalities in social classes, between urban and rural communities.

M: The use of technology also influences how we understand the collective and where the centers of the social movements are located. The last experts report for the UN on climate science has been produced thanks to an increasing improvement of technology that allows us to interpret the causes and effects of climate change, making this environmental crisis ever more clear and palpable. The real question is: how is this science reaching our movements?

Ma: The most active people in our environmental movements are needing and seeking knowledge to understand how this is happening and what we are confronting, and they find this in social media, universities, friends. Personally, this IPCC report has affected me hugely because it lays out clear and harsh information: we have 12 years, until 2030, to cut down our current emissions by 50%….just think about what this really implies. With the current national commitments to lower emissions, we are looking, at least, at a 3°C increase of global temperature. The Paris Agreement seeks to limit the increase to 2°C, with maximum efforts of reaching only 1.5°C. This 0.5°C difference means much more than what was initially calculated by climate science. We are talking about more than 10 million displaced people due to sea level rise, more people driven to extreme poverty because of climate change, and what this means for agricultural production, natural disasters, livelihoods. I’m still processing all of this. Talking to people, many of us ask what can and must we do.

M: Speaking about a potential 3°C warmer world and the impacts of this scenario, it is no surprise that facing the future can bring fear, disillusion, and fatigue and question if we are doing the right thing or enough. How can we stay and strengthen this intersectional movement as activists and feminists, taking into account these feelings? What can re-charge us to continue this work?

L: It is important that people understand that while there is this pressure around climate change, we also need to heal our own relationship to earth, our bodies and beings. I get re-energized through these feminist gatherings, mainly in Latin America, where we can connect our struggles and live that intersectionality. The use of artivism in these spaces is powerful and we could use that better in the climate movement. Within feminist discussions, environmental issues often feel like a specialized topic. How can we use the language of care to make these connections? When there is a group of people around you who practice honesty and love and accept you, you can transcend many of the fragmentations of our activism, like the relationships among feminists. How can we create connections among activists based on respect and love?

Ma: it is important to heal our relations with ourselves, among each other, with earth and our bodies. I believe that understanding the root of the reason of our activism means healthier decisions. Sometimes, that means that we should not go to a protest or a meeting, but rest and be with family and friends. It also means understanding that in order to take care of the people I love, I should continue fighting. That is the balance. The idea is to be able to keep doing this in the long term, not necessarily as a means to an end, but as a process in itself. When we talk about systemic change, we mean that the economic, political, and cultural systems are not working; we must re-center care, love and love for life. This already implies a deep change in oneself, as we are all part of these systems. What keeps me motivated is the community, the collective, compañerxs (peers) who we work alongside as family. This means I am not alone.

M: But is there such a thing like an intersectional movement? And if so, where are we, where is our power and agency, and what do we still need to learn to keep building change?

Interstitials_hands_03

Ma: The movement is increasingly becoming [intersectional]. Maybe the use of the term “intersectionality” is used more widely in a US context. In other contexts, not everyone calls themselves a feminist even when the principles of our work embody those struggles. In Peru, I have been part of spaces that look at the historical memory of the internal armed conflict we went through, and this means we talk about torture, missing bodies, and violence towards Quechua speaking women. We talk about corruption, legislation, government elections, and I have seen trans* peers explaining how that space of memory is also part of their history, as this persecution and discrimination was also transphobic and homophobic. More and more I see examples like these and I see a generational change involved here. When we see the old leftist parties and the more traditional progressive and social struggles, we see that they are sexist and homophobic. Now I see many young people saying that our sexuality and gender are relevant in these discussions, and that if these spaces do not represent us, then we seek to change them or we create new spaces. It is a fight against the mainstream in our movements and the conservative spaces with power, history, and tradition.

L: It is also important to recognize other spaces of struggle that are not seen as such, like our own minds. Or for example, many of us have been socialized as women, and we have troubles legitimizing our activism—sometimes this begins with a voice within ourselves, and sometimes it is the echo of our society. This is what intersectionality is about here: connecting our bodies to what is happening to our earth, and learn that we cannot fight against each other or without the other. When we talk about our bodies being made into feminized or racialized spaces, we start seeing the power dynamics within the system. This project aims to let us see that we, young feminists, are not just trying to stop climate change or reach an enormous goal, but we are saying what impacts us, and we are offering practices as well as stories of fatigue and healing. We should not feel as if we needed to change everything by ourselves alone, and yet, we should give each other the space to try new strategies.

Vol 2. Contando Nuestras Historias: de Feministas Jóvenes por la Justicia Climática. Buscamos a nuestrx ilustradorx!

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Hola feministas jóvenes!

Este año, algunxs de nosotrxs dentro de la Red de Jóvenes Feministas por la Justicia Climática quisiéramos recopilar una segunda edición del proyecto Contando nuestras historias: feministas jóvenes por la justicia climática, una hermosa y poderosa colaboración escrita y visual, con historias impactantes y arte de jóvenes feministas que trabajan por la justicia climática y la justicia de género alrededor del mundo.

Estamos buscando unx ilustradorx que pueda trabajar con nosotrxs durante los próximos meses de este año en la creación del proyecto Contando Nuestras Historias, con preferencia por unx joven feminista de América Latina y el Caribe, Europa del Este, Asia central, Asia Pacífico, Este Asiático, el continente Africano. Si te apasiona trabajar por la justicia de género y la justicia climática, y si estás buscando la oportunidad para compartir tu arte con un público más amplio y colaborar con poderosxs feministas jóvenes, ¡cuéntanos de ti!

Si estás interesado-a en postular, envíanos un ejemplo de cómo ilustrarías el proyecto Contando nuestras historias: feministas jóvenes por la justicia climática a climatejustice@youngfeministfund.org antes del 31 de Mayo, 2018.

La persona deberá:

  • trabajar en el diseño visual y artístico del proyecto Contando nuestras historias: feministas jóvenes por la justicia climática, ilustrando las historias recopiladas;
  • colaborar en el diseño de la primera convocatoria de historias que se abre en Junio de 2018;
  • tener disponibilidad flexible de Junio a Diciembre de 2018, con un promedio de 15-20 horas de trabajo al mes.

FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund facilitará el pago para lx ilustradorx y su trabajo se mostrará en línea a través de nuestras redes sociales y la de nuestro aliadxs, en las próximas negociaciones climáticas en Polonia a finales del año, y en otros espacios del movimiento climático y feminista.

¡Esperamos ver tu arte creativo y hermoso, y colaborar en este proyecto juntxs!

2nd Vol. of the Storytelling Project: looking for our feminist illustrator!

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Hello young feminists!

This year, some of us within the Young Feminist for Climate Justice Network would like to compile a second edition of the Young Feminist Climate Justice Storytelling Project, a beautiful and powerful written and visual collaboration, with impactful stories and artwork from young feminists working on climate and gender justice all around the world.

We are looking for an illustrator who can work with us through the coming months in setting up the Storytelling Project this year, with preference for a young feminist from the Global South. If you are passionate for gender and climate justice, and if you are looking for an opportunity to share your art with a larger audience and collaborate with very powerful young feminists, please let us know!

If you are interested in applying, please send us an example of how you would illustrate the Climate Justice Storytelling Project to climatejustice@youngfeministfund.org by May 31st, 2018.

The illustrator would:

  • work on the visual and artistic design of the Climate Justice Storytelling Project, illustrating the collected stories;
  • collaborate in the design of the first call out for stories which opens June, 2018;
  • have flexible availability from June to December, 2018, with an average of 15-20 working hours a month.

FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund will facilitate the payment for the illustrator and your work will be shown online through our social media and our partner’s, in the upcoming climate negotiations in Poland by the end of the year, and in other climate and feminist justice spaces.

We look forward to seeing your creative and beautiful art, and collaborating in this project together!

 

Young Feminists for Climate Justice Go to Bonn!

Young feminists in the Global South are organizing from their territories and contexts; defending water, forests, livelihoods and communities, and offering and building alternative models of sustainability. Young feminists are taking meaningful climate action, while governments stall in their implementation of measures agreed in Paris two years ago to stem the climate crisis. Yet, young feminist voices lack visibility in many environmental movements, and while they have a lot to share, platforms for them to do so are scarce.

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This year, FRIDA the Young Feminist Fund and the Young Feminists for Climate Justice network are launching a storytelling project showcasing the voices of young feminists in the Global South organising in the climate and environmental justice movements. We have collected over 30 stories, art pieces and poems by young women and trans* youth resisting corporations encroaching their territories, building alternatives in their own neighbourhoods and towns, and defending their water, land and territories. From the Pacific through Africa to Latin America, young feminists in the Global South are confronting the worst consequences of climate change -from forced migration and increased precarity due to more frequent and severe natural disasters, to slow-onset climate impacts on agriculture and water- with bold energy and hope.

Their experiences and stories will be shared at this year’s climate Conference of Youth (COY 13) taking place in Bonn on Friday, November 3rd. Afterwards we will have them displayed here in this platform.

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Recolectando nuestras Historias

Hemos recibido más de 100 postulaciones de personas interesadas en ser Recolectoras de Historias para este proyecto. ¡Estamos muy agradecidas!

Esto dice mucho del interés y la necesidad de contar nuestras historias como mujeres jóvenes y feministas jóvenes en movimientos climáticos y ambientales en diversas regiones.

¡Anunciaremos los resultados antes de la quincena de octubre!

Aquí un recordatorio sobre los lineamientos que hemos propuesto para las Recolectoras de Historias:

Expectativas de lxs recolectoras de historias:

  • Cada unx deberá poder contactar a diversxs feministas jóvenes y mujeres jóvenes que tengan un rol activo en los movimientos ambientales o climáticos en sus regiones, con un énfasis en jóvenes indígenas, rurales, LBTIQ, y otras intersecciones con identidades marginalizadas.
  • Cada unx hablará con 3 a 5 individuos a más, para aprender más sobre sus experiencias y perspectivas, mediante un diálogo mutuo y respetuoso.  La conversación deberá honrar los lineamientos éticos, y estar guiada por los formatos de historias, ambos descritos aquí.
  • Participar activamente en todas las reuniones virtuales del proyecto de ahora hasta diciembre, al menos que se coordine lo contrario.
  • Editar entre 3-5 historias, de 300-800 palabras cada una.

Lineamientos éticos:

  • Obtener el consentimiento libre e informado de todas las personas que comparten su historia. Esto incluye: explicar los objetivos y el proceso del proyecto, y tener una breve conversación para clarificar los posibles riesgos y beneficios de participar. Lxs participantes podrán retirarse del proyecto en cualquier momento, y podrán negarse a responder a determinadas preguntas. Su claro consentimiento para participar deberá ser obtenido verbalmente o por escrito.
  • Respetar y defender el deseo de mantenerse en el anonimato. Todxs lxs participantes deberán ser preguntadxs explícitamente si desean participar de manera anónima o no, y de qué manera desean que se comparta su nombre o identidad. Lxs recolectores de historias deberán proteger la información confidencial, e informar a lxs participantes cómo se protegerá su confidencialidad.
  • No hacer daño. Nuestra primera responsabilidad es con las mujeres jóvenes y lxs feministas jóvenes que eligen compartir sus historias. Sus derechos, intereses, seguridad y sensibilidades deben ser respetados.

Recursos disponibles para recolectorxs de historias:

  • FRIDA va a facilitar un estipendio pequeño para que lxs recolectorxs de historias puedan llevar a cabo las entrevistas y llegar a las personas cuyas historias deben ser contadas. Cada recolector/a de historias administrará su estipendio de acuerdo a sus necesidades. Algunos usos sugeridos: crédito telefónico o para Skype, transporte y gastos para visitar una comunidad en persona, invitarle un café o un té a alguien para conversar, etc.
  • Si estás buscando por dónde empezar, las redes sociales de FRIDA y el grupo de Young Feminists for Climate Justice en Facebook son redes de feministas y activistas de varias regiones.

 

¿Cuál es la fecha límite para la recolección de historias?

Recolectorxs de historias deben enviar sus historias antes del viernes 20 de octubre, 2017. Publicaremos y presentaremos esta colección de historias en la COY 13 (2-4 noviembre, 2017) y la COP 23 (6-17 noviembre, 2017).

 

Si no llegaste a postular para ser Recolectora de Historias, ¡no te preocupes! Aún puedes participar del proyecto. La plataforma para enviar historias directamente por el formato virtual permanecerá abierta hasta fin de año.

Collecting our Stories

We are incredibly grateful to have received over 100 applications from young activists interested in being Story Collectors for this project!

This speaks volumes to the interest and need to tell our stories as young women and young feminists in climate and environmental movements across regions.

We will announce the results in the next few days!

Here is a reminder of the guidelines we’ve proposed for Story Collectors:

Expectations of story collectors:

  • Each story collector is motivated and able to reach out to diverse young feminists and young women who are active in the climate or environmental justice movements in their regions, with an emphasis on indigenous, rural, LBTIQ youth, and other intersections with marginalized identities.
  • Each story collector talks to 3 to 5 individuals or more, to learn more about their experiences and perspectives, engaging in respectful, mutual dialogue. The conversation is guided by the story formats, and honors the ethical guidelines, both detailed below.
  • Each story collector participates actively in all online project meetings from now until December, unless an alternative arrangement is coordinated.
  • Each story collector edits 3-5 stories, between 300-800 words each.

Ethical guidelines:

  • To obtain the free and informed consent of those whose stories are shared. Obtaining consent includes: explaining the objectives and process of the project, and engaging in a brief conversation to clarify the potential risks and benefits of participating. It shall be made clear to participants that they are free to withdraw from the project at any time, and that they may decline to respond to any questions. Their consent to participate should be obtained in clear written or verbal form.
  • To respect and defend anonymity, if desired by participants. All participants shall be explicitly asked if they wish to be anonymous or not, and in what way they wish their name or identity to be shared. Story collectors must protect confidential information, and inform participants how their confidentiality will be protected.
  • Do no harm. Our first responsibility is to the young feminists and young women who are choosing to share their stories. Their rights, interests, safety, and sensitivities must be respected.

Story formats:

These formats are suggestions for how story collectors can guide their conversations. As a story collector, you may choose one of these; combine them; ask the person you are talking to for a preferred format; or (co)create a format that you feel best transmits their lived experience and perspective.

  • Anecdote: Tell us about an experience you had that shows aspects of what being a young woman or young feminist in climate or environmental advocacy is for you.
  • Story of your path: Share how you chose to become involved in feminist and/or environmental justice activism, what your path has been, challenges you’ve encountered and how you’ve faced them.
  • Perspective: What is climate and/or environmental justice to you? How does it connect with feminism? As a young woman and/or young feminist, what is your vision for the future?
  • Demands: What are the objectives of your activism? What are your concrete demands? What are your priorities, as a young feminist/young woman for climate/environmental justice? What do you think is needed for movement building at the intersections of feminism and the environment?
  • Creativity: Share poetry, non-narrative writing, visual art or other creative expressions based on your experiences and perspectives.

Resources available for story collectors:

  • We will provide a basic stipend to story collectors to make sure you are able to carry out interviews and reach out to those whose story needs to be told. Each story collector will administer their stipend according to their needs. Some suggested uses: phone or Skype credit, transportation and food costs to visit a community in person, buying someone coffee or tea to sit with them, etc.
  • If you are looking for where to start, FRIDA social networks and the Young Feminists for Climate Justice Facebook group are great networks of amazing feminists and activists from various regions!

What is the deadline for collecting stories?

Story collectors should submit all stories by Sunday October 22nd, 2017. We will publish and present this collection of stories by COY 13 (2-4th November, 2017) and COP 23 (6-17th November, 2017).

If you missed the deadline for applying to be a Story Collector, don’t worry – you can still participate in the project! The platform for submitting stories directly will remain open until the end of the year, 2017.