Tea with Mama Cash transcript: Why climate change is sexist

For links to listen to this episode, click here.

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[theme music]

(00:06)

Zohra: Hello, and welcome to 'Tea with Mama Cash’, because feminist activism works. I’m Zohra, the Executive Director at Mama Cash, and our co-host today is my colleague, Erika Mandreza Sales, Programme Officer for Environmental Justice at Mama Cash.

Erika: Hello Zohra, very happy to be here with you.

Zohra: Erika, do you want to introduce yourself with a little something something about yourself.

Erika: Sure! I’m Erika. It’s still November. I’m very happy about this month, I feel that my birthday celebrations hasn’t ended, so that’s what’s making me happy now!

Zohra: Nice. Eh, for me, I’m enjoying- actually looking forward to the end of the year, because I feel like it’s been a very busy year. So, just got a few weeks left to go, and I’m ready for it.

Today we’re going to be talking about climate change, and why it’s a feminist issue. So thanks for joining us Erika. As those of you who follow us closely may have noticed in October we did a True/False quiz in our Instagram Stories on facts about climate change and gender. We’re going to go through the quiz now, and reveal the answers. So get ready, drumroll.

Erika: Drumroll!

Zohra: First question: ‘The environmental crisis affects men and women differently. True or false?’ 87% of you said True, 13% said False. And the answer is that it is in fact True. There is a difference in how the crisis is affecting women and men, and we’re going to talk a lot more about that, and a little bit about why Mama Cash therefore works on this issue.

Erika: Question number two: ‘Countries in the Global South contribute the most to climate change.’ Responses: 19% said Yes, and 81% said No. The answer is actually False, and in this episode we’re going to discuss more about the disparities and equalities that, em- that are in the issue of climate change.

(2.10)

Zohra: For me these first two questions are a little bit predictable. Did you- do you find that too Erika? Like, were you surprised at the answers?

Erika: Hmmm, not very surprised. It’s quite, it’s quite obvious that -em- countries of the North would have produced more of the emissions than countries of the South, but sometimes we see different narratives about it, that polluters would be coming from the Global South and most of the problems are there.

Zohra: Yeah, and I think for me where this comes up, is this idea of, when people talk about overpopulation in the Global South as being a problem because of its contribution to climate change, and just knowing that actually the major contribution is coming from the Global North, even though there may be increasing populations in different countries in the Global South, and that really isn’t what’s making the big difference. So, for me it’s quite important to know this when we’re then having other kinds of conversations.

Question number three: ‘Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.’ What do you think Erika?

Erika: …true?

Zohra: In fact, 90% of you said True and 10% said False. And the answer is True. This statistic for me complicates things even further, -uhm- related to the question we just talked about around countries, because actually 20 companies in the world contribute about -uhm- a third of the emissions and those companies are based in different countries around the world, they operate in countries where they might be producing the emissions, but they’re headquartered and the decisions- the people behind the decisions that are creating the emissions are actually located potentially in other countries.

(4.00)

So for instance, you might have a country- you might have a company sorry, that’s based in the US and then it’s operating in another country producing all the emissions, and so it might show up as the emissions being in the Global South, because that’s where the company is operating, but actually the folks behind the decisions about what kind of emissions should be produced and how many are somewhere else all together.

Erika: Next question: ’67% of people displaced by climate change are women and girls.’

Zohra: What do we think?

Erika: Many responded Yes, but this is a trick question. It is actually False. More than 67% of people displaced are women, and it’s more than that. It’s actually 80%.

Zohra: So I guess people were a little bit on the right track. 95% of people thought Yes and 5% thought No, and they probably just thought ‘well 67, that’s kind of an odd and very specific number, so it must be true’. But it’s definitely true that it’s a lot more.

Question number five: ‘Women comprise 30% of the agricultural labour force globally.’ What do you think Erika? What would you have thought about this?

Erika: I would think more.

Zohra: More than 30%? Why?

Erika: I’m just thinking about our many partners who are in Africa and a lot of them are really working in agriculture, so and they always share with us that a lot of women are really directly involved in agriculture. So I’m imagining that it would be more than this.

Zohra: Hmm. So 68% of people, those of you who responded, thought ‘yeah it must be about that’, and 32% said No. And the answer is that it is False, it’s actually higher. It’s 43%, so you were right, Erika. I don’t know what I would have thought about that actually. I don’t, I don’t think of it in terms of that, but you’re right there are - I do know lots and lots of women are food producers, yep.

(6.08)

Erika: And this next question also relates to that question: ‘Less than 30% of agricultural land owners are women’. Many responded Yes. Indeed it is true.. that less than 30% are landowners, so it’s just very- you can already the inequality there, and the irony that though many women are directly involved in the agricultural labour force, they don’t enjoy the right to own lands.

Zohra: And I guess that’s related to the final question that we asked, which was: ‘What do we think the average representation of women is in climate negotiating bodies?’ And the question was -uhm- ‘The average is below 40%. True or False?’ And almost 100%, 98% of people responded Yes, they think it’s below 40%, and 2% responded No. And this is another trick question, and this is our colleague Sophia Seawell who made this up, and she just likes to trick everybody. So, it’s both true and not correct. The number is actually below 30%, so it’s even worse. Less than 30% of women are represented in climate negotiating bodies, and these are the bodies that are making the decisions about environmental policy that is going to affect all of us in the future. So quite problematic that it’s such a low number.

So this takes us to why we’re having this talk today about women, the environment, climate change. We’re going to take a quick break, and after that we’re going to get into the bigger picture that these facts illustrate. So stay tuned.

(7:42)

[musical interlude]

(7:46)

Zohra: So Erika, why do you think climate change is a feminist issue?

Erika: I think this is the question we want to answer in this episode. Why do feminists give a damn? Why do feminists care? Feminists care because the climate crisis really calls for social justice, and we care when we see descriptions or discussions on climate change that do not really describe the inequalities and injustices that happen around the world.

(08.16)

As we always hear, as we know, all of us are affected, but many people are more affected. And we also know, or we also read from the news, that many environmental defenders are at risk or being killed. But women, girls and trans environmental defenders face more gender-based violence and that is why feminists think that the climate crisis right now is a feminist issue.

As we discussed earlier as well, it’s very clear that even if all of us are affected, still women and girls are the ones that are more displaced, and women are really not in the negotiation tables and they don’t enjoy the decision making roles. And though many women play a key role in agriculture, they don’t have the right to own their own lands. And these are why we care about this issue, it’s really about a lot of people who are not responsible for the crisis, or are not making the big decisions about why the environment is being destroyed, are the ones who are more affected.

Zohra: Uh-huh. And I was thinking also about the kind of - how to make the links between some of the bigger systemic around, yeah, for example how land ownership or even things like what gets made in a factory and what is available for us to buy, and we talked about this in the consumer episode, and who’s behind, who’s driving some of those decisions and marketing to us and then who benefits from that and who doesn’t. And the real drive towards profit-making, and making some people rich off the back of some decisions that are really problematic, and are destroying the planet. I mean, that’s the short version of it - and because feminists are, you made a really interesting point when we were prepping for this episode, are concerned with power.

(10.21)

That’s kind of the central point of what we’re doing, and this is what this is about. Who has the power to make the decisions, who has the power to shape the world in the ways that they want and who does that affect positively and negatively. And we can look at things like capitalism, or kinda things that seem really big in our minds, and then we can then look at facts like the 100 companies or the 20 companies that are making the major decisions about how these whole systems work.

Erika: When we look at the issue of climate change and environmental degradation, those- when people decide that we want something for profit, or we want something for economic growth, they also decide about those people who are going to be not valued or those who are going to be - I also learned this from our partners - who are going to be sacrificed. So it’s not -it’s not a coincidence that some countries are more affected than others because ‘it’s OK, let’s not think about them’ or within countries, some areas are more polluted because ‘it’s alright to do that’, or if someone’s in the way of progress and development ‘it’s OK if we displace indigenous peoples, because they’re in the way anyway of development.

Zohra: Mhm, yeah. I was thinking about that- when you were just talking about - and that’s an interesting word choice to use the word sacrificed, right? And whose interests, whose dreams, whose lives matter and whose don’t in some of these big decisions.

(12.04)

And this idea that there’s just a few people really, it is a small number of people who are making decisions that affect whole systems. And I think that’s another reason why it matters for feminists is we need systemic change, we need -uhm- we’re passed kind of making micro changes, we actually need a full systems overhaul, and that’s the core of what feminists are after too, is kind of deep rooted structural change. I do think it’s interesting to think about how feminist movements are aligned with, for example, indigenous peoples’ movements that have been resisting the kinds of projects, that are creating the problems that we are now confronted with, for centuries, right? And their resistance has -uhm- cost them everything. They’ve put their lives on the line, always, around defending their territories, defending their livelihoods, defending their ways of being and living and moving in the world, and how dismissive we’ve been, collectively as you know, as humanity - not about individuals of us but collectively - around some of that. Not taking that seriously, not appreciating it and not recognising the wisdom in other ways of relating to our planet. And we’re trying now to shift some of that, -uhm- and that’s great, but I just -yeah, I find it - I don’t know what the word is, it’s like …how to get through to those few number of people when, I dunno, they seem so disinterested and how can feminists get through to them, and I’m just wondering can there be more alliance-building be done between these indigenous movements that have been doing this forever, and feminist movements who have been getting more and more on top of environmental justice issues, responding to the climate crisis and things like this. How can we build bridges there and build alliances across our different movements? What do you think about that?

(14.08)

Erika: I’m not sure what the answer is to get into those small number of people making decisions about certain things, because if they are so sold-out on the idea that we can just keep growing, and we can just keep repleting all the resources of the planet for money..if they are so sold-out on that, I’m not sure what else can convince them. Unless there is already like a climate collapse, like for them to - like at face value see that the model of economic growth that they have is really, yeah, is really not only failing other people but failing them. Like if they really feel the destruction that is happening in the environment then I think that way they’ll be convinced. Because yes, as the climate crisis that we are experiencing right now, and also the environmental crisis that we have, they don’t experience that. It is those people who are losing their islands, who are flooded, who are- whose forests are being burnt, are the ones who are experiencing it. Unless the decision makers really really feel the graveness of the issue, that they are digging their graves because of what they’re doing for profit, then it might convince them, but I’m not sure.

Zohra: We basically need some kind of home swap programme for this to work, to have them really confront and face what’s happening.

(15:40)

[musical interlude]

(15:45)

Zohra: It’s time for ‘Feminist Mishaps’, because nobody’s perfect and we’re all human. Today we have a mishap from our colleague Emma. When she heard about ‘Feminist Mishaps’ this is what she offered us:

‘Do you mean like when some kid in the playground asked me if I was a Daddy or a Mummy and I said ‘Why do you ask’ and he said ‘Because you have short hair and daddy pants’. And I could only blurt out, with a little too much aggression, ‘Damn right. I bet your mummy has a blonde ponytail and pink dresses’. I of course apologised and then I quickly feigned a crisis at the trampoline I urgently needed to attend to and got out of there.’

(16.23)

That just made me laugh, ‘Daddy pants.’

[laughter]

Erika, do you have any mishaps?

Erika: Not a mishap, but a funny remark. OK, so I was seeing this person and it was on our second date and we were walking by the beach, and I dunno, for some weird reason we started talking about daring each other to do things and he said ‘oh I’m not a pussy’. And then he started laughing, and I’m like ‘what’s wrong with that, you came from one’ and he’s like ‘That’s not what I meant’. ‘That’s what you mean! What’s wrong with pussies?’…It’s not a mishap, but it’s a remark.

Zohra: It’s you being a feminist in the face of other people’s mishaps. That’s what it sounds like to me.

Erika: And he never said pussy again in that way.

Zohra: Do you have a feminist blunder of your own? Send us your confessions, anonymously if you wish, and we may share it on a future episode. You can reach us on twitter@mamacash or via email at tea@mamacash.org.

(17:30)
So Erika, we’ve been talking a lot about climate change, and the climate crisis, and climate catastrophe and other serious, and rather scary sounding concepts. Uhm but I wanted to talk to you a little bit about another concept, which is environmental justice. Because that’s what we talk about when we’re at Mama Cash, and I wonder in your view, what is the difference actually, between climate change and environmental justice?

Erika: The main change would be environmental justice really looks at the justice part, the social component of environmental degradation and injustices, and climate change is part of that, of what we are doing to the environment and what inequalities and injustices are happening around that issue. And at Mama Cash we are specifically committed to supporting environmental justice groups, because they are at the front lines of defending their environment, their territories and their communities, and they have- yeah, they’ve been building alternatives to the unsustainable ways we’re functioning right now that are leading to, that have led to, the climate crisis that we are experiencing.

Zohra: So, climate change is like a piece of environmental justice. But if we only focused on climate change and the climate crisis we wouldn’t necessarily solve the injustices, the environmental injustices, that happen. But we wouldn’t have a climate crisis if we had an environmentally just approach. So it’s like environmental justice is kind of a bigger umbrella, and helps us solve many things, of which the climate crisis is one, and is a manifestation and a direct result of climate injustice.

Erika: I agree because if we have an environmental just world, we’ve taken into account for example that it is intergenerational, that we consider that resources are limited or the planet’s capacity to renew resources are limited. And we recognise that people aren’t the center of everything, but people are in relationship with nature. So if we've solved that, and we’re in an environmental just world, I don’t think we’ll even have climate change, because we are recognising that we need to take care of nature, that we cannot just do everything that we want for economic growth and for profit.

(20.09)

Zohra: Uh-huh. So, maybe, could you share a little bit about the kinds of partners that Mama Cash works with to- cause you mentioned like, earlier in the episode you were mentioning quite a bit like ‘oh we have partners to do this’ and you’ve learned from our partners that have done that, maybe you could share a little bit about, yeah, some of the partners you work with through the portfolio, the environmental justice portfolio at Mama Cash.

Erika: Sure, we’re really supporting inspiring groups and there is so much to learn from them. We are supporting the indigenous women leaders and organisations of BAI Indigenous Women’s Network. They’re based in the Philippines and are resisting development aggression and militarisation in the country. As we may know, that the southern part of the Philippines is in martial law. They are also fighting for indigenous women’s leadership and participation in decision making on policies that affect indigenous women and the environment. We are also supporting the Rural Women’s Assembly in South Africa, and they advocate for agricology, climate resilient agriculture and local green economy. Meanwhile, in Bolivia we are supporting the indigenous Mestiza and peasant women of Red Nacional de Mujeres en Defensa de la Madre Tierra, (or RENAMAT), from the provinces of Oruro, La Paz and Potosí, and they are defending their territories and fighting for the rights of the Mother Earth. Most of the environmental justice groups we support are really fighting for their basic rights to have a good life and wellbeing, and we’re also supporting activists in Oceania and in Europe.

Zohra: Thanks. I find it interesting that the examples you chose are kind of national, no? And yet we know, actually for example the one that’s in South Africa, I know it’s linked to a regional network. And I think, yeah that’s quite important to highlight also that the issues that our partners are working on, some of the direct manifestations of what they are working on may be happening at a local level or a national level, but often they are mobilising at other kinds of levels. And it takes that mobilisation at multiple levels. So also working at the regional level, networking with other groups in other countries, working at the international level, doing different kinds of work - advocacy or direct action or whatever it is, different methods. That’s all really important to have a kind of variety of approaches. Because, yeah, the types of challenges that they are faces are complex and require, kinda, multi-pronged approach.

(22.39)

Erika: So many of the environmental defenders that we support are also at risk sometimes at the local level and the national level. They also find it more powerful to collectively organise with groups who are in different countries. Because when together, and you have a regional platform, the you can advocate more.

Zohra: Uh-huh yeah, I guess also if you are being targeted by your national government, if you can gain a profile outside your country, it might be more difficult for your national government to challenge you or to shut you down basically, because there will be international scrutiny for example. And we know that can be helpful in some cases for some of the women human rights defenders that we work with, with some of the activists, they really look to having an international profile to make sure that their governments can’t act against them with impunity.

So Erika, we have a very special programme that we work on within the portfolio that you lead on environmental justice, with a funny name, with the name of GAGGA. Can you tell us a little bit about GAGGA?

Erika: So GAGGA is the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action. It is a global programme that is led by FCAM based in Nicaragua, in collaboration with Mama Cash, and Both ENDS, based in the Netherlands. And it’s bringing together different partners and activists from the women’s rights movement and environmental justice movement. When we had our meeting- I had coffee with Maite Smet, the coordinator of GAGGA, and I asked her to share more about GAGGA and what it stands for.

(24:12)

[musical interlude]

(24.15)

So for this part of the podcast we’re shifting from ‘Tea with Mama Cash’ to ‘Coffee with GAGGA’. So right now while we’re enjoying our coffee and having our annual planning for GAGGA, for our listeners can you please share what GAGGA is all about and what GAGGA stands for?

Maite: Sure. So the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action, so what GAGGA stands for, is an alliance that has been, uhm yeah, developed by three organisations. So FCAM, Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, or the Central American Women’s Fund, at the lead and then working together with Both ENDS, a Dutch-based environmental justice organisation, but with a global reach, and Mama Cash, which is also an organisation based in the Netherlands but working at a global level as a women’s fund. This is an alliance where these three organisations came together with the intent of really catalysing the power that we see in women’s movements and also environmental justice movements and bringing them together. Because we feel that when they come together the struggles and the fights can be much stronger, particularly for women’s rights to water, to food security and generally to a healthy, clean and safe environment. I truly am proud to work for this alliance, uhm because it has such a big reach. So we work in over 30 countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia. But also, what I think is most interesting about this alliance, is how we’re working with different types of actors and different types of partners to really reach and support different local, community-based groups, collectives, environmental defenders, activists, that are fighting for women’s rights in relation to clean water, food, land. So an array of topics, right, and an array of issues.

(26.20)

We work with global, regional and national women’s funds and environmental justice funds and we also work with many NGOs, who have a lot of the environmental technical knowledge or kind of looking at, uhm yeah, like legal expertise that is needed when you are fighting for these rights, right. So, yeah, I think it’s a great alliance to work for.

Erika: Yeah, as you said, you’re proud to be part of GAGGA. I’m also proud to be part of GAGGA, and the other day we were also sharing about what our dreams are in moving forward with GAGGA. Is there anything else you want to share?

Maite: Yeah definitely, and linking it to that conversation we had about how we would see this in the future, right? Uhm so the reason why we believe in this and why we created this alliance and are moving with all these partners, is that we strongly believe that women in their own communities -uhm- have the knowledge and the vision for change, particularly when we’re seeing that we need systemic change, when we are facing all these environmental crises that we are seeing across the world, right? I remember in my vision, I was very much seeing this power shift, where it is the women in their communities and leading their communities. But also just that we were living in this beautiful world where it’s green, there is water, it’s clean and people were living in kinda of, you know, in harmony - it sounds a bit out there, but I truly believe that by shifting it and getting the power back to where the decision making should be made, which is with women in their communities and with their communities, I feel like that would create such a different society and world that we live in. So, yeah, that’s definitely why we’re doing this.

[Laughs]

Erika: Yes.

(28.18)

Erika: Thank you for sharing that: your vision and your dreams and also what GAGGA is about.

Maite: Yeah, no problems.

Erika: Thanks... and let’s continue enjoying our coffee!

Maite: Indeed!

[laughter]

(28:27)

[musical interlude]

(28:30)

Erika: As Maite mentioned, GAGGA is led by FCAM in collaboration with us and Both ENDS. I also want to add that in GAGGA we also work closely with the Global Greengrants Fund and Prospera, or the International Network of Women’s Funds. If you want to learn more about GAGGA, go to mamacash.org and find it under ‘Special Initiatives’ on our work page. In GAGGA we have examples of initiatives that bring together different groups working at various levels. First example is that there is the Women and Mining in Asia, and they were able to go to an international space at the UN Forum for Business and Human Rights, and really share the claims and demands of women in their local countries. We also have different groups in Latin America coming together and organising a campaign on women and water. And more recently we have different partners from different regions, coming together and organising for the Conference of Parties. And these are all made possible because we have a global programme that provides these linkages and also the support for these groups to come together, and go to regional, international spaces.

Zohra: I think it’s really important that that possibility exists, also because it’s a funny thing to be respecting borders in the way we fund or organise, when we’re talking about something like the environment which doesn’t respect borders, right? So rivers run across borders, forests run across borders, and -uhm- it doesn’t help us to manage them or to make sure that the environment is able to thrive when we are, you know, arguing about borders and contesting them.

(30.09)

One example of where I think GAGGA really came into it’s own was when we were able to work together to stop an action that had been really problematic and creating huge problems. So there was a dam, that was operating in a part of Honduras, that was very negatively affecting and really destroying parts of an indigenous community in Honduras. And that dam, part of it was actually being financed actually by the Dutch Development Bank, which is publicly owned, 50% of it is publicly owned. And we knew what was happening, because we had partners in the country. And because FCAM, who works with us in GAGGA, also knew the partners and Mama Cash knew the partners, and also Both ENDS knew the partners. And we heard that this was happening, we were able to do something about it. Because each of the partners, the kind of alliance members in GAGGA, so FCAM in Nicaragua, and Both ENDS and Mama Cash in the Netherlands, we were all connected with some of the partners in Honduras. And we had this link to the Dutch Development Bank because we were based in the Netherlands. And so we were able to mobilise solidarity and really connect between ourselves to hear what was actually happening to that community in real time and then what could we do here, and have the conversations directly with people here in the Netherlands. And it was such an important moment to be able to lend that support and that solidarity and work together. And eventually what we were able to do was stop the financing for the dam and shut the dam. Eventually we are going to shut the dam down, that’s the goal. But for now it’s not funded and the dam had to stop operating. And also a hugely significant win for the indigenous community that had been resisting and fighting this project for so long.

(32.04)

That kind of action shows the importance of really being able to make the links between where companies or where - goes back to our quiz right at the start- of who’s making the decisions about what companies will be doing, and they’re not located in the countries where things are then happening. So those companies are operating in countries in the Global South for example, but the decisions are being made in other countries, possibly in the Global North. And how can you make those links also through our activism. So the companies have those links because of how they operate, but how can activists also make our links between ourselves to know who are the architects behind certain decisions, who are making the decisions about how these companies will operate, that then have impacts for others of us, other activists in other places, and how can we have solidarity with each other and work together to change how this all works.

(32:51)

[musical interlude]

(32:56)

Thanks for listening. You can find Mama Cash on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook or at www.mamacash.org. And you can find ‘Tea with Mama Cash’ on Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

If you think what we do is important and you want to help us support women, girls, trans and intersex activists around the world, there are many things you can do. You can of course donate via our website, you can rate and review this podcast on Apple Podcast or Stitcher, to help us reach more people, or better yet you can recommend ‘Tea with Mama Cash’ to a friend who cares about feminism too. You can always reach us with questions, feedback or ideas at tea@mamacash.org.

These are your hosts Zohra Moosa…

Erika: And Erika Mandreza Sales

Both: Signing off until the next time!

(33:47)

[end credits and closing music]

Zohra: This Podcast was produced by Amanda Gigler, Majk Mirkovic and Sophia Seawell, our colleagues at Mama Cash. And of course a special thanks to our colleague Erika, for joining us today.