Thursday, 16 July 2009

Green Belt Movement

One thing is for certain, throughout the world, poverty is many times more likely to happen to men than to women. Moreover, due to political, structural, and cultural issues worldwide, women are often in a position where changing poverty status or procuring resources is significantly more difficult.

In Kenya, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangar Maathai, has found a way to make a difference with women in poverty. As founder of the Green Belt Movement (GBM) she has sought to assist women in poverty in connecting with one another and gaining resources in the process. Based in Kenya, the Green Belt movement has mixed ecology with feminism in a way such that both platforms benefit.

Although the ecology and women's rights seem somewhat detached, they go together quite well. The GBM, established in 1976 was response to Maathai the environmental damage afflicting Kenya. Additionally, it was predominately women paid to do the work of caring for the seedlings, distributing, and many times planting the trees. This gave many women an economic resource which they did not previously have access to. By 1986 this movement had moved to 15 counties.

The GBM has also given birth to the The group Women for Change. Based in Kenya, this human rights group which focuses from the perspective of women becoming empowered. Woemen in change works diligently for the the rights, Green Belt Movement works with schools in Kenya to provide natural health and welfare of women in Kenya. Focus on education for young girls, AIDS education, and of course networking with other women's groups. The GBM works towards providing resources which would assist women in leaving poverty.

Please note that this type of activism does not go without some sort of struggle. Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangar Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt movement, has faced threats for her work, and many of those who work with her have been subject to profound violence. Those involved-in the movement have been and sometimes are subject to counter-protests, threats, and of course direct violence.

So really, what does a feminist movement on the other side of the world have to do with someone in a country like the United States. Sometimes, we do not see the structural violence, that violence being poverty. The women who has to walk 2 to five miles a a day just to get firewood to cook for her family in a small village in Africa, the women who is struggling to keep her land as a member of the MST in Brazil, and of course the "welfare mother" in the United States unable to feed her family healthy food because she has $213 in food stamps to last the entire month.

The focus in more western cultures becomes the more overt violence such as rape, assault, unequal wages, and political systems which are still grossly absent women's input and voice. When this happens structural violence is overlooked, and those who are placed at the will of a faulty structure feel alone and marginalized. We forget those women who face daily exhaustion, just trying to get through the day and provide for themselves or their family members. However, it is when we forget these women that they are no longer included in the struggle for all women's rights.

It is all about respect and loving all of our sisters.

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