ecofeminism in india - badal ja

To Empower Women in India, Go Green

"India - Varanasi green peas - 2714" by Jorge Royan - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

India – Varanasi green peas – 2714” by Jorge Royan – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Anyone living in India can easily become overwhelmed by the amount of problems that we face.

Our environment is under siege by the combined forces of pollution, poor waste management, growing water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, and the degradation of our land, soil and forests.

Our women are marginalized throughout their lives, facing threats of female infanticide, sexual harassment and rape, limited access to healthcare and education, forced dowry payments, acid attacks, bride burning, honor killings, and discrimination in the workplace.

Our society at large is plagued by poverty, overpopulation, casteism, malnutrition, and corruption, and more.

Many of us doubt if we can possibly make a difference in this complicated, complex world of problems, or where to even begin trying. But what if we were to tell you that many of these issues are interrelated, and that we can solve numerous problems simultaneously?

Vandana Shiva, an esteemed Indian physicist and activist, says that the feminist, peace, and ecology movements are really all fighting the same fundamental problem: that of dualist, patriarchal thinking.

ecofeminismIn her 1993 book Ecofeminism, Shiva argues the dualisms that structure patriarchal culture are at the core of all our societal ills. The hierarchies established by mind/body, nature/culture, male/female, and human/nonhuman dualisms enable us to see nature and people as ‘others’—and thus not treat them with the dignity we demand for ourselves.

The solution, then, is to break free of these mentalities and to reconceptualize these relationships in nonhierarchical, non patriarchal ways. In this way, ecofeminists envision a new way of seeing the world and strive toward a new way of living in the world as co-members of the healthy global community—a world in which all life has intrinsic and equal value, regardless of its color, form, or function.

Ecofeminism in action

As Al Jazeera reports, a burgeoning movement in rural Rajasthan is embracing the philosophy in order to simultaneously address gender imbalance and also bring greenery to a desert region. Led by visionary village heads, the village of Piplani outside Jaipur has begun publicly celebrating the birth of girls by planting trees.

This may seem like a simple action, but it is an affirmation of the value of the diverse forms of life around us. And sure enough, this small action has had major impact on health and social justice in the village over the last few years.

According to activist Rajan Choudhary, men have started celebrating the birth of their daughters as much as their sons, because society is now involved in this celebration through tree-planting. He claims that this tree planting and awareness creation are major factors in improving the live birth ratio in the area from 895 girls per 1000 boys in 2011 to 920 girls in 2013. Furthermore, the village of Piplantri has been turned lush green thanks to the initiative, and now boasts 270,000 trees—a rare sight in the desert state of Rajasthan.

Your Turn

The next time you’re thinking about how to save the world, start small. Remember that being good to your environment means being good to everyone around you, and vice versa. We have to create a mentality of unity and connectedness, if we ever hope escape the tsunami of challenges we face. Learn more about Vandana Shiva and this movement in the book Ecofeminism.