I have always agreed that those most affected by disasters must be at the table to solve them. So, I take to heart stories of women’s leadership when it comes to demonstrating good stewardship of the land and its resources. Women have always been the keeper of the hearth. They know intimately the wisdom of plants and the medicine of cuisine. They also know instinctively of the peril their children face when food systems go awry.
So as I collect a roster of far-flung inspirations whose work demonstrates the good stewardship of the planet and holistic cultural well-being, I want to take time to note the dynamism of such women, keepers of the seeds of wellness. Among them are powerful women like 2004 Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya to restore tree growth to swaths of degraded land by popular involvement in tree nurseries and planting. She reminds us how easy, heartwarming, and earth-healing it can be to plant a tree (in 10 easy steps!).
Another such woman is Dr. Vandana Shiva, who is literally keeping seed heritage alive as a champion for crop biodiversity in India. With veritable inclinations as an original tree-hugger, Shiva lent her sympathy to the women of the Himalayan Chipko movement who hugged trees to keep them from being raised in the 70s.
Now, Dr. Shiva spearheads an organization called Navdanya (9 grains, in commemoration of the fundamental grains of the Indian cultural region), about which she remarks, “When I found global corporations wanted to patent seeds, crops or life forms, I started Navdanya to protect biodiversity, defend farmers’ rights and promote organic farming. …Navdanya/RFSTE’s journey over the past two decades has taken us into creating markets for farmers and promoting tasty, healthy, high quality food for consumers. We have connected the seed to the kitchen, biodiversity to gastronomy. And now we have joined hands with Slow Food to celebrate the quality and cultural diversity of our food.”
One platform of Navdanya’s work is women’s leadership, demonstrated through their Diverse Women for Diversity program/policy platform, which serves as a reminder that women’s vision is central to the future of the sustainability paradigm shift necessarily facing the planet.
Here’s a glimpse into the creation of that vision, as presented by Navdanya’s Diverse Women for Diversity (the italics are mine):
“DWD’s Statement of Concern
We women, in all our vibrant and fabulous diversity, have witnessed the increasing aggression against the human spirit, human mind and human body and the continued invasion of and assault upon the Earth and all her diverse species. And we are enraged.
We demand of governments, international organisations, transnational corporations and individual men who share our rage, that they address the crisis that has been caused by the creation of mono cultures and the reduction, enclosure, and extinction of biological and cultural diversity.
We insist that those who would address the crisis listen to and take leadership from women, indigenous peoples, farmers, and all who have raised these concerns at the local level. We ask them to heed those whose wisdom, stewardship, knowledge and commitment has already been demonstrated by the preservation of the diversity we celebrate today.”