World Rainforest Movement

Women network committed to a true Green Economy

Women of South Asia working in several areas including health, nutrition, livelihood, environment,  gathered in Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 2 and 3, 2011, for the Third Annual Conference of SWAN (South Asia Women’s Network), which was dedicated to the theme of “Women of South Asia and the Green Economy”.

SWAN’s final declaration concludes that the emerging concept of Green Economy should mean “an economic system that ensures social justice and equity, protects the ecological balance and creates economic sufficiency. Such a Green Economy should replace the current economic order, which is based on inequity, environmental destruction and greed, which has resulted in keeping nearly half the world’s population in poverty, and has brought the planet to the point of a severe environmental catastrophe through climate change. The core idea of a Green Economy must be poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability through maintaining biodiversity, and the well-being of all the people.

South Asia is one of the richest regions in terms of bio-cultural diversity, but this diversity is under threat of monocultures pushed through the Green Revolution and genetic engineering. These non-sustainable and failed technologies are being forced on our people, driving them deeper into debt and poverty. Our rich biodiversity and knowledge heritage is being patented and pirated, depriving our people of the benefits of their own heritage and resources. When environmental crises force us to migrate to cities, we also experience loss of livelihoods due to lack of access to urban space, materials and new forms of urban management. Our bodies are imprinted with toxics from unsustainable consumption of others. The right to sustainable development should be inalienable. This is vital for women’s empowerment and for preserving our planet for future generations.”

The Dhaka Declaration voices women’s view that “Our local economies have always been in harmony with nature. We have used resources prudently, and shared them equitably. SWAN believes that agriculturists and craftspeople around the world have always worked in tandem with the seasons and in harmony with nature. A craftswoman carries with her the wisdom of generations that did not pillage the planet for profit. She has a deep commitment towards nurturing the natural world for sustaining livelihoods. The only raw materials needed to keep millions employed is a thriving green environment with rich forests, wild grasses, clean waters, and unravaged hillsides. The dignity and creativity of hand-work greatly contributes towards sound rural economies. This work of women across the South Asian region must be acknowledged by all those who wish to build an inclusive and truly integrated, ecologically balanced world.

Today, those who have created the ecological crisis talk of the Green Economy. For them, the Green Economy means appropriating the remaining resources of the planet for profit — from seed and biodiversity to land and water as well as our skills, such as the environmental services we provide.

For us, the privatization and commodification of nature, her species, her ecosystems, and her ecosystem services cannot be part of a Green Economy, for such an approach cannot take into account our traditions. The resources of the Earth are for the welfare of all, not the profits of a few.

Sharing our vital resources equitably and using them sustainably for livelihoods and basic needs is at the heart of our concept of a Green Economy. Our rich knowledge of biodiversity, our ecologically sustainable agriculture, and our crafts techniques are free of fossil fuels and toxics. They generate creative and dignified livelihoods and they provide the basis for poverty alleviation. We stand committed to strengthening these life-giving traditions.

It is of vital importance to spread awareness about these issues through the media and through the educational process, which reaches out to youth and children. Awareness about the Green Economy and the significance of its diverse impacts is essential in order to enable all segments of society to make informed choices. Recognizing the changing face of the media, SWAN encourages the use of new media, including social networking tools, to reach out and support the women of South Asia in their struggle to meet the challenges of ensuring the Green Economy for sustainable development.

Our Green Economies are diverse and decentralized and therefore are a path of empowerment for all. Women are the storehouse of knowledge and provide the cultural base to create and build economies that increase wellbeing and happiness, joy and beauty, sustainability and equity. It is from our region of South Asia that the concept of Gross National Happiness has spread worldwide. We will deepen this concept and make it the basis of the Green Economy.”

At a time when the issue of Green Economy is gaining momentum at regional and multilateral forums it is crucial to defend its true meaning and for that these women’s voices mut be heard loud.

Article based on Dhaka Declaration: SWAN (South Asia Women’s Network)’s Positions on an emerging Green Economy, sent by Vandana Shiva