Celebrating Momentum and Milestones: A WEDO History of Women’s Organizing Toward a Healthy and Peaceful Planet

RIO DE JANEIRO (JUNE 20) —What if we, as women, use this opportunity of the UN Conference on Environment and Development to be the change we want to see in the world?” This was the question women activists posed to themselves in the early 1990s, according to WEDO founding member Thais Corral of Brazil. “This was the starting point of WEDO: a group of friends, a group of women activists occupying a range of strategic positions around the world, trying to figure out how to innovate, how to collaborate – how to be the change we want to see.

On the occasion of Rio+20 and in celebration and recognition of its twentieth anniversary, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), officially founded by U.S. Congresswoman Bella Abzug and activist/journalist Mim Kelber in 1991, launched last night its newest publication, Celebrating Momentum and Milestones: A WEDO History of Women’s Organizing Toward a Healthy and Peaceful Planet. Far from exhaustive and unabashedly subjective, this timeline presents a snapshot of WEDO’s proudest moments through two decades, advocating for equality and justice in a sustainable world.

Women’s history is not told enough,” said Cate Owren, WEDO Executive Director.  “The women’s movement – under-resourced as it tends to be, stretching to deal with countless urgent issues – seldom has the opportunity to document its efforts. But to honor twenty years of ideas, action and impact, we decided there was no better way than to tell our story – and it’s a great one – to capture the spirit of our founding, to inspire the next twenty years ahead.”

Staff invited founding member and current advisor Thais Corral (Brazil) and recent WEDO Board Chair and advisor Irene Dankelman (Netherlands) to co-author the effort.  It furthered invited input from visionaries, partners and pioneers from around the world.

From the 1991 World Women’s Congress for a Healthy Planet in Miami, Florida, USA, where 1500 women from 83 countries drafted the Women’s Action Agenda 21, to the 1995 Women’s Caucus at the 2nd World Women’s Congress in Beijing, China; from the 2006 United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Champion of the Earth Award to the 2010 National Council on Research for Women (NCRW) Advocacy Award for gender and climate change work, WEDO celebrates – and takes great inspiration from – its achievements, and especially the countless extraordinary women and men leaders who have shaped its own history – as well as those of the wider women’s, environmental and development movements.

And yet, in spite of its inclination to champion progress, while here at Rio+20, WEDO also recognizes that the agreements made tomorrow will be likely very far from what it had hoped for, which would have included governments from every region committing ambitious action toward an equitable and sustainable future. The profound lack of ambition, coupled with countless political compromises, threaten gender equality and sustainability the world over – and diminish the gains already made by the women’s movement in years past. There is much work yet to do.

WEDO launched its publication on June 20, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, at its event, “Celebrating women’s leadership for sustainable development,” which was organized in partnership with the Global Gender Office of IUCN and the Global Gender and Climate Alliance, and with UNDP and the Rio Conventions Pavilion. Among women recognized for their innovative work and leadership were WEDO friends and partners Feri Lumampao of Approtech Asia and ENERGIA (Philippines) and Maria-Josee Artist of the Association of Indigenous Village Leaders (VIDS) (Suriname).

Follow updates on WEDO’s anniversary celebrations on twitter through #WEDO20!

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