Bringing Women’s Empowerment Into the Environmental Movement: Eve Ensler’s fearless speech at the 2014 Bioneers Conference

“How many of us feel like we are fallen women or people, our inherent credibility or value erased upon birth? How many of us are controlled by the debilitating terror that any form of disobedience or independence will lead to social exclusion and damnation? How many of us feel cursed for our curiosity, forbidden to know what we know, living amidst a culture constantly manifesting a pathological and patronizing distrust and distain for our instincts, delegitimizing our intuition, or belittling anything that might lead to a deeper more embodied intelligence?”
These are the questions asked by the amazing Eve Ensler at the Bioneers Conferencethis past October. This speech, which I have watched about half a dozen times and am asking friends and family to watch as a holiday gift to me, brings women’s rights and women’s empowerment issues out of the shadow and to the forefront of issues that are most important to society right now. The questions Ensler asks apply to women all over the world and their struggle in accessing reproductive health services and family planning.  Women, especially in countries with extreme religious or cultural norms, do face a debilitating terror, social exclusion and in some cases death, if they want the independence to control their bodies.  And teenage girls and women everywhere do feel cursed and afraid for being curious about their sexuality and reproductive system. Fortunately, we see this changing but hard work and courageous acts like this are still very much needed. Ensler also points out efforts being made to change society so that women feel more safe and empowered.
“In Peru, for example, where there is a lot of development and a lot of sexual harassment on the streets, the construction workers joined forces with 1 billion rising there, and they turned every construction site into a sexually harassment free construction site,” Eve reports. “(And) in India due to the extraordinary feminists there  they did gender sensitivity training as part of the 1 billion rising and they educated over 100 thousand rickshaw drivers, who now on their rickshaws have a button that says, ‘my religion is respecting women’”.
WATC is so inspired by Ensler and her outspokenness because it is exactly this type of outspokenness that will help the world recognize how women’s rights is so very interconnected to the health of our societies. Ensler says it best, “Violence towards women cannot be separated from all the other violences, whether they be economic, environmental, racial, or gender, we are in the same story!”