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By Nikhil Aziz
March 22nd, 2011
Rivers are sacred in many cultures and central to the World’s early civilizations, from Mesopotamia and Egypt to India and China. Perhaps this was on his mind when Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, famously (if ironically) called mega dams the “temples of modern India.” He would have been more prescient in calling them “temples of doom” given the enormous human, environmental and economic costs of these behemoths. In India alone, since independence, by some estimates nearly 50 million people have been displaced.
Grassroots International joins with those around the world in expressing our sadness and concern for the people of Japan in the wake of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Thousands have died, and many more are missing or being evacuated due to ongoing health and safety threats.
While Grassroots International does not have a program in East Asia or Japan, we wanted to share a statement of solidarity from our partner the Vía Campesina and offer resources for those who wish to directly support groups working in the region, including three options for donations.
In advance of International Women’s Day, several organizations representing various social movements around the world – many of them Grassroots International partners, grantees, and allies – co-wrote a “Letter of Solidarity with the Struggle of Women in the World.” We are reposting the text below:
Every year on March 8th – International Women’s Day – thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. As I review Grassroots International’s past year in grant making, I am inspired by the many projects we made in support of women-led initiatives. From projects centered on securing women’s livelihoods through organic gardens in Guatemala, to empowering women biodiversity practitioners in India, as well as many others, we have stayed committed to supporting efforts that give women a key role in advancing social justice. Sharing our connection to their work with you is my personal celebration.
According to Grassroots International ally Fahamu, “Agriculture… remains the main source of income of a rural population generally estimated at 70% of the total population… [W]omen remain an essential link in agricultural production, accounting for 70% of food production, managing nearly 100% of processing activities, responsible for about 50% of the maintenance of the family herds and also responsible for some 60% of sales activities in the markets.” Any solutions to the problems of African agriculture, therefore, must include women. In fact, African women are saying, “We Are the Solution.”
"Pourquoi la campagne": Via Campesina Africa launches Campaign to End Violence against Women at 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar
In 2008, I was privileged to attend the 5th international conference of Grassroots International partner the Via Campesina, in Matola, Mozambique. The Via, a global movement representing over 150 million peasants and other small producers on 5 continents, has been the leading voice for the rights of small farmers and farmworkers as well as other small producers and has led global campaigns for agrarian reform, against free trade and for climate justice. At its 2008 conference, however, it launched another global campaign that a lot of people don’t yet know about. This is the Global Campaign to End Violence against Women.
It is the tradition at World Social Forums (WSF) to focus a considerable amount of time, energy, resources and attention on issues faced by people in the host region and country. The 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal that I had the privilege of attending was no different. Africa and African issues suffused the WSF throughout the forum.
One of these issues was the massive land grabs that are taking place all across the continent. Appropriately called the New Scramble for Africa, it is eerily similar to the mad rush by European colonial powers during the last quarter of the 19th century to divide Africa up among them.
“¡La Tierra No Se Vende – Se Ama y Se Defiende!” (English translation: “The Land is Not for Sale – It must be Loved and Defended!”)
– A change from woman fighting against a large dam in Alpuyeca, Mexico
The United Nations designates December 10 as International Human Rights Day. At Grassroots International, we give special recognition to the efforts of our partners and allies around the world—but for them, it’s just another day in the trenches to realize these rights as communities in action.
From the Middle East to Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa and Asia, our partners engage in determined struggles for resource rights—the human rights to land, water, and food. Despite enormous obstacles like land grabs, poisoned water, and decreased access to local food, our partners build local solutions to solve problems from the bottom up.