Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 12, No. 8, August 2016
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Fostering Gender Balance in Society


This supplement is a digest of recent events and significant contributions to fostering gender equality - and human development - in various secular cultures and institutions. It is acknowledged that the distinction between the secular and religious dimensions is an artificial one, often blurred in real life situations. In those cases, if the material is predominantly secular it is included here; else it is included in Supplement 6. The selected items are the editor's choice. Suggestions by readers are welcomed. Reporting on good role models is a high priority. The following sections are included this month:

1. Men, Women, and Cross-Gender Solidarity
2. Men and Women in Marriage and the Family
3. The Patriarchal Culture of Command and Control
4. Gender Balance for Solidarity and Sustainability
5. Gender Balance for Adaptation to Climate Change
6. Women in Roles of Leadership and Governance
7. Men and the Changing Face of Masculinity
8. Men, Women, and the Human Habitat
9. Dismantling the Patriarchal Gender Binary in Society

The promotion of gender equality in society is a slow and painful process, and it is barely beginning to unfold worldwide. But it is a dynamic process, one in which progress begets progress. It is important to stay tuned to relevant news coming from all world regions and all world cultures. The Google News box displayed to the right may be helpful. Readers can enhance their web sites with their own version of this box - which is continuously refreshed as significant events are reported - by going to Google News, clicking on "Add a section," and follow simple instructions under "Create a custom section." This is a free service, but you must register in order to use the customization tool.

If you know about recent developments that should be mentioned in this page, please write to the Editor.

"If we are going to see real development in the world,
then our best investment is women."

— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Women Around the World

Global Progress Towards Gender Equality: A Timeline
Rachel Vogelstein and Anne Connell, CFR, 8 March 2016

Closing the Gender Data Gap
Rachel Vogelstein, CFR, 24 May 2016

Tsai Ing-wen inaugurated in Taiwan
Rachel Vogelstein, CFR, 27 May 2016

1. Men, Women, and Cross-Gender Solidarity

Gender Explained: Sexuality, Biology, and Gender Identity

Karen Dolan

Originally published in Common Dreams, 17 May 2016
under a Creative Commons License

Image Credit: ABC News 7 / Chicago

The U.S. government is officially suing the state of North Carolina over its controversial, discriminatory “bathroom bill,” which bars transgender residents from using public restrooms appropriate to their gender identity.

In announcing the lawsuit, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave a powerful speech invoking the state’s segregationist past. “It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains, and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference,” she said of the South’s Jim Crow laws. “We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward. Let us write a different story this time.”

Then, in a surprising tag-team move, the Department of Education announced an additional decree calling on public schools across the United States to allow transgender students to access restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identities. The guidelines also advocate other ways to ensure civil rights for transgender students, such as using their chosen name and preferred pronoun and allowing them on the sports teams that match their self-identified gender. Together, these moves put public school administrators nationwide on notice: Discrimination against transgender students violates federal civil rights law.

"Ultimately what’s between people’s legs tells us little about their gender. Instead, we can only know gender according to how people self-identify."
Denying transgender students equal treatment isn’t simply discriminatory. It’s also just plain ignorant of human biology.

Those who oppose equal rights for transgender people, for instance, often insist on enforcing a linkage between gender and “biological sex.” Biology, it turns out, does indeed shape gender — just not in the way they think.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there’s no convincing evidence that gender identity is either formed independently of hormonal influences or influenced by social environment after birth. On the contrary, there’s overwhelming evidence that the behavioral expressions we identify as “gender” are formed inside the brain, in utero, as a result of the presence or lack of androgens.

This process occurs quite separately, and later in pregnancy, than the development of genitalia. Genitalia develop in the first half of pregnancy and begin producing sex hormones. In the second half of pregnancy, the brain is influenced by the varying types and amounts of hormones produced and absorbed. Thus gender variation occurs along a spectrum, to greater and lesser degrees matching the sexual organs.

It’s also distinct from sexual orientation. Someone who identifies as transgender has the same likelihood of being straight, gay or bisexual as any other person.

In short, reproductive organs themselves don’t define gender. The hormonal influence on brain structure does.

Further, Science magazine reports, more recent studies show us that most brains are “a mosaic of male and female structures.” Indeed, very few brains — researchers estimate between 0 and 8 percent — are what we’d call “all female” or “all male.” In other words, virtually none of us has a fully male or fully female brain.

Gender, like sexuality,
doesn’t exist as a binary
— it exists as an arc. It’s that simple, that beautiful,
and that natural.
Instead, we all have brains that have some degree of mismatch with the social and behavioral expectations we assign to our reproductive organs. Mismatch is the norm, not the exception.

For many of us who don’t identify as transgender, the “mismatch” may be small. For other people, it may be sufficient to warrant a change in their gender markers. Still others may feel comfortable in many gender expressions, or none at all. Many people in this category call themselves genderqueer, or trans* with an asterisk, and may include intersex people. Some may need or desire medical intervention. All need affirmative legal policies to ensure their civil and human rights.

Ultimately what’s between people’s legs tells us little about their gender. Instead, we can only know gender according to how people self-identify.

Gender, like sexuality, doesn’t exist as a binary — it exists as an arc. It’s that simple, that beautiful, and that natural. And while society catches up with science, we need legal protections to stop discrimination and violence against people who identify or present as transgender, trans*, and genderqueer. Much of this violence is perpetrated most brutally against black, as well as poor, transgender girls and women.

Bathroom bills like North Carolina’s, or laws requiring a transgender girl to be a boy in school, aren’t just ignorant of biology — they’re in opposition to what it means to be human. So rather than tell an old story of exclusion and oppression based on fictional understandings of biology — a “distinction without a difference,” as the attorney general put it — let’s stand up and tell the truth: Our gender identities belong inextricably to us.

And we all have the right to self-determination, the right to pee in peace, and the right to live free from discrimination and violence.

Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty project there. She is author of "The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty." Follow her on Twitter: @karendolan

2. Men and Women in Marriage and the Family

Gender Balance in Marriage and the Family

In the post-patriarchal era, marriage is to be seen as a covenant of mutual submission between husband and wife. The patriarchal model of male hegemony will be seen as a forgettable aberration in human history. Marriage is about responsibly sharing the gift of love and the gift of life, not about one-sided domination and control. Fathers are called to be fathers. Mothers are called to be mothers. Both authority and responsibilities are to be fully shared. This will not cancel the natural differences between men and women. It will make husband and wife more accountable to each other. It will allow fathers to continue their personal development to become more nurturing without loss of masculinity, and will allow mothers to continue their personal development to become more assertive without loss of femininity. The family will then become a "domestic school" in which children, boys and girls, learn by osmosis that things are better when authoritarian violence is replaced by just and merciful authority and, at the same time, loving care is not confused with permissive abuse of family resources. It should be possible to advance further in this direction, because this was the natural order of things before male domination became institutionalized (Cf. Genesis 1-3).

International Day of the Girl Child 2013:
Innovating for Girls’ Education

Innovation: a novel solution to a social problem that is
more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions


UNICEF Statement: "The fulfilment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization." READ MORE

3. The Patriarchal Culture of Command and Control

The following is quoted from Wikipedia:

"Patriarchy is a social system in which the male gender role as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.

"Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. Patriarchy also has a strong influence on modern civilization, although many cultures have moved towards a more egalitarian social system over the past century.

"Patriarchy literally means "rule of fathers" (Greek patriarkhes), "father" or "chief of a race, patriarch". Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.

"Anthropological and historical evidence indicates that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were generally relatively egalitarian, and that patriarchal social structures did not develop until many years after the end of the Pleistocene era, following social and technological innovations such as agriculture and domestication. However, according to Robert M. Strozier, historical research has not yet found a specific "initiating event" of the origin of patriarchy. Some scholars point to about six thousand years ago (4000 BCE), when the concept of fatherhood took root, as the beginning of the spread of patriarchy."

For more on patriarchy, click here.

The patriarchal mindset of rivalry and domination is pervasive and induces a culture of "command and control" and transcends family relations and contaminates all human relations as well as the human attitude toward the natural habitat. An excellent exposition of the need for a good dosage of "ecofeminism" to overcome patriarchy is provided by Patrick Curry in Chapter 9 of his book, Ecological Ethics. Following are some excerpts:

"Insofar as patriarchy identifies women with nature and dominates both, they are internally linked, so the struggle to resist or overturn either must address both."

"Ecofeminism is a meeting of two strands. One is feminism itself: the awareness of the pathological effects of dominant patriarchal or (to use a more recent term) masculinist structures, both 'inner' and 'outer' -- particularly, of course, on women but also, ultimately, on their oppressors -- and the attempt to replace them with ones that also value the feminine."

"The other element is a recognition of, and deep concern about, the equally masculinist domination and exploitation of nature through the very same habitual structures of though, feeling and action that devalue and harm women."

Curry goes on to analyze the master mentality, both dualist and hierarchical: "humanity versus nature; male versus female; and reason versus emotion... the domination and exploitation of nature and women proceed by the same logic, the same processes and, by and large, the same people... only ecofeminism brings a critical awareness of the extent and ways in which the subordination of women and ecological destruction are integrally linked."

The chapter unfolds with a review of work by ecofeminist leaders such as Vandana Shiva (India) and Wangari Maathai (Kenya), and proceeds to deconstruct the androcentric (male-centered) mentality while, at the same time, making it crystal clear that ecofeminism is definitely not a matter of demonizing men. In fact, men are victims of patriarchal practices as much as women; in one way or another, domination that goes around comes around. Only an ethics of care, as in a mother holding her child, can break the vicious circle of patriarchal command and control whereby humans abuse the human habitat at their own peril. Indeed, as Lynn White proposed years ago, St. Francis of Assisi should be recognized as the patron saint of ecologists.


The Creation of Patriarchy, Gerda Lerner, Oxford University Press, 1987

The Patriarchal Family in History, Christopher Dawson, in The Dynamics of World History, ISI Books, 2003

What is Patriarchy and Why is it the Most Powerful Force in the World Today?, Mary L. Wentworth, GSN, August 2005

Patriarchy, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008

Moving Beyond the Pathology of History: Why We Need a Shift in Human Consciousness, Jean Houston, Huffington Post, 21 September 2010


The Real Shame: India’s Patriarchy Roars Back After Delhi Gang Rape, By Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi, Time World, 18 January 2013
My patriarchy is better than yours, By Hani Yousuf, International Herald Tribune, 17 January 2013
Parliament and patriarchy, Ramachandra Guha, The Hindu, 31 December 2012
Shrouded in patriarchy, Victoria Rossi, The Hindu, 15 January 2013
Benign patriarchy is deadly, , The Gleaner, Jamaica, 6 January 2013
Why we must not skirt the real issues—rape & patriarchy, Patralekha Chatterjee, DNA, 14 January 2013
Patriarchy begins with the textbook, Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times, Mumbai, West India, 9 January 2013
No Patriarchy, No Police State, No Capital Punishment: A Report on the Rally Against Rape, Soma Marik, International Viewpoint, 7 January 2013
Our Violent Economy is Hurting Women, Vandana Shiva, Yes! Magazine, 18 January 2013
Microfinance and Patriarchy: 'A Drift Away from Serving Women', Knowledge@Wharton, Forbes, 18 January 2013
The Bible Is Man-Made: Why Patriarchy Still Reigns, George Elerick, Huffington Post, 21 ecember 2012
The tragedy of homo disappointus, Deepanjana Pal, DNA, 19 January 2013
Were the First Artists Mostly Women?, Virginia Hughes, National Geographic, 8 October 2013
Cave Women Rocked: Science Shows Prehistoric Gender Equality, Piper Hoffman, Care2, 8 November 2013

4. Gender Balance for Solidarity and Sustainability

New York — The 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women concluded today with UN Member States committing to the gender-responsive implementation of Agenda 2030. A set of agreed conclusions called for enhancing the basis for rapid progress, including stronger laws, policies and institutions, better data and scaled-up financing.

The Commission recognized women’s vital role as agents of development. It acknowledged that progress on the Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of Agenda 2030 will not be possible without gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed the agreement and the commitment of UN Member States to make the 2030 Agenda, adopted last September, a reality in countries around the world. She said: “Countries gave gender inequality an expiry date: 2030. Now it is time to get to work. These agreed conclusions entrench and start the implementation of a gender-responsive agenda 2030 with which we have the best possibility to leave no one behind.”

Growing global commitment was already in evidence with a record number of more than 80 government ministers from around the world attending the Commission. Around 4,100 non-governmental representatives from more than 540 organizations participated as well, the highest number ever for one of the Commission’s regular annual meetings.

The agreed conclusions urge a comprehensive approach to implementing all 17 Sustainable Development Goals through thorough integration of gender perspectives across all government policies and programmes. Eliminating all forms of gender-based discrimination depends on effective laws and policies and the removal of any statutes still permitting discrimination. Temporary special measures may be required to guarantee that women and girls can obtain justice for human rights violations.

The Commission endorsed significantly increased investment to close resource gaps for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Funds should be mobilized from all sources, domestic and international, ranging from fulfilling official development assistance commitments to combatting illicit financial flows that shortchange public resources for gender equality.

With humanitarian crises and other emergencies disproportionately affecting women and girls, the Commission underlined the imperative of empowering women in leadership and decision-making in all aspects of responding to and recovering from crisis. On the eve of the World Humanitarian Summit, it stressed prioritizing women’s and girls’ needs in humanitarian action and upholding their rights in all emergency situations. Every humanitarian response should take measures to address sexual and gender-based violence.

Members of the Commission united behind ensuring women’s equal participation in leadership at all levels of decision-making in the public and private spheres, encompassing governments, businesses and other institutions, and across all areas of sustainable development. Depending on different circumstances, this may involve establishing temporary special measures, setting and achieving concrete benchmarks and removing barriers to women’s participation.

Given the major contributions to Agenda 2030 of civil society, including women’s and community-based organizations, feminist groups, human rights defenders and girls’ and youth-led organizations, the Commission welcomed open engagement and cooperation with them in gender-responsive implementation. It emphasized fully engaging with men and boys as agents of change and allies in the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.

To guide systematic progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout the 2030 Agenda, the Commission stressed enhanced national statistical capacity and the systematic design, collection and sharing of high-quality, reliable and timely data disaggregated by sex, age and income. Members also agreed to bolster the role of national mechanisms for women and girls in championing their equality and empowerment.

5. Gender Balance for Adaptation to Climate Change

This section is excerpted from
Women are powerful agents of change
CARE Climate Change

"As a rights-based organisation, CARE's climate change strategy is geared towards the empowerment of poor and marginalised people. CARE is deeply concerned about constraints that the inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power – as well as repressive cultural rules and norms – place on people's ability to take action on climate change. We believe that a wide range of development goals are achievable only if decision makers at all levels recognise the unique risks faced by poor and marginalised people and their essential roles in planning, implementing and evaluating action on climate change.

"The majority of the world's poorest people today are women and girls. Climate change is making it even more difficult for them to realise their basic rights, and it is exacerbating inequalities since they are more vulnerable to its impacts than men.

"Moreover, many women are denied access to new information about climate change and participation in important decision-making processes despite having unique skills and knowledge – about low risk farming, sustainable water management, family health and community mobilisation, for example – vital to effective adaptation.

"For all these reasons, and because women are central to the food and livelihood security of their families, we place a special emphasis on gender equality and women's empowerment."

For more, including links to other CARE resources, click here.



One specific case worthy of study in Women Bringing Solar Power to Sierra Leone, The Guardian, 15 September 2011. The following summary is excerpted from YaleGlobal, 16 September 2011.

"Developing renewables to meet the growing demand for energy is a top priority in the 21st century. So is enhancing collaboration among developing countries. By training semi-literate women from rural Sierra Leone in solar-energy techniques, Barefoot College in western India works towards achieving both these goals. Twelve women attended and then returned to villages in Sierra Leone to assemble 1,500 household solar units at a new branch of Barefoot College in Konta Line, where the training will continue, reports a blog for the Guardian. The governments of both countries have played their part; Sierra Leone invested $820,000 in the project, and India provided equipment. The vast majority of households in Sierra Leone go without power. Following its decades-long civil war, electricity is Sierra Leone's "most daunting infrastructural challenge," notes a World Bank report. Lighting extends education and socializing into the evening hours, and the women are planning on manufacturing solar units to spread the new power."

6. Women in Roles of Leadership and Governance

Dilma Rousseff: Political Crisis in Brazil

Ilka Oliva Corado

Originally published in Pressenza, 17 May 2016
under a Creative Commons License

Dilma Rousseff

“We should have killed her,” her torturers will have repeated hundreds of times to themselves when they saw her becoming Brazil’s first woman president. Or they would have wanted cancer to make her disappear from the political scene, just like Evita (but temporarily, because she is immortal). Dilma marked a watershed moment in Brazil and Latin America. A woman president overcoming patriarchy and gender inequality. A woman who in government has created policies of gender inclusion and social policies that have benefited millions of outcasts who the oligarchy only see as pawns and who they have exploited for centuries, and want to continue exploiting.

The life of women has always been an uphill struggle; we continue to fight against the worst enemy: patriarchy, from where misogyny and machismo – that is so damaging to us as a society and as a gender – is derived. It is much more difficult for women who dare to challenge the limits and rules imposed on them and actively participate in politics. For being a woman and for having the courage, the dignity and the ability to lead a nation, you pay dearly in Latin America, as both Cristina and Dilma have found out.

Both have been smeared. Much of the post-coup analysis, written by intellectuals and international political analysts condemns and blames her for being a woman.

It is an analysis made by the patriarchy, subjective and with a high level of misogyny and stereotype, with all kinds of insults, contempt and fallacies.

This fraudulent coup against Dilma has been carried out from a position of betrayal, hatred, and jealousy, from a feeling of inferiority, and that’s why it has been so vicious. An attack on progressivism and democracy developed since Lula came to power, and with an increasing dose of hatred when it was Dilma calling the shots: too many women in government, too many African descendants, something intolerable for classism and the oligarchy, and much more so for the patriarchy.

Too many benefits for those hardest hit by the system; the neglected and exploited. Too many improvements for the outcasts, too much life in the favelas, too much visibility for women, and too many rights for the LGBTI community. The progress achieved by Brazil under Dilma as president is undeniable from any point of view.

Her administration was backed by 54 million Brazilians, and overthrown by 50 treacherous votes from the pawns of capitalism. One of the new methods of the Condor Plan: undemocratic coups supported by a media which manipulates and plays politics.

There is not a single piece of evidence to implicate her. Let them leave no stone unturned in looking for it! Her unforgivable sin has been to govern for the vilified and to create policies of inclusion, development and social equality, trying to impose justice in Human Rights, giving voice to the invisible and dreams to the nobodies; there is no oligarchy, neoliberalism or classism that would condone or allow it.

By decapitating Dilma they have hit the hearts of the outcasts, hence the ferocious attack driven by treason. Because at the polls they would lose.

They were unable to succeed against a woman who has put a plate of food on the table and provided a roof over the heads of millions of marginalized people, someone who has created jobs, invested in education, health and infrastructure, someone who has showered the formerly oppressed peripheries with a utopia, someone who backed the BRICS instead of the USA and the oligarchic capital of the region.

This is someone who didn’t sell the oil into the hands of the greedy, someone who has a futuristic vision of regional integration, and someone who wants comprehensive development for Brazilian children in their own country so they are not forced to migrate – unlike in neoliberal countries – towards US exploitation.

This is someone who wants and fights for women rights so that women stop being seen as third class human beings.

Those 54 million Brazilians have the political and human obligation to take to the streets and demonstrate peacefully in defence of their rights. Dilma cannot do it alone, she has defended them during her term in office, and with her life since her adolescence. Never forget that she was tortured by those who now want to destroy her!

Now they have to assert their votes and make their voices heard. No one can defend the rights of the outcasts, except the outcasts themselves. For Dilma, for Brazil, for the favelas. For the right to live in a country that deserves to flourish. For the historical memory, dignity, identity, for human and workers’ rights. For prosperity. For justice, for integrity and love. For those who were, for those who are and for those who will be.

Dilma is unbreakable, they won’t defeat her. But they are not going after her; they want to dismantle the achievements of her progressive government and to destroy the dreams of the outcasts. They want to extinguish the unprecedented beauty of a blooming Brazil. But there is no source of big capital, no oppressor and no treacherous power that has ever been able to subdue the enormous strength of a wounded and honest people. Brazil has to show what it is made of. The time is now. The fight is today.

Now and forever, my love and support for my president Dilma, and my homeland Brazil.

Translated by Marvin Najarro

7. Men and the Changing Face of Masculinity

Real Men Do Cry:
Emotions Aren't Gender Exclusive

Maud Fernhout and Jennifer Luxton

Originally published in Yes! Magazine, 13 July 2016
under a Creative Commons License

Photo by Maud Fernhout

Manners and machismo: Traditional Western gender etiquette is clear. Ladies, don’t be loud and unruly. Men, be tough. Dutch university student Maud Fernhout challenged these stereotypes in her photo series “What Real Men Cry Like” and “What Real Women Laugh Like,” in which she asked fellow students from different cultures to do exactly that. When the women saw their own faces crinkled with elation and mouths agape, they were repulsed. “They said, ‘I look so ugly,’” Fernhout recalled. “But when they looked at the other girls, they said, ‘Oh, she’s so pretty!’ and they realized it was okay.” Seeing others break the mold of what a woman’s face should look like changed how they felt about themselves.

Fernhout found that attitudes toward crying men varied by culture: Eastern European students were most resistant, while Italians and Spaniards cried easily. Women’s reactions to how they looked laughing didn’t vary, Fernhout said, perhaps because most of Europe shares the same standards of beauty but not the same standards of masculinity. She hopes that these images will force people to look at their own preconceptions of gendered behaviors.


Maud Fernhout and Jennifer Luxton wrote this article for Gender Justice, the Summer 2016 issue of YES! Magazine. Maud studies Liberal Arts & Sciences at University College Utrecht. For her, photography is a way to express her view of the world, and to help others do the same. Maud’s work can be found on her website.

8. Men, Women, and the Human Habitat

Women and Biodiversity Feed the World,
Not Corporations and GMOs

Vandana Shiva

Originally published in Common Dreams, 20 May 2015,
under a Creative Commons License

'Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition
throughout history,' writes Dr. Vandana Shiva, 'but today, food
is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities
controlled by global corporations.' (Photos: Georgina Smith/CIAT)

The two great ecological challenges of our times are biodiversity erosion and climate change. And both are interconnected, in their causes and their solutions.

Industrial agiculture is the biggest contributor to biodiversity erosion as well as to climate change. According to the United Nations, 93% of all plant variety has disappeared over the last 80 years.

Monocultures based on chemical inputs do not merely destroy plant biodiversity, they have destroyed soil biodiversity, which leads to the emergence of pathogens, new diseases, and more chemical use.

Our study of soils in the Bt cotton regions of Vidharba showed a dramatic decline in beneficial soil organisms. In many regions with intensive use of pesticides and GMOs, bees and butterflies are disappearing. There are no pollinators on Bt cotton plants, whereas the population of pollinators in Navdanya’s biodiversity conservation farm in Doon Valley is six times more than in the neighbouring forest. The UNEP has calculated the contribution of pollinators to be $200 billion annually. Industrial agriculture also kills aquatic and marine life by creating dead zones due to fertilizer run off. Pesticides are also killing or damaging aquatic life .

"Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles."
Besides the harm to biodiversity and the climate, industrial agriculture actually undermines food and nutrition security. Firstly, industrial agriculture grows commodities for profits of the agrichemical (now also Biotech) and agribusiness corporations. Only 10 percent of the annual GMO corn and soya crop goes to feed people. The rest goes to animal feed and biofuel. This is clearly not a food system that feeds the world.

Secondly, monocultures undermine nutrition by displacing the biodiversity that provides nourishment and the diversity of nutrients our body needs. Herbicides like Roundup do not just kill the milkweed on which the monarch Butterfly larvae feed, they kill sources of nutrition for humans – the amaranth, the "bathua," and the mixed cropping that produces more "Nutrition per Acre" than industrial monocultures (see Navdanya’s report on Health per Acre).

Having destroyed our sources of nutrition by destroying biodiversity—and creating vitamin A, iron and other deficiencies—the same companies who created the crisis are promising a miracle solution: GMOs. Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles.

Indigenous biodiverse varieties of food grown by women provide far more nutrition than the commodities produced by industrial agriculture. Since 1985 the false miracle of Golden Rice is being offered as a solution to vitamin A deficiency. But Golden rice is still under development. Billions of dollars have been wasted on a hoax.

"Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide."
On 20th of April, the White house gave an award to Syngenta which had tried to pirate India’s rice diversity, and owns most of the 80 patents related to Golden Rice. This is reminiscient of the Emperor who had no clothes. Golden Rice is 350% less efficient in providing vitanim A than the biodiversity alternatives that women grow. GMO ‘iron-rich’ Bananas have 3000% less iron than turmeric and 2000% less iron than amchur (mango powder). Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide through a greater dependence on chemical inputs. Moreover, these corporate-led industrial monocultures are destroying biodiversity, and we are losing access to the food systems that have sustained us throughout time. Biodiverse ecological agriculture in women’s hands is a solution not just to the malnutrition crisis, but also the climate crisis.

Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations. Monoculture industrial farming has taken the quality, taste and nutrition out of our food.

In addition to destroying biodiversity, industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which are leading to climate change and climate chaos. As I have written in my book, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, 40% of all GHGs—including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane—come from industrialised globalized agriculture. And chemical monocultures are also more vulnerable to climate change as we have witnessed in the unseasonal rains at harvest time in 2015.

On the other hand, organic farming reduces emissions, and also makes agriculture more resilient to climate change. Because organic farming is based on returning organic matter to the soil, it is the most effective means to remove excess carbon in the air, where it does not belong, and putting it in the soil, where it belongs. Navdanya’s research has shown that organic farming has increased carbon absorption by 55%. International studies show that with 2 tons of Soil Organic Matter (SOM) per hectare, we can remove 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon back down to pre-industrial levels of 350 ppm.

In addition, organic matter in the soil also increases water-holding capacity of the soil, reducing the impact of floods and droughts. Just 1% increase in Soil Organic Matter can raise the water-holding capacity of soil by 100,000 liters per hectare. And an increase of 5% can raise it to 800,000 liters. This is our insurance against climate change, both when there is drought and too little rain, and when there are floods and excess rain. On the other hand, cement and concrete increases runoff of water, aggravating floods and drought. We witnessed this in the Uttarakhand disaster in 2013 and in the Kashmir disaster in 2014.

At harvest time of spring 2015 India had unseasonal rains which destroyed the crops. More than a 100 farmers committed suicide. The unseasonal rains due to climate instability added to the burden of debt the farmers are already carrying due to rising costs of production and falling prices. Both the crisis of debt leading to climate change and the climate crisis have a common solution – a shift to biodiverse ecological agriculture which is free of high cost chemical inputs and dependence on corporate seeds, hence of debt, and also has climate resilience built into it through biodiversity and organic soils.

4000 years ago our ancient Vedas had guided us, "Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Care for it, and it will grow our food, our fuel, our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it, and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.

9. Dismantling the Patriarchal Gender Binary in Society

Changing the Model by Putting Sustainability of Life
as the Central Principle

Rosa Guillén Velarde

Originally published in Latinamerica Press, 14 July 2016
(Reproduction of our information is permitted if the source is cited)


Domestic and care work, like nature, are considered inexhaustible resources for capitalist exploitation.

Women in the countryside and in the city organize and struggle every day to face the extractivism taking place in their territories, capturing and polluting the waters, stripping the land, destroying important ecosystems and the social fabric. We have seen them in demonstrations, guarding over lagoons, preparing food for the men and women demonstrators who are demanding justice, asking for solidarity and giving their time, labor, energy, affection and even putting their bodies as shields to defend, protect and preserve their communities and territories. The situation is that, as explained by Brazilian feminist and psychologist Nalu Faria1, women depend more than men on having access to common goods and resources and are therefore more committed to come to their defense.

Native, indigenous and peasant women are mostly dedicated and committed developing in their communities practices of cooperation, redistribution and solidarity. Part of these noncommercial relationships are care work and performing tasks to suit biological and emotional needs, and a permanent concern for welfare. The market, besides not meeting many human needs, makes it difficult to carry out their activities. The entry into their territories of the market and of large extractive companies redefine the power relationships, undervalue their knowledge, affect the means of life production, deepen capitalist exploitation, discrimination and subjugation through racism, violence, prostitution, human trafficking, and forced migration.

This reality creates distrust and resistance to extractivisms. In many cases these women are marginalized and forced to poorer areas where they continue with their traditional agricultural practices, even if it means that their production is curtailed from then on to small plots, yards, fruit orchards and the breeding of small animals. In the cities they are those fighting for the establishment of public services like water and electricity; who develop in solidarity experiences of collectivization of domestic work.

This behavior of women is not new; it has historical roots marked by their social link with the livelihoods and care in the communities. For this reason it is not surprising for them to commit against the climate crisis, the defense of the Pachamama, or Mother Earth, and the strategies of change.

A feminist economy
The feminisms that initiated with the critique towards patriarchy, a system that structures the domination over the bodies and lives of women based on the gender and social division of labor, give progress to the analysis and questioning of the capitalist / patriarchal system and are enriched by the contributions of feminist economy.

This feminist economy makes a radical critique of capitalism and the political economy by putting front and center the production of human life and care of nature, this in contrast to the strategies of commoditization and centrality of the market, profits and transnational accumulation of wealth, which is accomplished by maintaining relationships that are patriarchal, racist, predatory, extractive and neocolonial.

The gender division of labor arbitrarily separates the production of goods and services for the market from the production of the daily and generational life; it recognizes production as predominantly male, assigns it a market value, and rewards it with a salary, performance of public duties, power and prestige in the private /domestic space. This gender division of labor makes women responsible for reproduction, as if it were part of her destiny because they are life-giving. It establishes a false separation between production and reproduction (afterwards between economic and social policies); it hides the economic link between the two.

Economic science does not recognize domestic work as work even when it involves learned knowledge, energy and it takes time. But the capital and the economy need and at the same time very efficiently take advantage of these domestic care jobs of women that make people available to be ready to work every day, ensures a generational supply and also means no costs to them. For this reason, domestic and care work, the same as nature, are treated as externalities of the economic models and considered inexhaustible resources for capitalist exploitation.

Looking for changes
The question regarding the centrality of human life for the functioning of the society model as well as the questioning of the androcentric character of the Western way of thinking is a fundamental piece of both the feminist economy and eco-feminism, as Faria says.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Renata Moreno2 adds that the concept of the centrality of the care of life and nature, as opposed to the centrality of the wage labor market, produces political convergences capable of building another paradigm of sustainability of life based on equality.

To recover the centrality in the production of life and care of nature it is necessary to change the logic of the benefits for the logic of life. It is necessary to calculate the ecological debts and care debts; reduce the extractive economies and waste generation; reduce the use of energy, extend the life of appliances and end programmed obsolescence. This also requires changing habits and reducing consumption; be committed to local production and short commercialization circuits; recover and support peasant agriculture, and reduce private transport. It is also imperative to learn from the accumulated wisdom in sustainable cultures; recover the decent job, with working hours that leave time for mutual care and greater commitment of the wage earners to housework; paid domestic work with all the rights and benefits.

To put the care of people at the center of interest now requires, on the one hand, recognizing women as primary subjects of reproductive work, and on the other, to advance firmly in the redistribution of this work between men and women, in the families and the communities.

It is relevant to obtain commitments from the state with set policies and programs. Some progress has been made in accounting time of unpaid domestic work, including the calculation of its contribution to the GDP in satellite accounts, which in Peru reach 20.4%3 and in Mexico 21.19%4 of the GDP. The integrated care systems developed in Uruguay, or partial programs in other countries in the region that recognize economic noncontributory pensions — economic benefits to people in situations of maximum vulnerability —, also constitute progress in this area, but it is necessary to directly recognize unpaid domestic work with a pension and social security for those women who are heads of homes who do not have any income.

Spanish ecofeminist Yayo Herrero5 recommends taking a look at the experiences aimed at making visible the centrality of life and care of nature. Herrero highlights the experiences that test alternative ways to produce, maintain or distribute, to manage property, to finance collective projects such as cooperatives of agro-ecological consumerism; shared care networks that meet the care needs for children; and auto managed nursing homes based on mutual support, among others. —Latinamerica Press.


Rosa Guillén Velarde is a member of the World March of Women and the Latin American Network of Women Transforming the Economy (Red Latinoamericana de Mujeres Transformando la Economía-REMTE) from Peru. She presents some thoughts, ideas, strength, discussion arguments that are being shared in the context of building plural social movements.


1 “El aprecio a la vida humana. Alternativas feministas al actual modelo de sociedad,” Perspectivas América Latina Magazine N°1, Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2015.
2 “Economía feminista: una visión antisistémica,” In search for equality: texts for feminist action, Sempreviva Organização Feminista, São Paulo, 2013:
3 Satellite account of unpaid work of homes in Peru, INEI, 2016 (Based on a survey of use in 2010).
4 Satellite account of unpaid work of homes in México, INEGI. SCNM. 2006-2010.
5 “Propuestas ecofeministas para un sistema cargado de deudas,” Economía Crítica Magazine N° 13, Barcelona, April 2012.


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