Five years of GAGGA: “Once you understand what gender justice is about, your perspective will change for good”
Almost five years ago, the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) started its journey to bring together the often still quite separate worlds of environmental justice organisations and the women's rights movement. At Both ENDS, Annelieke Douma and Tamara Mohr have been coordinating the GAGGA programme. Together they look back at five years of learning, connecting and enjoying the fruits of this innovative programme.
Why did you want to be part of GAGGA?
Annelieke: For many years I have been actively involved in Both ENDS' ambition to strengthen the focus on gender justice and women's rights in our work. In 2015, the GAGGA programme was the perfect next step for us to take with two women's funds – FCAM and Mama Cash - which also saw the clear relation between women's rights and environmental justice and the many opportunities to work together and learn from each other.
Tamara: GAGGA was also a great opportunity to put strengthening local organisations right back at the centre of our work. That has always been one of my greatest interests and is also why Both ENDS was originally set up.
What for you is the added value of GAGGA to Both ENDS's work?
Tamara: Building networks is very much a part of Both ENDS work. In this case, that is women's organisations, funds and NGOs. I believe very strongly that strengthening local initiatives contributes to the changes we need. In GAGGA, we can strengthen groups that receive attention and support from very few funds and organisations, but which have a lot of knowledge, capacity and power.
Annelieke: GAGGA allowed Both ENDS and our partners to take a 'deep dive' into exploring and specifically working on the link between environmental justice and women's rights. We got to know the women's rights movement – their values, their beliefs and ways of working – and have started to work with many new organisations. GAGGA supports various national and regional funds which in their turn support over 300 grassroots groups in almost 30 countries. Their local fights and initiatives are central to GAGGA's work.
What have you learned over the years in GAGGA?
Tamara: I have learned that the environmental movement and the women's rights movement are very different. In the environmental movement, we talk about work, what we have to do and how. In the women's rights movement, personal attention is also important. How people are doing and what they are experiencing. You can't just talk about the substance of the work, it's also about people's well-being, and how we take care of each other. There is more attention for culture and rituals.
Annelieke: Indeed. We have learned the importance of being open, of taking time to understand each other, of stepping out of our comfort zone and of creating space for partners to learn from each other and start to work together.
Tamara: Because, without first creating that space and building up mutual trust, you can't work together. It is not simply a matter of introducing an environmental organisation and a women's organisation to each other and letting them learn from each other. These are long-term processes that move forward with small steps. But once you see how important those steps are and really understand what gender justice is about, your perspective will change for good. It has changed me as a person.
Annelieke: We now also take up these lessons learned in GAGGA, and the inclusive way of working, in other programmes and in our conversations with donors and policy makers.
What are you most proud of?
Annelieke: I am very proud of the many GAGGA partners who do incredible and urgent work on climate change, claiming land rights, fighting extractives, or working on ecosystem restoration. And of the concrete results achieved by GAGGA, by creating the space and opportunity for women's rights and environmental justice groups to work together. Examples are WAMA, a network which emerged after a GAGGA meeting, women in Nepal who claimed local climate adaptation budgets, or women's groups in Nigeria who have strengthened their campaign for a thorough clean-up of the Niger Delta.
Tamara: Yes, we have really been able to bring people into contact with each other. People are now using that as a springboard to take the next steps, and are doing so with enormous energy. Fantastic processes are emerging within the GAGGA network, many more than we can see – often we don't hear about them until afterwards. We set something in motion that then grows further without us.
Annelieke: It is wonderful to see how partners have come to really feel part of this Alliance and can't wait to continue.
And luckily, GAGGA will indeed continue. How are you looking forward to GAGGA Women Leading Climate Action?
Annelieke: In the next five years of GAGGA we will focus specifically on climate justice. That will allow us to take ambitious steps towards addressing three key – interrelated – global challenges: growing inequality, environmental degradation and climate change. Not an easy task, but we have built a very solid basis in GAGGA to build on.
Tamara: Together with out partners, we will have to identify where we now really need to bring about change, and how. We have to focus on system change to stop climate change! That is a responsibility for all of us, and we are going to devote a lot of energy to working on it in the coming years.
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