Across South and Southeast Asia, structural support for industrial development agendas in political, judicial and economic institutions tend to expose the territories, forests, resources, and watersheds of local communities and Indigenous Peoples to exploitation and appropriation. Women environmental defenders are often the last line of defence between irreplaceable ecological values, collective social institutions, Indigenous culture, traditions, spirituality, knowledge, and local livelihoods on the one hand, and expanding frontiers of land and natural resource exploitation on the other. Women also bear the brunt of negative impacts due to intersecting forms of disadvantage. The greatest source of strength for communities under pressure from industrial ‘development’ projects is often the integrity of their shared values and identity of which women are special custodians. Nevertheless, women are often excluded from or unable to participate in collective decision-making or dialogue with government, corporate or judicial stakeholders due to discriminatory social and cultural norms.

Gendered impacts of unsustainable industrial development schemes and the role women play in resisting them, transmitting traditional knowledge to future generations, and maintaining communal resource management systems remain under-examined. One reason is the divide between the realities faced by local women environmental defenders and the agendas of (urban) NGOs and academics. Bridging this divide and uniting the expertise of grassroots activists with the capacities of ally NGOs and academics can create transformational change, but first requires acknowledgement, engagement and support for grassroots women environmental defenders as key agents and experts.

However, extremely little funding reaches grassroots women’s organizations and there are very few forums available for grassroots women environmental defenders to meet, support each other, network or organize collectively. Engaging with policy-makers and the private sector is important if/when genuine opportunities arise. However, the pressing need is to increase support for grassroots women’s organizations and their capacities to meet, network, organize and develop their own capacities and agendas.

The overall objective is to provide a space for strategic convergence of grassroots women environmental defenders and women’s rights activists working on environmental and human rights issues associated with natural resources industries in Cambodia, the Philippines, India, Indonesia and Nepal. The space shall also be used to celebrate their identity and achievements, showcase best practices for women’s mobilization, share strategies for transforming unjust power structures, and network for organizing and upscaling advocacy for gender and environmental justice at national and regional levels.

This event is by invitation only.