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A Grassroots Mountain Woman at an International Gathering in Kenya

Posted to Mountain Forum, October 28, 2004

Concerned that most of the agreements made at different global conferences in the last 32 years still remain un-honoured, over 200 women from more than 50 countries gathered at Global Women’s Assembly on Environment: “Women as the Voice for the Environment”, organized by UNEP at Nairobi (Kenya) on 11-13 October 2004. Agreeing that globalization, militarization, fundamentalism and market-oriented economic models were partly responsible for the unfulfilled promises, the Nairobi gathering underlined the necessity of creating and maintaining harmony between macro economics, human rights, gender equality and environmental conservation for sustainable global development. The keynote address at the inaugural session was delivered by Nobel Peace Prize Winner 2004, Prof. Wangari Maathai of Kenya.

At this global assembly. the presence of Indians Bali Devi Rana (Head, Women’s Welfare Group, Reni, Chamoli Garhwal) and Biju Negi (Beej Bachao Andolan, Garhwal), and the recollection after 30 years, of the most dramatic action in the Chipko Movement in 1974, when 27 women of Reni village successfully confronted the axemen in their forests, was an acceptance of the fact that the concerns, issues and questions raised by the Chipko were still alive – be it in the form of a struggle for right to natural resources as exemplified in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve region or in endangering the people’s food security through introduction of inappropriate principles and technology of the Green Revolution in agriculture which are being addressed by its latterday incarnations like The Nanda Devi Campaign and the Beej Bachao Andolan (Save Seeds Movement) in Garhwal. The invitation to Bali Devi to share the stage with Prof. Wangari Maathai was a singular honour to the mountain women of Garhwal who have been carrying out non-violent struggle to preserve their cultural and natural biodiversity and to demand their right to natural resources.

The address by Bali Devi, the first ever by a grassroots Chipko woman from Garhwal to an international audience, included the concerns of women of the entire state duly received through points sent in by the various groups and individuals. These covered , women’s right to land and natural resources, growing impact of multinational companies on mountain agriculture and traditional seeds and thereby increasing food insecurity in the region, displacement of people through a vast network of small and large dams, physical, social and environmental disruption through mining, increasing market influences over social infrastructures like the CBOs and thereby the marginalization of women, undermining of traditional knowledge systems through imposition of alien, foreign models and patterns in agriculture, tourism, etc.

For Bali Devi’s speech and other details, see []