India: Vandana Shiva on Women’s right to water, fertile soil & the forests that produce water

“Water and the water crisis is a story of how creating a well for some
deprives most,” Vandana Shiva said. Shiva talked about women’s rights,
the right to water and peaceful protests to an audience of about 175
Monday night in the Lewis Katz Building. Women were among the first to
notice a connection between deforestation and a lack of water, Shiva
said. As the homemakers, women were in charge of collecting drinking
water. However, after deforestation campaigns, they often noticed a
severe decline in the resource, Shiva said.

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Shiva focused on third-world countries and the reactions of women to
the lack of fresh drinking water. in India often walk many miles to
obtain drinking water for their families, Shiva said. However, they
usually go no further than 10 miles to do so. At that point, they take
action, she said. A participant of the 1970s Chipko Movement, Shiva
talked about the nonviolent attempt to prevent deforestation in India.
“Forests used to be about revenue and timber, but then it was about
water,” she said. “She provides a very creative relationship between
women, soil and water,” Chao Huang (graduate-international affairs)
said. Shiva also rallied against strip mining in India, she said.

Though the then-Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, condemned
strip mining in the Himalayan Mountains for its “ugliness,” Shiva said
she took action to prevent damage to water. “In the limestone, caves
and cavities and bodies of water would form. Strip mining stole the
water storage system provided by nature,” she said.

Shiva told of a 75-year-old woman who had been beaten for preventing bulldozers from further stripping the mountains. Despite her injuries, the woman carried on, calling to mind Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent practices,
Shiva said.

“We strip foliage from trees and the leaves return. We are
a part of nature, why wouldn’t we bounce back as well?” Shiva said.
Shiva also discussed the importance of organic farming and the harm of
the Green Revolution.

Philip McConnaughay, dean of the Dickinson
School of Law, called Shiva a leading activist for women of
third-world countries, farming and water sovereignty. He said he hopes
students will learn from her work and activism.

“They should see the
primary importance of pure ecosystems and sustaining life as we know
it. Also, the potential of collective activism by individuals who
aren’t the most powerful, but care the most. Her example was women and
mothers,” McConnaughay said.

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