Ecofeminism; A Philippine Experience

Manila Bulletin, March 9, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Ecofeminism; A Philippine Experience

Byline: Mary John Mananzan,OSB,Ph.D.

The St. Hildegarde Women and Ecology Wholeness Farm

ONE Sunday morning, while sitting under a tree in our farm, our farmers and I observed how small butterflies - white and yellow - started flitting across the farm from one end to the other from the top of the trees and down to the shrubs. For 15 minutes, we watched, mesmerized, these beautiful creatures passing through our farm like rose petals floating in the air. In the afternoon of the same day, after there was a drizzle, when the sun shone again, a double rainbow in vivid colors appeared in a complete arc over our trees. This was one magic day in our St. Hildegarde Women and Ecology Wholeness Farm.

The Institute of Women's Studies based in Manila bought this 2.2 hectares lot in Mendez, Cavite about 2 hours from the City in 1997. Since then this farm has been developed and includes a farmer's hut which houses a farmer's family of five, a seminar house which can accommodate 50 people, and three alternative sources of energy: a biogas digester which provides methane gas for the kitchen, a solar lighting frame which lights the farmer's hut, and a windmill which helps in turning the pump for the deepwell. The farm runs on the bio-diverse, organic, sustainable agriculture principle. Although the main activities on the farm are the 5-day Women and Ecology Courses, the organic vegetable farming, the herbal garden, the fish culture and the animal husbandry and the planned mushroom culture and butterfly farm all contribute to concretizing the principles that are taught in the seminar.

This paper will try to explain the ecofeminist framework that is the foundation and guiding principle of the Women and Ecology Wholeness Farm. In discussing this framework it will at the same time already be giving the content of the 5day Women and Ecology Courses which is the main feature of the farm.

Antecedents of ecofeminism

Even before the word "ecofeminism" was invented and its theoretical framework and principles worked out, there were already practices and actions of women all over the world which later on would be included as ecofeminist actions. As Ariel Salleh claims, there seems to be a "common intuition that somehow the struggle for a feminine voice to be heard is joined to the struggle for a nurturant, protective attitude towards our living environment." In her book, Ecofeminism as Politics, the second chapter is devoted to a thorough, historical documentation of ecofeminist actions all over the world. As far back as 1962 lawsuits against corporations came from women especially with regards to nuclear power and energy. There were the feminist actions against the Three Mile Island incident, the death of Karen Silkwood in the Oklahoma plutonium processing plant, the English Women action in Greenham Common, the Australian women's movement against uranium mining led by Helen Caldicott, etc. Since I am focusing on the Third World, I will highlight Third World ecofeminist actions. As early as 1964, Brazilian women set up the Acao Democratica Femina Gaucha which became an advocacy group for sustainable agriculture. In Argentina there was the woman/peace axis headed by the Mothers of the Desaparecidos. In Japan, grandmothers who were victims of the NagasakiHiroshima bombings (Shibokusa women) initiated guerrilla disruptions against military arsenal near Mount Fuji. In Ethiopia in the 1980s, mothers went to the streets to prevent their children from being conscripted by the army. Aboriginal women of Australia protested against the top secret US reconnaissance station at Pine Gap in the Australian desert. In Botswana women formed the Thusano, Lefatsheng with a research farm for promoting veld plant crops. Namibian women tackled corporate dumping of obsolete medicines and the use of DepoProvera as a form of fertility control.

One of the most famous of Third World ecofeminist action was the dramatic action of the Indian women who prevented the cutting of the trees in the Himalayas by embracing them.

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