On 8th March we celebrated Women’s Day felicitating women achievers across the world.
Women achievers have made a mark in fields of science, technology, politics, cinema, finance etc, but there is another dedicated lot who are working towards betterment of our environment.
From Jane Goodall to Maneka Gandhi, Vandana Shiva and their lesser known counterparts- working in their respective fields they have been able to achieve impossible goals and earn a reputation of being serious environmentalists.
Maneka Gandhi, former Minister of Enviornment, has founded an organization called People for Animals. Her organization runs many shelters across the country for stray animals.
With hosts of celebrities from all walks of life joining her, she endorses vegetarianism and was responsible for putting stricter laws regarding use of animal testing in laboratories. She also made mandatory for censor board of India, for use of animals
in films, to have a check on them. In more recent times, scenes were deleted from the movie Rang De Basanti as the filmmakers had not abided by the set laws.
Similarly, Vandana Shiva, founder of Research Foundation for Scince, Technology and Ecology is one big promoter of ethnic seeds. She founded Navdanya in 1991, a movement of seed saving and organic farming. She has started a Seed University in Dehradun
where seeds and plants are grown organically and farmers are encouraged to use these. She has protested against Monsanto, an MNC dealing in genetically modified seeds. These GM crops might give good yield and lessen the impact of insecticides but in the long
run they impact the bio-diversity. Thus she advocates indigenous products and methods to revive agriculture.
Sunita Narain, Director of Centre for Science and Environment is another capable woman working in this field. She has single handedly taken up big cola companies to pull up their acts and use pesticide free water in making of colas. She has been asked
to co-head the team of Tiger Task force. Working independently towards various causes has brought credibility to her organisation and put forward all burning issues in front of people and forced our government to acknowledge
CSE’s effort and act upon them.
Another noted personality in this field is Dr. Iqbal Malik whose NGO Vatavaran has brought focus towards solid waste management in Delhi. She has been responsible for initiating cleaning and greening brigades that work in residential colonies and educational
institutions. Her down to earth schemes include zero garbage colonies and relocating monkeys to forest habitats.
Although Belinda Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) is not an Indian by birth she has lived in India all her
life. Working with state forest and police officials for over a decade, she has been responsible for hundreds of seizures and raids on wildlife
poaching gangs. Besides her many lesser known women are doing their own bit in saving the ecology. Bali Devi now in her eighties, along with the legendry Gaura Devi in March 1974 encircled the forests of Reni to prevent logging of trees by contractors
for making cricket bats, gave rise to the Chipko Movement. A simple village woman Gaura Devi took the lead to stop the felling of trees. Her efforts were fuelled by leaders and international media as a women’s movement to save the ecology. Thus, the government
was forced to bring an end to contractor raj practiced since the colonial era.
Although the region has lost its forests since then but Bali Devi still recollects those days and has the spirit to fight for her forests.
A film made by Krishnendu Bose called ‘Dance with hands held tight’ highlights such women’s contribution towards saving of natural resources but shows their lack of space in policy making process. The film is not a gender debate but put forwards the
need for their involvement. Women mentioned above are just a few of the nameless many who are slowly making a major impact in saving our environment. And this is a salute to them.
( Photo courtesy: The Hindu photo library)