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When women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.” Phylicia Rashad

This power is amplified when each brings and shares the piece of work that she is holding for the collective. It is like a wildly complex puzzle where everyone’s commitments to collective thriving fit together to make a whole that none of us could have imagined, let alone accomplished alone. The climate crisis is overwhelming in its complexity and enormity, and yet sitting in a room of women, deep in the life-long work of engaging with it, something other than dread seems possible.

Women sitting at a networking event

This month’s Amava Networking Event was themed The Voices of Women in a Changing Climate. The women who shared their work came from a cross section of intersecting fields yet share a common concern for the impacts of climate change. Because the issue is huge and complex in a way that no other issue has been before, it has the capacity to call on a wide range of skills and knowledges.

Some of the speakers work in the space of resistance – dismantling the dysfunctional power structures that got us into this situation – while others work in the realm of building communities of care – mending, healing, cultivating sensitivity and restoring sacredness. Some of the speakers are bridge builders working across multiple fields such as, education, research, policy development and conservation. They are using music, art, food, academic research, science and future visioning to co-produce worlds that are life-sustaining and perhaps stand a chance of adapting to the changes that are coming.

Strong Women

Amongst the speakers there were also specialists, who, through their dedication to a very particular aspect of this fragile earth, are able to see the depth of the problem as it damages the species or ecosystem that they have dedicated their lives to. In a sense, these are all ways of telling stories and enlivening different ways of knowing the world. For some of the women it is a matter of reclaiming the stories and wisdom of the past, and for others, of calling on the spirit of innovation as we move into very uncertain futures. For some women it is a matter of both/and.

All the speakers’ work is rooted in some form of action. Aaniyah Martin spoke about monthly new moon litter pick up events organised by the Beach Co-op as well as her research practice stitching pieces of beach debris into a creative piece which speaks of history, memory and relationship to land. Marley Quinn of Seed and Andrea van Meygaarden of Earth Ant are consciously making food and skin care products, respectively, imbued with an ethic of reciprocity and responsibility. Many of the speakers, including Sarah Farrell (African Climate Alliance) and Lisakhanya Mathiso (Project90by2030) are involved in facilitating awareness raising about climate change through the creative programmes in their organisations.

Women at Climate Change Networking Event

Others, such as Gina Ziervogel (Climate System Analysis Group), Isabelle Giddy and Sandy Thomalla (both of the Southern Ocean Carbon-Climate Observatory) are doing research that in different ways advances understandings of the sensitivity of systems, and the relationships within them, to change. Nadia Sitas (Centre for Sustainable Transitions, Stellenbosch University) and Claire Homewood (Youth Nature Futures and @handcontrol360) are doing inspiring work around creative future visioning. Others, such as Thoko Madonko (Heinrich Boell Foundation) and Sydney Church (South South North) are involved with providing support to others on the ground who are doing yet more important pieces of this work. And in most cases, each of the incredible women who presented are working across many of these spaces, breaking down the silos that have long exacerbated the causes and effects of climate change.

As one of the speakers, Nadia Sitas, reminded us “the future doesn’t exist yet”. It is up to all of us. And what we do now matters.

This networking event informed our environmental projects Community Changemaker 2030 and Youth Visions in a Changing Climate and was an incredible inspiration for us to move on!

Claire Rousell

Claire is an artist, writer, activist and researcher focused on the intersection of extractivism, food sovereignty, environmental justice and art. Her work takes a variety of forms including visual harvesting, animation, poetry and she has played a key role in Straight from the Ground NPC, a vegetable box scheme working with local small-scale farmers in and around Johannesburg.