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At a recent meeting, I was introduced to the term rematriation. Hearing the word sparked the further realization of how steeped in patriarchal terms our language is. The backlash resonates. Only fairly recently we’ve seen the inclusion of a gender designation after name on various online platforms. However that may solve somebody’s issues, I don’t need to know – and why would anyone insist I do?

We’ve accepted a culture of aggressive winning, with attendant violent words and phrases: conquer, annihilate, slap down, beat, vanquish. Sports in particular relish this vocabulary. There are no friendly competitions.  Too much money and power at stake.

Also consider the rampant use of negatives, from the quotidian “Don’t forget”, “Don’t be late” to the more chastising: “Don’t quit” or “Never Leave a Fallen Comrade Behind”.  Our brains withdraw from warnings and shaming but tend to hold on to positive input like “Stay Safe” and “I know you’ll do your best” and “Bring everyone home.” See Woman Warrior Code.

It’s a life practice to examine our words. They have enormous power. Wielding that power for better or for worse is our choice.

Warrior Woman Code

My blog identifies me as a Warrior for Women. By my own reckoning, I’ve lived an accomplished life. However, a visceral part of me still believes I am ‘less than’ men. After all these years, I’m still boxing my way out of the thorough early conditioning women – in all cultures – receive. I have to remind myself often that I’m an exceptional contributory woman.

We women have learned to live with too much shit: being talked over, dismissed, underestimated, objectified, underpaid, and dictated to about our bodies. We face the likelihood of violence at school, work, home, and on the streets. We risk our physical and/or emotional safety every time we dismiss a man. Our culture also perversely messages us that if we embrace feminism, we’ll wind up rejected, suspected, crazy.

We’ve lived with all of this as if it’s normal, but it cannot continue. Many earlier battles for women’s rights have been hard won. Many still require a fight – with an elevated fighting ethos. A Warrior Code informs how we organize, resist, and disable the forces that threaten our sanity and innate power.

Rather than reinvent long-standing codes, I’ve studied traditional (men’s) codes with an eye to molding them to womanist sensibilities. A Warrior Woman Code looks like this:

Foundational Virtues:  courage, loyalty, and integrity.

Operational Code – recast for women:

  • Mission first. A woman’s biological mandate is to mother healthy, productive human beings. This requires tactical and logistical prowess: support the unfurling of a child’s unique purpose and gifts while defending them against predators, exploiters, and craven assholes. The same applies for our human mission, which may not include childbearing but which will always include some element of nurturing.
  • Plan to win (formerly: Never Accept Defeat). We may be tired and distracted, but together we are invincible.
  • Persevere (formerly: Never Quit). Sustained self-care and unity stokes the courage to advance.
  • Bring everyone home (formerly:Never Leave a Fallen Comrade). Women have a LOT of fallen comrades. The 700+ million stranded in extreme poverty, believing no one is coming for them, must have the tools to rise. The status of the poorest and least fortunate shapes the status of all. This belief compels me to advocate persistently for the global adoption of the Women’s Center Model, informed as it is by the ‘least fortunate’ women.

Elevating women, bringing them home to the sisterhood, requires seismic attitude shifts. Women’s Centers are base camps for this transformation. The Woman Warrior Code is how we suit up. I’m always scouting for co-conspirators.

Billions in Play

In 2022, 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This number is a significant increase from 235 million people a year ago. Devex estimates that donors provided

17.2 billion – less than half of the 37.7 billion needed. And that doesn’t include development assistance. 

The Women of Baraka Center, Nairobi

International humanitarian aid is Big Business, involving the U.N., multi-national corporations, international NGOs, Governments, and an assortment of foundations and individuals.

The question “Who gives what to whom?” plunges one into a dizzying array of analyses.

And then there are scary rumors about millions gone missing in a pipeline leaky with corruption, poor accounting and accountability, and just plain incompetence.

In my little corner of this mess, I’m troubled by organizations whose largesse creates cash flow challenges for small community-based organizations like Women’s Centers. An example: a well-meaning foundation ships a bunch of equipment but requires the recipient to pay customs clearance and transport costs to their location. Never mind that all of the equipment is available locally. Why not just send the cash – avoiding all the drama of international shipping, and feeding a national economy in recession.

Then there’s the tragically hilarious conundrum of USAID, wringing its hands over how to localize aid, but evidently not willing to part ways with old buddy U.S.-based INGOs working in the so-called developing world. 

Baraka Women’s Center can knit together an astonishingly effective national program to empower Kenyan women. But no joy from the monied in Kenya. For now, an productive local asset advances, but much more slowly than the needs of the women it could serve. A generous infusion of cash changes everything. Often the obvious is not.

Buzzword: Girls

I love girls.  I used to be one. It was a time not particularly festooned with lovely experiences, but one thing that defined it: the presence or absence of mom. The role of adult women in shaping girls’ lives can never be understated.

In the non-profit and philanthropic universe, ‘Girls’ has become the latest buzzword.  Do we have a shared definition of the word ‘girl’? For me, a girl is a female age 3 through 12 years. A child. Do current trends indicate teens should now be included? Consider also the expression ‘one of the girls’, usually referring to adult females and used either pejoratively or affectionately depending on source.

This – and society’s – often fawning obsession with youth ignores certain realities.

  • Girls don’t know what they don’t know. 

They haven’t lived very long but may have seen more than a child should. That doesn’t infer understanding. If they’re smart, they find answers from women –  mothers, grandmothers, aunties, older sisters – with wisdom based on lived experience. Women’s Centers uniquely serve this role.

Mom sewing African bags with young daughter at Baraka Women’s Center, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Girlhood delivers different experiences depending on culture.

These tender years ideally would be the realm of unimpeded curiosity, of playful explorations that reveal innate gifts, and of gilded dreams to use those talents. In less privileged places, girlhood is a forced march, a time of repression, with limited opportunities for the flowering of femaleness.

  • Expectations for girls  to assume adult responsibilities can hobble or destroy aspirations.

While some girls possess natural instincts for leadership and activism, most must be guided by the hackles that rise over injustices they see or experience. Their leadership skills emerge with compassionate and patient coaching.

‘Young females’ doesn’t fall easily from the lips, but ‘youth’ offers less of an ambiguous pigeonhole than ‘girls.’  I love the idea of promoting and celebrating girls, especially feisty ones. But we gain little by seeing them as standard bearers for the gender justice struggle that requires the power of women’s wisdom.

Eau Woe

The extreme drought of the mid-seventies in California taught me to conserve water for the rest of my life. It’s a behavior habit, and sometimes an annoying duty.

I cringe when people in movies turn on a faucet and run water for minutes as they stare at the mirror.  It will be much harder to conscience such waste when great masses of humanity are in ugly protracted battles for drinkable water. Humans usually die after three days without any water.

My experience  in Africa showed  me the dark side of undependable water. People get greedy and charge punishing  prices and then sell nastier qualities of water as if they were pristine.

Highly objectionable latrines are common, particularly in urban slums. People get charged each use and there is no flush. The smell of human waste pervades the air within about a fifty-foot radius, depending on the breeze, if any. The less motivated simply squat in the ditch that runs through the narrow alleys between houses.

I fault Africa for not making the excretory process a little less hazardous for women. Just a toilet seat would help in almost every situation.  But then nobody would keep it clean, or would squat on the seat and break it. Unfamiliar luxury item.

The subject of water has bedeviled me for two decades. It’s time for me to swim upstream against prevailing denial. I hope we do not experience global water wars, although there are many conflicts already on the boil.

Water Wars – Global

From a report on ReliefWeb.org. [Source: adelphi  Originally published 21 Aug 2017 ]

“Water is limited. The global demand for freshwater has been growing rapidly due to population growth and greater affluence. At the same time, climate change and environmental degradation are altering the regional and seasonal availability and quality of water. The resulting competition over water use may lead to conflict and sometimes violence, though researchers emphasize that it is rarely the lack of water as such that fuels conflict, but rather its governance and management.” [Emphasis mine].

Image from the cover: The Price of Thirst – Global Water Inequality
and the Coming Chaos by Karen Piper

“Ten case studies from ECC Factbook  analyze the linkages between water and conflict. They look at various pathways through which water and security are connected and outline different attempts to find peaceful solutions.”  [I will cite only two in this episode.]

1. Dispute over water in the Nile Basin
The Nile basin features significant conflict over access to and rights over the Nile water resources among its eleven riparian countries. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), founded by 9 out of 10 riparian countries in 1999 with backing from major donor institutions, has achieved some successes in its attempts to strengthen cooperation. Yet, since 2007, diverging interests between upstream and downstream countries have brought negotiations to a standstill, pitting Egypt (and, to a lesser extent, Sudan) against upstream riparians, especially Ethiopia. In 2015, trilateral negotiations between these countries over a major dam under construction in Ethiopia led to a framework agreement that may, in time, prepare the ground for a broader agreement. Read more.

2. Water shortages and public discontent in Yemen
As a consequence of severe mismanagement, Yemen’s water availability is declining dramatically. The impacts on the people are unequally distributed, and corruption and nepotism are at the core of this imbalance. This has increasingly frustrated the disadvantaged, with water scarcity playing a role in fueling the political and security crisis in Yemen. Read more.

There’ll be two more global water sit reps in next episode.

Water Wars –  US

Florida, Georgia, Alabama

For more than three decades, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida have disputed the use of two shared river basins—the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT). These river systems are used to meet multiple needs, including drinking water, power generation, agriculture, aquaculture, navigation and recreation.

The “Tri-State Water Wars” litigation began in 1990 when Alabama sued the Corps to prevent it from providing additional water to metro Atlanta from Lake Lanier and Allatoona Lake. Although the dispute has evolved and changed over time, it has focused on legal challenges to the Corps’ plans for managing the ACF and ACT Basins and a direct challenge in the United States Supreme Court by Florida regarding Georgia’s water use in the ACF Basin.

Source: https://atlantaregional.org/natural-resources/water/tri-state-water-wars-overview/

California

The record-breaking drought in California is not chiefly the result of low precipitation. Three factors – rising temperatures, groundwater depletion, and a shrinking Colorado River – mean the most populous U.S. state will face decades of water shortages and must adapt.

According to Food and Water Watch’s report: “Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of the water used in California. In 2018, farms across the state used an estimated 7.9 trillion gallons.”

Not every water-intensive agriculture operation in California is connected to animal farming, but most are, including alfalfa farms supplying feed to livestock and industrial dairy operations. 

A fascinating historical overview:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_water_wars#Mono_Lake

There’ll be two more examples of US water conflicts in the next episode.

And some ideas on personal actions for conservation.