Recently, MADRE was invited to participate in the Marion Institute’s 10th annual “Connecting for Change” conference. The conference’s purpose was to inspire diverse communities to take action on environmental and social justice issues.
Watch the moving keynote delivered by Diana Duarte, MADRE Communications Director, on how women are disproportionately impacted by climate change and are well positioned to lead the movement to end the global crisis.
Good morning everyone. Thank you for having me. I am so happy to be here with you all at this gathering, connecting us all for change.
My name is Diana Duarte, and I am the communications director of MADRE. MADRE is an international women’s human rights organization. We partner with grassroots women to do two things. One – to confront immediate threats and improve conditions in their communities. And two – to advocate for their human rights. When these two combine – when they connect for change – that’s how we create lasting social justice.
You’ve come here today to learn about innovators who are coming together to create positive change in their communities. And I’m here to tell you about how grassroots women worldwide are organizing to confront one of the biggest crises of our time – climate change.
But first, I want to tell you a personal story.
In 1956, my grandmother was a young woman with 4 small children, living in the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa. On that arid chain of islands, there was never enough rain. Instead of rain, there were droughts powerful enough to be memorialized in traditional songs about “fomi” or hunger.
These periods of drought and hunger defined life for decades, so people began to seek out new lives elsewhere. And my grandmother was one of them. She packed two suitcases, got on a trans-Atlantic ship and came right here, to New Bedford. Over the years, she worked hard to raise money and eventually brought her children to join her – one of those children was my father.
Driven by climate pressures and resource scarcity, hundreds of thousands of Cape Verdeans left the islands they knew behind. Today, there are more Cape Verdeans living outside of the islands than inside – and many of them settled right here in New Bedford.
Why am I telling you all this? Because this story does not stand alone – it is all connected.
As climate change intensifies, it makes the Cape Verdean story almost prophetic. More and more places have been hit by droughts and famines, hurricanes and storms that turn the most vulnerable people into climate refugees. More and more people are being forced to adapt to their new, harsh circumstances, or to leave their homelands altogether.
And I’m telling you this because, across the world and across history, women – just like my grandmother— have struggled to sustain themselves and their families in the face of a changing and often hostile climate.
This is a big part of why today’s message – connecting for change – is so important. We are all connected by the ways our climate and our histories intersect.
Our best chance for confronting our climate crisis head-on lies in recognizing these connections – and soon. Because the world has already reaching a tipping point in its ability to absorb the harmful impacts of rampant resource exploitation. Years of industrialization and essentially unchecked greenhouse gas emissions have already begun to release a cascade of dangers. More severe storms. Longer and drier droughts. More fatal flooding. Coastlines erased by rising water levels. For many of you sitting in this room, these predictions are nothing new. Continue reading