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About Major Groups: Women

Special Day:
Special Day of Women at CSD-6

Report Snap-shot

New York, 20 April - 1 May 1998


Women do not want to be mainstreamed into a polluted stream. We want to clean the stream and transform it into a fresh and flowing body. One that moves in a new direction -- a world at peace, that respects human rights for all, renders economic justice and provides a sound and healthy environment.

Bella S. Abzug 1920 - 1998

18 Case Studies of Women Activists Challenging Industry, Demanding Clean Water and Calling for Gender Equality in Sustainable Development.

Table of Contents


Women Challenge Industry and Demand Clean Water

Women Respond to a Shrinking Aral Sea

Once one of the world's largest inland freshwater seas, the Aral Sea is now drying up as a result of unsustainable water use for large-scale cotton monoculture. This crisis has dramatically affected the health and livelihoods of the 35 million inhabitants of the entire Aral Sea Basin. The Karakalpakstan region in Uzbekistan, which borders the Aral Sea, is the area hardest hit by the crisis and now the poorest region in Uzbekistan.

Mediterranean Sea Under Siege by Military and Industrial Abuse

The increasing degradation of the Mediterranean Sea due to oil spills, military exercises and toxic trade has threatened the regional economy and people's health. In response to the contamination of the marine environment, women activists from countries bordering the Mediterranean have come together to work on strategies for educating and mobilizing local and international actors to address the problem.

Forty Years of Nuclear Contamination in Chelyabinsk, Russia

The air, soil and water in the Chelyabinsk region at the eastern foot of the Ural Mountains in Russia, has been heavily contaminated by wastes from nuclear armament plants and metallurgical industries. The river Techa, the sole source of drinking water for rural communities in the Chelyabinsk region, has been the site of irresponsible disposal of radioactive waste from a nuclear armament factory. Only recently, Russian women have unveiled the shroud of secrecy surrounding 40 years of nuclear and chemical pollution.

Gold Mine Destroys Guyana's Essequibo River Area

Environmentally-unsound practices at the Omai gold mine, managed by Canadian company Cambior, led to contamination of the Essequibo River, Guyana's largest source of potable water. While the government banned domestic use of water, it has yet to acknowledge the ecological and health crisis resulting from the cyanide spill. Local women are seeking international assistance for justice in a case that could be precedent-setting.

Innu Women Respond to Industrial Development in Nitassinan, Canada

Nitassinan is the territory of the Innu people in eastern Quebec and Labrador, Canada. Mining activities, hydroelectric dams and the clear-cutting of forests has already destroyed much of the Innu lands. Many more industrial developments are planned for this region. The case describes the efforts of the Innu women to resist further exploitation.

Dineh Peoples in Arizona Undermined by Coal Mining Interests

Black Mesa in northeastern Arizona, USA is home to the indigenous communities of the Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi people. This region is the site of North America's largest coal strip mine, which operates the only slurry line in the U.S. and uses 1.4 billion gallons of water from the sole freshwater source, lowering the water table and drying up local wells. Native women have succeeded in gaining international attention to what is both a human rights and environmental disaster.

Political Persecution Exacerbates Environmental Destruction in Nigeria

For over 30 years, Shell oil Company, and other transnational companies have been extracting oil from the rich deposits in the lush Delta region of Nigeria. The oil production activities have led to the contamination of the local freshwater sources, loss of wildlife, and reduction in soil fertility. This environmental damage has severely affected the region's economy and health of the Ogoni people, the main tribal group. Ogoni women lead the local resistance to the continual environmental, political and physical violence.

Ukraine's Drinking Water Grossly Polluted

Extensive pollution of surface and groundwater has contaminated the drinking water supply in Ukraine . The disastrous condition of the sewage and water pipeline systems has exacerbated this situation. Contaminated drinking water has caused a wide variety of oncological disease, metabolic disorders, endocrine dysfunction and periodic epidemics of gastro-intestinal infections, cholera and hepatitis-A. The NGO MAMA-86 is working to address the health concerns of mothers and children in the region.

Bangladeshi Women Expose Arsenic Poisoning of Ground Water

Rural women played a key role in uncovering negative health effects of arsenic contaminated water on their communities. The overuse of groundwater for agricultural practices has likely caused geologically-occurring arsenic to enter the water table in poisonous proportions. National and international NGOs are working with communities, to survey and monitor the health implications and negotiate with government and international agencies to respond to the crisis.

First-Ever Study on Rural Women's Water Use in Egypt

A study of women's use of water in rural Egypt uncovered strategies to improve health and reduce disease transmission. Mobilizing women's participation was key to successful implementation of a holistic approach to water and sanitation needs.

Women in Texas Address Military Contamination of Community Water.

Women activists have played a key role in organizing community residents to recognize the connections between the Kelly military installation and health impacts on the community, surveying and monitoring those impacts and negotiating with government and Air Force base officials to respond to local concerns. Pollutants identified in the community include a variety of volatile organic compounds, groundwater contaminants, jet fuel components and soil contaminants.