Our first climate protest

It was 7.50am on Friday morning, 10 days after we called for women across the world to unite in striking for climate action. We were about to go on our very first climate protest and were nervous. It might seem odd to call a global women’s strike before we had ever done a strike ourselves – but this felt like too much of an emergency for the call-out to wait a second longer.

We had read the IPCC report and seen fires and floods raging in many parts of the world, and yet there were still planes flying overhead, constant traffic on the roads, degradation of our peat bogs, deforestation, plastic use everywhere, governments still investing in new coal, oil, and gas and doing nothing to stop Co2 emissions, businesses still churning out pollution – the list goes on. The powerful were going about business as usual and not treating this as an emergency at all.

Finding ourselves depressed, desperate to act, and not knowing what to do or where to start, we spoke to each other and realised that although there was a huge global movement of youth striking for the climate, we weren’t aware of a global movement galvanising and raising the voices of women in particular (though many women were already running local strikes).

Since women are some of the most affected in any emergency, and the climate emergency is no different, and considering both of our backgrounds in working with women, we decided to put out the idea of a global women’s climate strike on social media for any woman to use as she saw fit – we called for women to connect with us, share their local demands and solutions, and join with with a regular global women’s climate strike, every Friday.

Things developed faster than we could have ever hoped for – women everywhere ‘get’ the gravity of what faces us, and many were in touch. Many women are already involved in local action protesting the ways in which women are affected in their communities. From water salinity creating reproductive issues in Bangladesh, to degradation of wetlands in Uganda, food production issues in DRC, and pollution affecting menstrual health across the globe, women are affected by the climate crisis and want to connect with other women to raise our collective voices.

We felt inspired by those who were in contact, but were still nervous on Friday that we didn’t know enough about the climate emergency to speak with people about it, or that, after 18 months social distancing and being mostly in our homes (due to covid-19), we would have difficulty speaking at all!

During the week running up to the protest, we made placards, emailed with women’s and community groups, did our research, leafleted local homes, and attempted to galvanise people locally. Even though we wanted others to join us, we were determined to stand up and protest – even if it was just the two of us locally – because we believe it is our duty, due to the irreversible and ever-increasing damage being done to life on Earth, to speak up.

We identified one of our town’s petrol stations as a site of climate catastrophe. It provides petrol and diesel to cars which pollute the Earth every morning in the rush hour traffic.

We were apprehensive as we lifted our banner out of our ‘transportation wheelbarrow’ at 8am, and arranged the placards against the wall. Then, we saw there was a woman walking towards us! She had come to join us! A few minutes later, two other women arrived. And then half an hour later, another, and another.

We stood for two hours with placards saying: “quit fossil fuels”, “code red: climate catastrophe”, “we want a green new deal”, “pollution impacts menstrual health”, and “the sea is on fire”.

Cars passed by constantly. Some drivers were supportive and beeped their horns, or gave a thumbs up, and others were not and shouted insults (but at least they noticed!). A couple of people came to talk to us. A few people took our flier, which lists demands and how people can get involved, e.g. by joining in with the strike, writing to their representatives, and joining local environmental groups.

We realised that we didn’t need to be experts, we just needed to care, so that others felt they could care, too, and together we could raise our demand that the climate emergency is treated with the urgency needed, to save us all.

We intend to be there every Friday until our demands are met.

We can’t wait to meet even more women in our local area, and in other areas and countries – those who are already fighting for climate action, and those who want to.

We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to do this.

We are more powerful together.

Please join us.

By Eve and Karen (Glossop, England)