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Women as ‘Green Heroes’

/ 07:36 AM March 04, 2013

March is celebrated as Women’s Month in recognition of their undeniably important role in ensuring a world that is safe, healthy and productive.  Shining examples are the likes of the late 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai, who led the Green Belt movement in  restoring forest ecosystems by planting millions of trees;  the world famous Dr. Jane Goodall known for her impassioned advocacy for fair treatment of animals, whose  trail-blazing study of the chimpanzees in Gombe Forest  made humans reassess our relationship with wildlife, and who still devotes 300 days of each year to reach out to the world especially the children to instill love for life’s elements; and  Rachel Carson whose ground-breaking book “Silent Spring” unmasked  the devastating effects of chemical pesticides and caused the US government to ban dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT.

In Asia, the lovely and courageous 2012 Ramon Magsaysay awardee Syeda Rizwana Hasan, from Bangladesh, epitomizes the growing number of women who do not flinch when the integrity of our already failing ecosystems is further challenged and the sustainable future of citizens is at stake.  Rizwana and  the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) of which she is the executive director, are in the forefront of ensuring environmental justice and  “prevented toxin-laden ships from entering Bangladesh unless they have been decontaminated at their origin, and to enforce standards for the protection of workers and the environment…”  In 2009, the Supreme Court ordered “the closure of all thirty-six ship-breaking yards in Bangladesh that have been operating without environmental clearance, and directed the “pre-cleaning,” at origin or before entering Bangladesh, of all ships to be imported for breaking.”

In 2004, Bela “filed a case against a large and powerful land development company, for filling land for a new township in the middle of a flood-flow zone. Eventually, they won, when the court ruled the housing project to be illegal. However, the judgment was undermined by the fact that the developer had already sold lots in the meantime. Undaunted, even as appeals and counter-appeals have been filed, Hasan asserts: “Standing against all these forces is in itself a victory.” She and Bela have sent a clear message that it is not going to be business-as-usual, and that despoilers of the environment are going to be challenged.” The Ramon Magsaysay Award given her is recognition  for “her uncompromising courage and impassioned leadership in a campaign of judicial activism in Bangladesh that affirms the people’s right to a good environment as nothing less than their right to dignity and life.” (


This columnist is most privileged to have met Dr. Jane Goodall and Rizwana Hasan whose fierce determination, courage and passion for life continue to inspire millions of women  to fight for our rights, especially for the marginalized sectors and the children.

In Asia and in our country, the contribution of women in promoting a healthier and sustainable lifestyle is immense, albeit largely undocumented.  EcoWaste Coalition, responsible for increasing the awareness of citizens to the hazards of toxic metals in our consumer items and mainstream Zero Waste, as a lifestyle, likewise  recognizes our women as recycling champions. It extolled the underestimated “role of Filipino women in resource conservation at home and in the community through innovative recycling and micro-enterprise development.”

Our great friend and colleague, Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition, heaped praise on the creativity of the women force in creating decorative and functional products from stuff that are often burned or thrown to the bins, streets and dump.

“On top of reducing the volume of garbage and preventing pollution that can harm human health and the environment, this largely women-led recycling movement is building confidence, self-reliance and power among an erstwhile disadvantaged group of community women,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition also cited the work of Buklod Tao, a people’s organization based in a typhoon Ondoy-devastated barangay in San Mateo, Rizal, which has organized a social enterprise of women and other community members who turn discarded juice packs into “tetra pots” used for “urban container gardening.” According to Lyn Ramos, Secretary of Buklod Tao, the materials are collected by “tetra pickers” – mothers, janitors and school children – from funeral wakes, burial rites in cemeteries, schools and surroundings, sorted and then made by women sewers intro “tetra pots” who can earn as much as over P4,000 monthly each. The finished “tetra pot” is sold for P10 per piece.

Our very own champion, Barangay Luz, has also a powerful women’s group which has transformed lives from one generation to the next through engagement in recycling and composting.

Our women have been working unobtrusively but successfully in turning “trash into cash,” empowering other women and helping their families meet their needs, while protecting the environment from garbage and pollution and, most important, instill a mindset of care and compassion, among the next consummate defenders of nature, the young.

Mabuhay to the fearless and tireless campaigners for justice, human rights and sustainability – our women and our green heroes.


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CONGRATULATIONS TO THE UC LAW JESSUP TEAM: Hats off to first-time contender, the University of Cebu (UC) College of Law students, for ranking third in the oldest, largest and considered the most prestigious moot court competition, the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition (“Jessup”). Congratulations to the winning teams from the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo College of Law  who placed first and second, respectively. The hard-working members of the UC Law Jessup team are Virgil Vallecera, Merachelle Borracho, Manuel Sarausad, Kara Mae Noveda, Fellaine Marquez, John Menguito, Gibran Abubakar, Jo-Ana Desuyo, Carl Batucan and Francis Flores.

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