WVE was founded in 1995 to fill a much needed role and bring different voices to the environmental health movement. We recognized a failure to address the health impacts of gender oppression, and a structure that did not fully recognize the systemic connections between health, class, race, ability when it comes to the air we breathe, the water we drink and the conditions of our homes, our workplaces and our communities. Studies on toxic exposure and health were almost entirely limited to white men – ignoring the disproportionate and unique impact that exposure has not only on women and girls’ health and fertility, but also on people of color, workers, and the LGBTQ community.
Twenty-five years later the harm that occurs when certain groups are privileged or disadvantaged because of their gender, their class, their race, or their ability continues to feed a system that values corporate bottom lines over public health, and often determines our worth by sex, wealth, and whiteness. The health of our most overburdened communities continues to not only be neglected, but is frankly under attack.
This assault is glaring as we look at today’s headlines and see needed reproductive healthcare being banned in states across the nation. People are being told their bodies don’t belong to them. Sadly, these headlines are old news for many of us. Women, low-income communities, LGBTQ people, and people of color have been on the front of this battle for bodily autonomy for generations. This attack is all too familiar and yet still painful.
You know it is. You’ve been fighting alongside WVE advocating against gender oppression, raising your voice for public health, and holding our leaders and corporations accountable for decades. You’ve been fighting for health to take priority over profits and for each of us to have the right and the ability to control our health and our body. Thank you for your passion. Thank you for the expertise and dedication you have brought to this work. We have made progress, but we still have so much more work to do – yesterday, today, tomorrow and right now.
It is a powerful time to think about the efforts ahead of us. And the fact is that we cannot continue to support a system that is designed to control and harm people, or to rank or limit their worth. We stand in solidarity with the numerous reproductive, social and environmental justice organizations, concerned communities, and power-house individuals that are leading change this month and throughout the year. We are committed to breaking down narratives and systems that think it is okay that people are sick; that people are dying or to perpetuate the structures that demean, discriminate against or cause harm.
To achieve true justice and liberation and to advance the goals of the environmental health movement requires equality, inclusion and solidarity. This means you. This means me.
Be bold, friends. Be allies. Keep up the fight to end the assault on our bodies, our communities and our environment. Use your time, talents, privilege, vote and dollars to create change that puts health and puts people first.
Here are a few organizations where we can start:
- Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE) is driven by young leaders. They work to build infrastructure through campus chapters, where we invite individuals to discover their own power and transform it into action. Together, URGE members educate their communities and advocate for local, state, and national policies in solidarity with other justice focused groups. https://urge.org/
- National Network of Abortion Funds builds power with members to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice. https://abortionfunds.org/
- The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/about/.