How These Nobel Peace Prize Women Used Fun to Forward Their Missions.

24 Oct 2011

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Lisa Witter, Chief Strategy Officer of Fenton and co-author of The She Spot: Why Women are the Market for Changing the World – And How to Reach Them.

The last few weeks we have experienced joy and sorrow for new and old Nobel Peace Prize winners — the death of the first African woman winner, Wangari Maathai, as well as the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni democratic activist Tawakkul Karman for their work on women’s rights.

This group shares a number of obvious attributes: strength, leadership, risk taking and vision. Another that may not be so obvious is how fun they all are or were, and how fun may have impacted the resilience of those movements.

I have had the privilege of spending personal time with two of them — Ms. Maathi when she was in Oslo to receive her prize and with Ms. Gbowee through the last few years as she toured the U.S. telling her story of Liberian peace in the award-winning film Pray the Devil Back to Hell. I can say that they both have fierce eyes of kindness and were often funny, with larger-than-life smiles.

Fun is often thought of as superfluous, extra, something to get to when you have time and a tool not to be used in serious situations. In fact, we have sayings to reinforce this notion: “this is no laughing matter” or “serious times call for serious solutions.” But fun can be, and has been, a powerful tool for transformation when tapped appropriately, as our past and recent Nobel-Prize-winning women demonstrate.

Environmental activist Maathi and her Green Belt Movement mobilized community consciousness using tree planting as an entry point for self-determination, equity, improved livelihoods and security, and environmental conservation. As she planted trees, she worked hard but never forgot to smile or create a chorus of song with her colleagues.

While being the first African woman to win the Prize, she was not the only Nobel winner to tap the fun factor in her organizing; Leymah Gbowee did, as well. It is not often you experience what feels like a real-time, front-row seat to a Nobel Peace Prize act like you do in Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The film, released this week on PBS, chronicles Liberian women’s struggle for peace, shows the fierce organizing ability of Nobel winner Leymah Gbowee, and highlights the political skills of the first woman African President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.


Moms 1, Chemical Industry 0

21 Oct 2011

By Senator Dianne Feinstein

Chalk up a win for moms around the country.

After years of battle, the chemical industry has reversed its longstanding position against restrictions on the controversial chemical bisphenol A, known as BPA, and asked the Food and Drug Administration to revise regulations on the use of the chemical in baby bottles and sippy cups.

It is ironic that the industry asking federal regulators to revise BPA standards is the very same industry that spent millions of dollars lobbying to block my legislation restricting the use of this dangerous chemical.

The American Chemistry Council must have realized that no matter how much money they spent, no parent, grandparent or concerned person would stand by while our children are used as guinea pigs with a chemical that could seriously harm their immediate and long-term health.

BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it can interfere with how hormones work in our bodies by changing their normal function. More than 200 studies link BPA exposure to breast and other cancers, reproductive disorders, cardiac disease, diabetes, early puberty and other problems.

Yet, the chemical industry stubbornly refused to listen to science and concerned consumers, and instead leaned on lawmakers.

Last year, the American Chemistry Council actually lobbied to prevent a vote in the Senate on the change it now seems to be advocating–a national ban on BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.

Here’s why I think chemical industry lobbyists failed: Even though they successfully blocked a vote on BPA, consumers took matters into their own hands and voted against BPA with their wallets. Every time a BPA-free product was purchased, it marked a setback for the chemical industry.

For years the chemical lobby ignored the pleas of concerned parents, environmentalists and advocacy groups that called for a ban on BPA. Companies ignored the studies and continued to argue that there was no established link between BPA and many illnesses. There was simply no other alternative, the companies insisted—baby bottles and sippy cups could only be made with BPA.

Clearly they were wrong.

Read more at Senator Dianne Feinsten’s website


Nobel Peace Prize goes to women’s rights activists

11 Oct 2011

OSLO, Norway (AP) — The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three champions of women’s rights in Africa and the Middle East on Friday in an attempt to bolster the role of women in struggles to bring democracy to nations suffering from autocratic rule and civil strife.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee split the prize between Tawakkul Karman, a leader of anti-government protests in Yemen; Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman to win a free presidential election in Africa; and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, who campaigned against the use of rape as a weapon in her country’s brutal civil war.

By picking Karman — the first Arab woman to win the peace prize — the Norwegian Nobel Committee found a way to associate the 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) award with the uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East without citing them alone, which would have been problematic.

After a popular uprising at the height of the Arab Spring, Libya descended into civil war that led to NATO military intervention. Egypt and Tunisia are still in turmoil. Hardliners are holding onto power in Yemen and Syria and a Saudi-led force crushed the uprising in Bahrain, leaving an uncertain record for the Arab protest movement.

Prize committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said it was also difficult to identify the leaders of the Arab Spring among the scores of activists who have spearheaded protests using social media.

“We have included the Arab Spring in this prize, but we have put it in a particular context,” Jagland told reporters. “Namely, if one fails to include the women in the revolution and the new democracies, there will be no democracy.”

He called the oppression of women “the most important issue in the Arab World” and stressed that the empowerment of women must go hand in hand with Islam.

“It may be that some still are saying that women should be at home, not driving cars, not being part of the normal society,” he told The Associated Press. “But this is not being on the right side of history.”

He noted that Karman, 32, is a member of a political party linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement sometimes viewed with suspicion in the West. Jagland, however, called the Brotherhood “an important part” of the Arab Spring.

No woman or sub-Saharan African had won the prize since 2004, when the committee honored Wangari Maathai of Kenya, who mobilized poor women to fight deforestation by planting trees. She died last month at 71. The 2005 prize went to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its head Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt.

Sirleaf, 72, became Africa’s first democratically elected female president after winning a 2005 election in Liberia, a country created to settle freed American slaves in 1847.

Fighting began in 1989, when Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia rebel group launched an armed uprising. His forces and rebel fighters were charged with looting Liberia’s small diamond reserves to buy arms, along with smuggling gems from Sierra Leone’s more expansive diamond fields for export through Liberian ports.


19-year old girl takes solar tracking to new heights.

3 Oct 2011

Eden Full, a 19-year-old Princeton University mechanical engineering student has developed a non-toxic, cheap, recyclable device made out of metal and bamboo that allows solar panels to follow or track the Sun without the use of an electric motor. This does two things: 1) it boosts the output of the solar panels by about 40% (huge) and 2) it does so using a much cheaper and simpler method than traditional trackers commonly used in commercial projects (her technology costs $10, a lot less than the typical $600 solar tracker).

Eden and the SunSaluter (being developed by her company, Roseicollis Technologies, now) have won a number of big awards for this ‘simple’ device. She just won $275,000, in the 2011 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge and $10,000 in the the EcoLiving 2011 Awards a few months ago. And she’s also won a $100,000 fellowship from the Thiel Foundation this year. Way to go Eden!

Read more on Clean Technica.



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