A homage to our founders: looking back at 25 years of building an ecofeminist movement

We just turned 25 years old! A quarter of a century, what an impressive age to be celebrating! Marie Kranendonk and Irene Dankelman started our non-governmental organization WECF as a result of the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro where women were recognized for the first time ever as key players for sustainable development.  

Photo credit: Fleur Beemster

And in 1995 our first project as an organization was to organize activities at the 4th World Women’s Conference in BeijingSo, this year we are not only celebrating our birthday, but also the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action which remains the most visionary, powerful global agenda for women’s rights.  

The aims with which Marie and Irene created WECF more than 25 years ago, are as important now as they were back then. With the urgency of change towards a healthy and sustainable environment being even more pressing today. 

A dialogue between our founders 

Irene: “The Miami meeting [a preparatory meeting for the 4th World Conference of Women, today more known as the origins for Beijing Platform for Action] was important to identify topics that we, women, want on the agenda (water, sanitation, human rights, safety, military). At that time there were not many people from Europe working on gender equality and environmental issues, that’s why we invited Marie, she understood the women’s agenda.”

Marie: “I was motivated to link sustainable development and environmental issues, to go to Rio to influence the important people from all over the world. In Miami I was inspired by the women who prepared case studies showing how women were neglected in policy and daily life.”

Irene: “Women are the drivers of change needed to sustain themselves. Once you can sustain yourself, you can help sustain others. Women are agents of change! Why does environmental change hit women harder? Because they often have to take care of a whole family, they have to work harder, women are often left behind. Moreover, women are hit longer, for example, after four generations, children can still have birth deficits. I think it is the core of our work to organise decision-makers, activists, civil society organizations etc.”

Irene: “There were women’s rights organisations and environmental organisations, we were in the middle of the spiderweb and trying to link the fields. The environmental organizations were very male oriented.”

Marie: “In the beginning we had to choose between the topics that we were going to tackle. Beijing was the first big event where we helped organize civil society.´

What are you most proud of?

Irene: “Our work on ecological sanitation, chemicals, and anti-nuclear. That was pioneering work on which others can build on these days.”

Marie: “Our work on putting chemical pollution on the agenda.”

Here’s to another 25 years, and more, of brilliant bold ecofeminist action!