WEN was founded in 1988 by pioneers of the environmental justice movement, inspiring and dedicated women who recognised that saving the planet is about social justice and human rights. They called for a different way of thinking about and acting on environmental issues, and their voices echo down the decades to our work today.
Women's Environmental Network was started to give ordinary women clear information about environmental problems that affect them in a way specific to their biological sex and socially constructed gender. WEN's founders saw that women's perspectives were often overlooked and undervalued, and that the environmental movement as a whole neglected to take gender-sensitive approaches to all environmental issues. They sought to address this absence of gender-specific research and activism, whilst demonstrating women's power to make positive choices and take action for a healthier planet.
In the first ever edition of WEN News, the founders wrote:
It seems that the planet itself is protesting, and that her voice is growing steadily louder and more urgent. We cannot afford to leave it to chance, or pretend that others will do it for us; we must make a personal commitment. Women's Environmental Network aims to provide a forum for us to speak as women, to inform and educate from a woman's point of view, in a professional and pragmatic way.
Women need to be in the forefront of the struggle for the environment with our unique experiences and visions of the future, and our logical, caring perspective which has too often been undermined or ignored.
The first campaign in 1989 centred around preventing chlorine bleaching in sanitary pads and babies' nappies. The use of chlorine to whiten these products and many others meant that women and babies were coming into direct contact with cancer-causing dioxins. This pioneering campaign would lead to our work on breast cancer prevention, treating breast cancer as an environmental, and preventable, disease.