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. Some of WEN’s founding members and supporters included:
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.
A TIMELINE HISTORY OF WEN
Here are a few more of the campaigns and milestones that have kept us busy over the past 30 years
1988: WEN launch party. Founding members and supporters of WEN included Francesca Reynold, Bernadette Valley, Anita Roddick, Peggy Seeger, Joan Ruddock, Diana Schumacher and Carol Tongue.
1989: Launch of The Sanitary Protection Scandal; WEN publication on the environment and health hazards of the production, use and disposal of conventional sanitary products
1989: WEN persuades manufacturers to reduce chlorine bleaching in nappies and sanitary protection, which had lasting impact across the paper products industry.
1990: Wrapping is a Rip-off campaign: Campaign launched by WEN urging consumers to take off and leave unnecessary packaging at the till.
1990: WEN was the first group to publicise the fact that dioxins from incinerators contaminate the milk we drink. The main findings of our report, “Chlorine, Pollution and the Parents of Tomorrow” are now widely accepted.
1992: Three years of campaigning from WEN forces manufacturers to include warning on Toxic Shock Syndrome on tampon packaging
1992: Jewellery, Women and the Environment – an awareness-raising campaign that examined the use of raw materials in the manufacture of jewellery and encouraged women to make more sustainable and ethical choices.
1994: Blossom - a teen advice magazine aimed at girls of menstrual age to deal with the physical and emotional challenges of puberty.
1995: WEN’s national breast cancer petition calls for action on links with environmental pollutants
1996: Preventing Nappy Waste – the first investigation into the problem of nappy waste and how to reduce it, published by WEN, paved the way for local and national government acceptance of and action on the issue.
1996: Air Pollution, Traffic and our Health examined the effect of air pollutants on child asthma and gave practical solutions to minimise exposure.
1997: Breathe Easy, Buy Local raised awareness about ‘food miles’, the distance food travels to reach the supermarket shelves and encouraged people to choose local produce.
1997: WEN one of the first groups to raise concerns about genetic engineering and genitally modified crops.
1999: Putting Breast Cancer on the Map report recorded participants’ perceptions of links between their environments and breast cancer incidence.
1998: Waste minimisation act initiated by WEN, gave local authorities power to introduce waste reducing measures and promote waste preventing ideas
2000: Healthy Flooring Network launched in alliance with Action Against Allergy
2001: Real Nappy Week launched
2003: Real Nappy Week gained support of more than half of all UK local authorities and promotion of real nappy schemes became government policy.
2003: WEN Wales – hidden hazards. The first ‘toxic tour’ bus ride to highlight the polluted environment people live and work in, held around Wrexham North Wales.
2005: WEN recruits ambassadors including Caroline Lucas MEP and Founder of Green & Blacks chocolate Josephine Fairley
2007: Women’s Manifesto on Climate Change launched by WEN and the W.I
2007: WEN launches Real Nappies for London voucher incentive scheme for London boroughs (now run by LCRN)
2010: Became the Capital Growth local lead for Tower Hamlets and founded the Tower Hamlets Food Growing Network
2010: Gender and the Climate Change Agenda report launched at the Houses of Parliament
2014: Launched Gardens for Life project funded by Tower Hamlets Public Health, creating 15 new community growing spaces across the borough in 15 months.
2010 - 2015: Co-ordinated Spice it Up! – urban organic food growing training for women in Tower Hamlets & Hackney
2015: Worked with healthcare providers to promote nature based mental health services
2016: Founded the Tower Hamlets Green Care partnership, and delivered STH and green care sessions at Mile End Hospital and Isle of Dogs
2016: WEN shared leadership/Co-director model formalised
2016: Launch of Live Well cooking and gardening course at Limborough Green Community Kitchen and Garden.
2017: Launch of Joseph Rowntree and Rosa funded programmes aimed at diversifying the environmental movement and bringing more women’s voices into environmental decision-making
2017: Soil Sisters programme launched, working with residents in 5 women’s refuges to create therapeutic food growing spaces
2018: Tower Hamlets Food Partnership launched, linked with Sustainable Food Cities
2018: Environmenstrual Campaign and Coalition launched. WEN gives evidence to the GLA on environmental impacts of disposable menstrual products, particularly plastic waste.
2018: Launch of first Environmenstrual Week of Action in October 2018.