WEN’s History

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:

  Dame Anita Lucia Roddick    Anita is best remembered as a human rights activist, environmental campaigner and founder of The Body Shop. She was also involved in activism and campaigning for environmental and social issues, including involvement with Green Peace and the Big Issue.

Dame Anita Lucia Roddick

Anita is best remembered as a human rights activist, environmental campaigner and founder of The Body Shop. She was also involved in activism and campaigning for environmental and social issues, including involvement with Green Peace and the Big Issue.

  Rt. Hon. Dame Joan Ruddock   A lifelong feminist and environmentalist, Joan Ruddock came to national attention in the 1980s when she became chair of CND. In 1987 she was elected to parliament as an MP and became the first full time Minister for Women in 1999.

Rt. Hon. Dame Joan Ruddock

A lifelong feminist and environmentalist, Joan Ruddock came to national attention in the 1980s when she became chair of CND. In 1987 she was elected to parliament as an MP and became the first full time Minister for Women in 1999.

  Peggy Seeger   Folk legend, activist and feminist.

Peggy Seeger

Folk legend, activist and feminist.

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

1990: Wrapping is a Rip-off campaign: Campaign launched by WEN urging consumers to take off and leave unnecessary packaging at the till.

1992: Three years of campaigning from WEN forces manufacturers to include warning on Toxic Shock Syndrome on tampon packaging

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.

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: 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 - 2015: Co-ordinated Spice it Up! – urban organic food growing training for women in Tower Hamlets & Hackney

2010: Became the Capital Growth local lead for Tower Hamlets and founded the Tower Hamlets Food Growing Network 

Launched Gardens for Life project funded by Tower Hamlets Public Health, creating 15 new community growing spaces across the borough

Gender and the Climate Change Agenda report launched at the Houses of Parliament

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

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

Environmenstrual Campaign and coalition launched. WEN gives evidence to the GLA on environmental impacts of disposable menstrual products, particularly plastic waste. First Environmenstrual Week of Action held.