Although men may sit at the helm of most of the nation’s large and well-funded environmental institutions, when it comes to grassroots organizing, women are leading the way, whether Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, or the thousands of community leaders, organizers and mothers working behind the scenes. 25-year-old Melinda Kramer is the one connecting them. Kramer got her start as an intern— and later a coordinator— for Pacific Environment building coalitions of environmentalists along the Pacific Rim. At an international conference that she was organizing, a member of the Russian delegation pulled her aside. “In our Aleut tradition, we give nicknames to special people,” he said. “We would like you to be Umni Kunyetchik—or, Clever Grasshopper.” The name makes sense; she’s full of sprightly energy—and you can practically see the gears turning in her head as she figures out how to implement new ideas.
“I would meet women in Kenya, China, the Russian Far East, or here in Oakland—each of them entirely unaware of their counterparts working around the globe.” Not content to just sit back and kvetch about this disconnect, Kramer began thinking. Why not launch an international network that would bring these women together? “The idea was so simple—so necessary, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done before. As soon as I had the idea, I couldn’t think about anything else. I went for a long walk at 11:30 at night in the Berkeley hills near my house. I called my mom. I didn’t sleep that night. I stayed up till dawn and sketched out plans for a new organization.”
Women’s Global Green Action Network (wggan.org) was received enthusiastically not just by women activists from India to Germany, but also from musicians like Bonnie Raitt and Dar Williams, who lacked off the Network with generous contributions.
“It’s been a wild ride,” says Kramer. Now, the Network is gearing up for its first-ever caucus in Mexico City, planned to coincide with the international World Water Forum.
“What I’ve found is that it’s not about being a Jewish organizer, or a Hindu organizer, or an, African organizer,” says Melinda. “It’s about joining our individual voices to realize a common goal and grow a movement that transcends borders.”