“This project represents a voice that doesn’t get lifted up; it represents a perspective that needs to get heard,” said Got Green board member Theresa Fujiwara at the launch of the new Women in the Green Economy Project last January.
Lillie Brinker, expanded on this idea when she said “It’s time for low income women and women of color to have our voices up front and center in the green movement.” As she looked out at the diverse gathering of Southeast Seattle residents and supporters gathered for the launch she added, “We begin here.”
And begin they did! By the end of April Got Green organizer Tammy Nguyen and three dozen volunteers had completed 210 face-to-face surveys with women outside of grocery stores, in community health clinics, at a transitional housing site, a public transit center and around kitchen tables across our community. Women were asked about their needs, priorities and to share their ideas for how the green movement and green economy could shift to include them and their families.
82% of the survey participants were women of color, more than three quarters live in households earning less than $50,000 per year, and more than one third were surveyed in a language other than English – Spanish, Somali or Vietnamese.
Participating women were asked to rank, or prioritize, four areas of the green economy. Nearly 40% chose Access to Healthy Foods as their top priority. Food was followed by Green Home (23%), a category which included cost savings from energy efficiency as well as indoor, environmental health. Green Jobs came in third, at 20%; and Public Transportation was prioritized at 17%. Women were united in their reason for prioritizing Access to Healthy Foods and Green Home: concern for their family’s health.
Through the survey, three community roundtables, the “Green Women, Healthy Voices” report release event, and petition drives calling for more affordable, accessible healthy food options in Southeast Seattle, the project engaged over 700 people. Widespread media coverage of the Women in the Green Economy Project: Voices from Southeast Seattle report put Got Green’s emerging access to healthy foods campaign on the map.
In October, the grassroots “Food Access Team” – new volunteer leaders recruited through surveys and targeted neighborhood outreach – began organizing around some broad demands: Put more healthy food dollars into low income families’ pockets and increase physical access to healthy food.
Team member Violet Lavatai sums up their vision, “Can’t we reverse things so that the fresh fruits and vegetables become dirt cheap and instead we’ll say, ‘Man I can’t afford that package of Top Ramen; but this bag of apples only cost me a buck!’ That’s the world I want to see.”
(Got Green 2010-2011 Organizing Report, April 2012)