The Queen of My Self

Author and eco-feminist Vandana Shiva has long been a leading activist for women of third-world countries, farming and water sovereignty. According to her article “Empowering Women,” she suggests that a more sustainable and productive approach to agriculture can be achieved through reinstating a system of farming in India that is more centered around engaging women.

She advocates against the prevalent “patriarchal logic of exclusion,” claiming that a woman-focused system would change the current system in an extremely positive manner. In this way, Indian and global food security, can only benefit from a focus on empowering women through integrating them into the agricultural system.

She describes a compelling and creative relationship between women, soil and water. Women in India often walk many miles to obtain drinking water for their families. However, they usually go no further than 10 miles to do so. At that point, they take action. Women were among the first to notice a connection between deforestation and a lack of water. As the homemakers, women are in charge of collecting drinking water. However, after deforestation campaigns, they often noticed a severe decline in the resource.

A participant of the 1970s Chipko Movement to prevent deforestation in India, Shiva explains, “Forests used to be about revenue and timber, but then it was about water.”

She also rallied against strip mining in India. Though the then-Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, condemned strip mining in the Himalayan Mountains for its “ugliness,” Shiva took action to prevent damage to water. “In the limestone, caves and cavities and bodies of water would form. Strip mining stole the water storage system provided by nature,” she said.

Shiva tells of a 75-year-old woman who had been beaten for preventing bulldozers from further stripping the mountains. Despite her injuries, the woman carried on, calling to mind Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent practices. “We strip foliage from trees and the leaves return. We are a part of nature, why wouldn’t we bounce back as well?” Shiva said.

In 1993, Queen Shiva received the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) “…For placing women and ecology at the heart of modern development discourse.” Other awards she has received include the Global 500 Award of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1993, and the Earth Day International Award of the United Nations (UN) for her dedicated commitment to the preservation of the planet as demonstrated by her actions, leadership and by setting an example for the rest of the world.

On the train from Delhi to Jaipur, we were served bottled water, where Pepsi’s water line Aquafina was the brand of choice. On the streets of Jaipur, there was another culture of water. At the peak of drought, small thatched huts called Jal Mandirs (water temples) were put up to give water from earthen water pots as a free gift to the thirsty. Jal Mandirs are a part of an ancient tradition of setting up Piyaos, free water stands in public areas. This was a clash between two cultures: a culture that sees water as sacred and treats its provision as a duty for the preservation of life and another that sees water as a commodity, and its ownership and trade as a fundamental corporate right.

* Please send me your thoughts about power and powerful women who you know and/or admire. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

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