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Women's Symposium to tackle gender roles, environmental issues

The Women and Environment Symposium, a one day event designed to inform participants on gender issues and environmental concerns, will cover environmental justice, healthy homes and family health, inclusion and localizing food.
 WMEAC Executive Director Rachel Hood at a past symposium.

WMEAC Executive Director Rachel Hood at a past symposium. /Courtesy of WMEAC

Event Details

  • When: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Location:  Loosemore auditorium - DeVos Center

                        Grand Valley downtown campus

                        401 Fulton St. W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

The 4th annual Women and the Environment Symposium presented by the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) will be tackling problems like environmental justice and gender issues, and aims to leave participants with the tools to take action.

WMEAC and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) have worked together to bring about this symposium, which is the first large-scale meeting between local leaders and stakeholders in the academic, business and activism communities that are focused on gender and the environment.

The event is on Feb. 25 from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Loosemore Auditorium in the Richard M. Devos Center on Grand Valley’s downtown campus (401 West Fulton, Grand Rapids, MI 49504). Tickets are $45, $20 for students and $40 for WMEAC members.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Nikki Silvestri, one of The Root's 100 Most Influential African Americans in 2014 for her work as a thought leader in the environmental justice movement. Silvestri is the former executive director of the organizations Green For All and People’s Grocery. She has spoken at venues ranging from TEDxManhattan to the Melissa Harris-Perry show.

The event will also include a panel discussion on a variety topics, like environmental justice, healthy homes and family health, employment equalization and more. Panelists include Lisa Oliver-King from Our Kitchen Table, Guy Williams from Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Jeremy Moore from Spectrum Health and Belinda Bardwell from Grand Valley’s Native American Advisory Board.

“Environmental justice can be simplified to when people are exposed to more environmental burdens and experience less of the environmental benefits,” says Anne Marie Hertl, community activism manager of WMEAC and coordinator of the event.

Hertl says environmental justice also means recognizing how things like climate change disproportionately impact communities of color and low income populations more than other communities.

Inclusion is an important factor of the symposium. Erin Smith, intern for the Women and Environment Symposium, says they are intentionally making space for and eager to include everyone.

“It’s not always easy to find events that are striving so much to include everyone and are excited about it. Bringing together all different types of people on these issues is breaking down a lot of walls,” Smith says.

To improve rates of women and low income populations attending the event, WMEAC is giving away a number of free tickets to nonprofits who work with women and those who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford the event. WMEAC's inclusion and diversity host committee are able to share the event to a broader network of people and organizations. 

The event includes suggested actions and how to follow through on them so participants can be empowered to move from knowledge to change.

"Hidden heroines" will be recognized for their work and awarded, and a cocktail hour will finish off the event, providing an opportunity for networking and visiting expo tables from nonprofits and sustainable businesses.

More information about the event can be found on the WMEAC website.

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