In light of International Women’s Day, the WAVE Youth Ambassadors have organised an event that ties in with this year’s global theme: recognising the role of women and girls around the world in creating a sustainable future. Mia Bradic, WAVE Youth Ambassador from Croatia, interviewed eco-feminist Tena who shares with us her perception of the connections between climate change and gender equality.
- How did you start your activist journey?
In December 2020 I graduated from Aspira University College. I studied “International Management in Tourism and Hospitality”. During my studies, I listened to the lecture “Sustainable Tourism” by Professor Dr. Irena Ateljević. Our professor pointed out various environmental and economic problems. The most important part is, she showed us how we can solve them: by making our actions talk. Through learning that subject, my focus on what I see in nature has changed. I have always loved staying in nature, especially walking my dog Kyra. I started to see more and more garbage in the environment and something inside me started rumbling. I remembered a page on Instagram that I followed, called “Little Cleaning Bears”. That’s how I started doing cleanups almost every weekend. In the meantime, I realized that I want to do even more, so I joined Extinction Rebellion and started our group here in Dalmatia. My activism even led me to a volunteering adventure in Iceland where I lived for three months. The more I learned about the climate crisis, the more I understood that this is only the tip of the iceberg
- What is your perception of the connections between climate change and gender equality? What does being an eco-feminist mean to you?
I see that nature and the female principles are both suppressed by the current system we are living in. The male principle represents light, sky, activity, and tension. On the opposite, the female principle is darkness, Earth, passivity, and relaxation. Currently, as we can see through Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, our planet is being captured by war. Capitalism and patriarchy are the results of this kind of tension too. In such an environment there is little place for freedom to be, freedom from something, and freedom to do what you want to. Either we play by the male rules, or we struggle. Unfortunately, all genders (besides the male one), mother nature too, are being seen as a way to capitalize on them. So naturally, there can’t be any balance. Hence, the male and female principles are out of control, which leads to a lot of chaos. As we can see!
- Why did you choose social media as a domain of your activist work? Have you noticed different reactions on Instagram compared to TikTok?
As with many people, Covid acted as a catalyst for change. I started with my cleanup sessions in the middle of the pandemic. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t announce my plans public due to the restrictions. But I genuinely wanted to educate people about the things I learned and realized! I planned to go to schools and talk about fossil fuels, climate change, feminism, gender equality and so much more. As the situation got worse, I didn’t have the chance to make it come to life. Parallel to that, a new social media app appeared and captured our attention during the lockdowns. That’s when I decided to merge serious topics with a fun app. From then on I improved my social media skills and started sharing my videos on other platforms too. I noticed that on Instagram the audience is way more mature and some content with, let me say “more complicated” topics is being viewed more often. On Tiktok it’s very visible that there are kids around, so I try to keep my videos light and breezy – from time to time.
- How do you connect your online and offline activism?
I am participating in various events, from demonstrations to planting trees, from cleanups to panel discussions, there is nothing I will skip if I have the time. So, the reality is a difficult one: in southern Croatia, there is not a lot going on about activism. People are not very interested in changing something they don’t agree with. Or they are not aware of the possibility that it’s doable? To be honest, the mentality here is something I’m trying to figure out since I moved from Switzerland 8 years ago. When I understand, I will share it on my social media.. 🙂 I believe that we all have some sort of destiny to fulfill during our time on earth. Maybe mine is to shake up some people about our environment and system change? Let’s see!
- Do you experience cyber violence or get any hateful messages because of your work? If yes, how do you deal with these issues?
Funny you ask, I shared a very hateful comment to share the awareness that it’s hurtful. It’s not nice to read those things, especially after I put so much energy and heart into my work. I don’t expect everyone to understand, but have at least some respect for someone’s enthusiasm. And the worst thing about it is the fact that the most upsetting comments are being written by the youngest users on Tiktok. I’m often more shocked by the fact that a little hand can create such a harmful vibe! I deal with it by making more content, speaking about it online, and sharing awareness. Also, I have comment filters activated that remove all those bullying comments. Harassment is something I’m not tolerating.
- Have you noticed a difference in reactions of people around you and online to your climate activism compared to your feminist engagement?
The reactions on feminist topics are way more hurtful. They come from the male audience which calls me names. But what they don’t know is that it sparks my inner fire bigger and bigger. Every hateful comment is a drop of fossil fuel on the planet that is burning. With that in mind, I transform the negative energy into a positive one and continue. But there is no rule to that. Once a little boy replied to a cleanup video with a video from him. In it, he threw a plastic bottle into nature. I watched and couldn’t believe it. But I guess some people want any kind of reaction to their actions. They don’t even try to make their actions worth reacting to.
- What is the most challenging part of your work?
It’s the personal aspect of it as sharing myself and opening up to an unknown audience is pretty scary. In the beginning, I wanted everything to be perfect. I cared so much about what people that know me might say and think about my content. But with time I realized that there is not a lot of space for self-doubt in a world ruled by male principles. This resulted in me starting to work on myself. The realizations I made through this journey are amazing and I am enjoying myself more and more. So by now, online activism is a therapy for me to cope with the anxiety climate change is giving me.
- How can we engage young women and young feminists in the fight for climate justice?
First of all, we have to find our voices. It’s unbelievable how suppressed we are, even in the smallest things. A great example is “no”. As writer Susan Gregg said: “No is a complete sentence and so often we forget that.” And yet it’s incredible how we women tend to overexplain things, especially if we don’t want them. Here is an exercise: stand up, stand strong and take a deep breath. Make a step forward, put your hand up to a stop sign and say confidently “NO!”. Repeat several times. Learning to stand up for yourself is the smallest and most profound step one can take. When women find their inner power, then the rest will follow. Take action, speak up, ask yourself if you are doing certain things because you want to or if it’s the society that’s putting pressure on you? When I’m not sure I ask myself would I react or act in a certain way if I’d be alone on an island without anyone around me. Start doing things in a way you want to, not is being expected from you to do so. Life is too short to give a damn about other people’s opinions.
- What else can we do to better connect feminist and climate movements?
It’s all about empathy. It’s difficult to show someone the problems of such a global issue like climate change when you have so many small, yet big obstacles in your community. First of all, we have to create a healthy surrounding in our neighborhoods if we want to make a difference. How can someone understand that life on the planet for millions of species is in danger when we have homeless people living next to us? How can you expect someone to care for the planet if we can not take care of our trash at home? Why would someone stand up for mother earth if we don’t care for each other’s rights to live how we want to? Creating the possibility to get active where you live, on a small scale first, is what we can do better to connect different movements. But also, don’t forget to have fun. As mentioned before, life is so short and precious. Keep your head up and connect helping yourself with helping others. A big heart filled with passion and a purpose won’t be taken down from anyone!
More about Tena and her activism here: