Linked with Women’s Earth Alliance WEA;
Kaisha Atakhanova is the Founder and Director of EcoCenter in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, and the Coordinator of the national Anti-Nuclear Campaign in Kazakhstan. This campaign, spearheaded by Kaisha and her colleagues, mobilized largely women citizens to stop the government from weakening the legislation against commercial import and storage of radioactive waste in 2003. In recognition of her accomplishments, Kaisha received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2005, which she plans to use to establish a Socio-Ecological Investment Fund to support women’s initiatives and NGO activists in the region. (Women’s Earth Alliance).
She says: … “The greatest challenge was lack of finances. My university helped some by letting my colleagues and me continue to use equipment and a laboratory, so long as we worked for free and trained students. My husband also helped, as he was then in business. It was not a big help, but it helped us to survive. Another early challenge was the old communists in the government, who were very aggressive. They said, “Kaisha is selling the country’s secrets abroad for dollars,” and tried to keep me from sending my results to Europe and the U.S. One threatened to use the successor of the KGB to stop my work. They couldn’t do too much since I worked with famous scientists. When they threatened me, it was like they were threatening the scientists. Those who were against my research back then now sometimes come to my seminars and receive certificates from the center” … (full interview text).
Kaisha Atakhanova – Kazakhstan
… Creating a Roadmap for Democracy: As a result of Atakhanova’s efforts, the nuclear waste legislation not only was stopped, but the visibility of nuclear contamination issues has reached new heights across the country. The budding grassroots civil society movement asserted its right and ability to challenge government’s anti-democratic interests in an entirely new way. In addition, under Atakhanova’s leadership, EcoCenter has helped develop an environmental movement through EcoForum, a network of more than 100 NGOs nationwide … (full text).
The Republic of Kazakhstan bears the scars of its Soviet past. Intensive agriculture has drastically shrunk the inland Aral Sea, creating one of the world’s worst ecological disasters, while decades of nuclear testing have poisoned the landscape and its people. The country – which is dominated by vast stretches of steppe grassland, and underlain by rich oil and mineral deposits – currently harbors some 237 million tons of nuclear waste … (full text).
She saysw also: … “I am from the city of Karaganda, which is near the southern perimeter of the testing area. During my childhood we always felt these small earthquakes, but we didn’t understand what they were. We were 400 km [about 250 miles] away from the explosions, and so we couldn’t see the nuclear mushroom. But we could always feel the earthquakes. The dishes on the shelves would clink, the light fittings would shake, everything shook. Our parents guessed that the earthquakes probably had something to do with the military, but didn’t know for sure. People who lived closer to the site also weren’t sure what was happening. The military would only tell them not to go out on the street and not to look at the sky. Now cancer is the main disease in our region. My father, my mother, and my sister all died of cancer, and only the day before yesterday I buried my brother, who also died from cancer. When people in my family die, they die of cancer” … (full interview text).
… In the aftermath of tsunamis, and the recent cyclone and earthquakes in Myanmar and China, the Women, Power and Politics multimedia exploration reports shocking trends of how natural disasters disproportionately affect women worldwide. Yet, the exhibition also brings to light stories of women environmental warriors who are cleaning up ecological damage everywhere from Papua New Guinea to Colombia. We meet green pioneers including Olya Melen of the Ukraine, winner of the Goldman Prize for Europe; Kaisha Atakhanova of Khazakstan, protecting her homeland where the equivalent of 20,000 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs were detonated; Medha Paktar of India, taking on the two goliaths of government and the World Bank in efforts to protect indigenous land rights; and Libia Grueso of Colombia, preserving her country’s rainforest, one of the richest biological areas in the world … (full text).
And she says: … “The problem is exacerbated because certain members of parliament, ministries, agencies, and foreign companies have a direct interest in increasing commercialization and weakening environmental legislation. Here, one can make a direct tie between the environment and the economy of our country, as it is a matter of the use and conservation of natural resources and the ecological safety of our citizens. Rejecting any potential accusations of “radiation phobia,” I stress that a natural, reasonable sense of caution based on real dangers should inform any approach towards radiation, and that virtually everything hinges on having access to information. I consider that our country still lacks a basic, civilized system of access to, and dissemination of information, and it lacks a process for making decisions assuring the safety of its citizens from environmental and radiation hazards … (full interview text).
Environmental NGOs in Kazakhstan wield increasing influence over policy in Kazakhstan
International environmental campaign wins back-to-back victories moving towards justice at the Karachaganak oil field in Kazakhstan;
Environmental Justice, 29 pages.