When mothers and doctors become activists, there's nothing they can't fix!
Inspiring story from Slovakia and Czech Republic
"The only thing I want is that my child lives in a safe world and healthy environment,” says Dorota Osvaldová, mother of a two year old boy Oliver. In autumn 2019, she took part in parents‘ march in Bratislava, which were expressing support to students‘ strikes for climate
First demonstration of Parents for Climate in Liberec. Anna on the left. Photo by Martin Koubek
All around the globe, students kept hearing - why are you protesting? You should be in school and study, to be able to solve the climate crisis in 30 years. “We created a strong contra-argument to these objections - parents want change too! As soon as it happens, we will be happy to send our kids back to school. But nothing is happening, that is why also we must protest. We have to support the students so the politicians start making decisions that will lead to climate change mitigation,“ Dorota describes the beginnings of Znepokojené matky, a climate movement of engaged mothers that she is a part of.
A doctor and a mother of two children, Anna Kšírová, first learned about parent’s marches for climate during the Easter holidays. “For five years we have been experiencing terrible waves of droughts in the Czech Republic. I knew it was bad, but no one was talking about it. I found it incredible - we were facing this huge problem, but no one cares,” says Anna about the anxiety she felt. When she found out that “her” group, engaged parents fighting for the climate, exists, she did not hesitate. “I identified with them. It gave me a feeling that now I can participate as well. We organised a demonstration and it worked out really well,” she says about the first steps of a group Parents for Climate Liberec.
Climate Care Uprising protest in Bratislava, mother in front of a baby crib / Michal Burza
Afterwards a friend of Anna, a doctor as well, reached out to her looking for support within the medical field in spreading more information about the effects of climate change on human health. “I was really happy that also my professional group wants to support the climate strikes – that is how the initiative Doctors for Future started,” continues Anna.
Blockades of ministry buildings
Members of the group Znepokojené matky have already organised many events. Last year before the parliamentary election in Slovakia, the mothers baked gingerbreads and got them burnt on purpose. Then they handed them to politicians, asking them not to burn their children’s future with their inactivity. „Many political parties have met with us and we discussed how their electoral plans should aim to mitigate climate change. But after the elections, all talk and no action,” describes her experience with politicians Dorota.
The mothers baked gingerbreads and got them burnt on purpose to ask politicians not to burn their children’s future with their inactivity. Photo archive of Znepokojené matky.
In October 2020, Znepokojené matky joined the international activities of the Climate Care Uprising. They united with climate justice groups Bod Obratu, Študenti bez mena, Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace Slovakia and blocked the entrances to five ministry buildings and the Government Office to demand the support of higher climate targets in the upcoming European voting and to bring attention to the need of bolder actions toward climate and biodiversity protection. The voting was eventually moved to December.
Mothers blocked the entrance to the Ministry of finance with cribs, they are holding banner that says “Love for our children is endless, the resources of our planet are not”. Credits: Michal Burza
„For many of us it was the first experience with direct action. We have been raised to be good, obedient, nod to everything and be silent. We are reversing these stereotypes. To see a mother in such an unusual situation, when they block the entrance to the Ministry of Finance with cribs, people think that the situation must be really bad,“ says Dorota smiling. The aim of the action was to show that the climate crisis does not concern only the Department of the environment but is an interconnected and complex problem for the whole society and should be dealt with on all the levels.
A similar event, inspired by the action in Bratislava, took place in Prague at the beginning of December – a few days before the voting took place. A coalition of environmental initiatives was joined by the human rights organisation Amnesty International and organisations focusing on climate change mitigation and adaptation in cities, NESEHNUTÍ, Arnika and Automat. All of them organised an action or a happening in front of ministry buildings. The group Doctors for Future, including Anna, were standing in front of the Ministry of Health. „I think the way how initiatives work together in Slovakia is very useful and inspiring. The climate is also a question of medics, because the health effects on humans are beyond description and we say so little about it,“ explains Anna. Rising temperatures bring higher risks of collapses and heart strokes, but also problems with short-term memory. The air pollution in cities causes more frequent respiratory problems, asthma or allergies.
Doctors for future are protesting in front of the Czech Ministry of Environment to warn against health problems that climate change brings. Anna stands next to the hospital bed. Photo credits: Barbora Sommers
Anna found the happenings in front of the ministries really pleasant. „It was great to see the number of people who took part, as well as that a small initiative gathering a specific profession can be a partner to the big organisations. Climate activists who work in regions, outside the big cities are a very specific movement. Person often feels like an alien, because one brings the topic of climate change that does not resonate in the region. Local activists can feel lonely because of it, but even though they are very important,“ points out Anna.
Both activists agree that diversity in environmental movements is really important, especially in the region of Central Europe, where engagement in the topic of climate change is not so popular as in the Western countries.
The issues of environmental protection became a part of life and thinking of both women already in a young age. The need for solutions had increased after they both became mothers.
„When you think about yourself, you tell yourself that you can handle it. You have a home, financial security. But with a kid, it all turns upside down. I just find the climate and environmental destruction really unfair toward next generations. That is why it is important for me to be engaged,“ says Dorota from Concerned mothers.
Caption: Dorota and her son at one of the climate marches in Slovakia.
“I think the groups should be as diverse as possible, because only then we have a chance to address broader public,“ says Anna. She recalls an event, when some of the activists from Parents for Climate came out to the streets, they were singing and gathering signatures for a petition. Anna doubted that it would work, but in the end it was successful. „I learned that the movement can speak in many languages.”
Caption: The movement Parents for Climate Liberec is trying to make all their events 100% children friendly. Anna with her son at one of the events: Photo from Anna's personal archive.
„The more diverse the movement, the better for us and the climate,“ confirms Dorota.
Activism brings satisfaction and offers space to reconsider our prejudice. “I think that activism can open one’s mind and help him to accept oneself better,“ says Anna.
Being engaged helped Dorota find people with whom she feels good and can discuss everything. At their initiative’s meeting, they also discuss topics around parenthood. “If I could tell something to people – get engaged. We can no longer be neutral. We are running out of time. We need as many people on our side. We are facing giants, with money, experts and political power. And against them are mothers with carriages. We need thousands of carriages,“ closes Dorota.
HOW TO JOIN THE MOVEMENT?
Znepokojené matky - FB https://www.facebook.com/znepokojenMatky - Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents for Future Liberec - FB https://www.facebook.com/rodicezaklimaliberec - Email email@example.com
Doctors for Future - FB https://www.facebook.com/doctorsforfuturecz/ - Web https://doctorsforfuture.webnode.cz/