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The 20 Year Plan – Part 4 

Women of the Watershed Unite! It is important for women to be paid for their efforts.  Deep in the Sierra Madre Mountains poverty is king and a man will work a lifetime to acquire a mule. That comes to about $50 US.  Women are not paid for their work at all.

A pistol buys a man instant status and a junk derringer starts at $10 US.  Should someone need to be killed the local “policeman” gets $10.  If you kill a man in stupidity- disputes are common – then it doubles.  Ten to get out of jail plus ten for stealing the pistolero’s job:  Just like here, no one’s above the law.

The closest dump is a three-day trek to the east where you go to mine Mexico City’s flotsam. Bleach bottles will keep your beans and corn dry.   Contrails drift silently above lines of human ants digging in mountains of garbage far below. 

Nothing much changes in Mexico. Aztec warriors overran this back water long ago and carried off anything of value.  The Spanish brought no improvements.  Even now, bandits at the power station up by Coronas sometimes kill people going through the pass. Midnight, all say, is the safest time to take off for the dump.

Women in these mountains rarely even see money.  Plastic is tangible household wealth and decades-old containers are re-stitched when they crack from use.  Home is a one room mud brick affair and there’s no running water, no electricity, no pets.  Pads on the floor serve as beds.  Their kids are gone and time hangs heavy  

Still, life goes on.  I was another single man in the land of “los pobres” back during Bush Sr.’s one term.  Bush liked to frame public service as an answer to the call of duty.  “I am a man who sees life in terms of missions” he told Republican delegates in the Louisiana Superdome “missions defined and missions completed.” 

So, with my own mission in Mexico over, I gave an old Indian granny $20 US, a thank you for the tortillas and for the laughter.  That came when we killed the scorpions that sometimes dropped from the husks we shucked at night.  Its cooler by around eleven or so and the butt end of a flashlight, stuck endwise in your mouth, makes for a handy hammer.   

She knew it was money but had no idea how much.  That old hide of a husband met her childlike gaze “The gringo says it’s for you.” And she buckled like she was shot on the spot. It was more than she had seen in a lifetime much less called her own.  Our hands jerked out and we caught her before she hit the ground.

So, listen.  The world has doubled in souls, from when I was born until my time in Guerrero, and it has now tripled since.  Today’s edition is dedicated to the Herald’s women and so I ask you, “What is true knowledge of the future worth?”

Forget, for a moment, the men whom you love.  Truth is, we’ve become a people that can’t feed themselves and it’s time to recognize why our grandkids wander in a fog.  We’ve become techno-peasants in our own land. 

It helps to remember that life for pioneer women was also primitive.  Egg money was about it for an independent income.  When the tomato canneries came along with three shifts – this is still living memory for our elders – regular wages and more gender freedom came together.  Things looked up.

Better plastics soon followed but one thing did not change:  Access to, and shared control over, powerful and potentially liberating financial tools.  These remain so dominated by today’s men that food security for their own children is not even on the radar.  A 145 years of state-coerced and tax-funded public education, you’d think women would drop this excrement for what it is.  

Enough!  In Kenya, women have seen the connection between the “modernization” of agricultural techniques and the disintegration of the culture and the communities of farming.   They are creating, through home-based care cooperatives, a holistic women-led community that will prepare women to drive a community response to pandemic or other national crises. 

This must be done in the Ozarks for the same reasons, i.e., because retrogressive banking, corruption and political reaction by vested interests combine to still women’s voices. So it’s left to women to (1) boost home-based caregiver’s capacities through peer learning, (2) create platforms for collective livelihoods something like the 5-women groups of the Grameen Bank fame, and (3) stay involved in the key decision making processes as they climb the economic ladder.  

The Women of the Watershed look to what’s going on in countries all over the world to counteract the set-jawed opposition to women’s wealth generation, asset building, commodity marketing, home-based care, governance, human rights campaigns and advocacy.  Why?  No one’s coming to fix this mess.

To this list we can add the protection of species diversity, habitat preservation and water quality protection.  Women care about solutions and it’s obvious that the male politicians of both sexes lack whatever it takes to find them. 

Do you have property but no heirs?  Do your grandkids have no intention of keeping the old farm intact, plan to run off with the assets as soon as the sod grows grass?  Does surrendering more land to “conservationists” leave you cold?

Here’s another choice:  Join those of us who are leaving some land to their own watershed charitable foundations.  Ask for Kat at the Herald office for a time and place to meet to explore the ways women can organize, and then mobilize, their soft power.  It’s the number one priority and the only way to get our future back.

Here’s another thing:  We have to measure things before we can change them.  The following Women of the Watershed survey, “What Are Your Ten Indicators of Improvement?” is meant to help measure your base line independence. Please take the time to compare the indicators from Bangledesh, prepare your own, and resolve to put some living fire into your circles.  Take time to share your results, and this survey, with your own network of women.

Grameen Bank Indicator for Bangladesh

1. Family lives in an adequate house; all family members sleep in beds (not on the floor).

2. Family members drink pure, safe water.

3. All children over six years old are going to school or have finished primary school.

4. Minimum weekly loan installment of the borrower is Tk200 (Bangladesh currency) or more

5. Family uses sanitary latrine

6. Family members have adequate clothing for everyday use- in all seasons.

7. Family has independent sources of additional income, such as a vegetable garden or fruit or nut-bearing trees.

8. The borrower maintains an average annual balance of Tk5000 in her savings accounts.

9. Family experiences no difficulty in having three square meals a day and no member of the family goes hungry any time of the year.

10. Family can take care of health. If someone falls ill, the family can afford to access health care.