With pain in our hearts we say farewell to Irene Dankelman. She was pioneer in the field of gender and environment and one of the founders of Both ENDS.
Irene Dankelman was always an absolute pioneer: in the 1970s, in lectures and ground-breaking publications, she was already drawing attention to the theme of 'women, environment and development'. From that time on, day in day out, through her academic work and with many civil society organisations in the Netherlands and elsewhere, she stood up for marginalised groups, women and indigenous communities in particular.
Irene was enthusiastic and inspiring. In her own way, she was an inspiration to countless activists, students and policymakers. And she supported many female leaders with her advice, energy and a sympathetic ear.
In 1986, together with a number of officials from what was then the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, Irene laid the basis for our international environmental and human rights organization Both ENDS. She was only a founder and staff member of the organisation, but also sat on the Board for many years. She was our adviser and mentor in the field of gender. She was until her death a member of the advisory council of our Joke Waller-Hunter Initiative, which supports young leaders in environmental organisations in the Global South.
Three years ago, to mark the 30th anniversary of Both ENDS, she spoke of her involvement in the international world of woman's rights and environment. She was pleased with the achievements of the movement in which she played such an essential part. Yet, at the same time, she was aware of how far we still have to go, saying "there are millions of women and men, especially young people, calling for environmental justice and women's rights. There is far more knowledge and expertise. There are now libraries full of information on these issues. There is much more noise around these issues, many more words and policies. But still, making it happen on the ground is a challenge."
Thanks to the seeds she planted almost 40 years ago, Both ENDS is today an organisation that – often against the flow – continues to fight to protect the natural environment and the rights and initiatives of women, farmers, fishers and local organisations that defend land, water and forests.
She was recently awarded a royal honour for her ground-breaking work, the first woman in her municipality to have received such an honour.
Irene is buried in the natural cemetery at Mookerheide where her grave is marked by a tree trunk slice with her name on it. As we accompanied her to her final resting place, the sun was shining, as though nature was giving her a warm welcome.
We wish Irene's family comfort and offer our sympathy for their great loss. At Both ENDS Irene and her wisdom will always be a part of our DNA.
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