[HISTORY] Women’s and Environmental Activism in Twentieth-Century in Taiwan : the example of The Homemakers’ Union and Foundation

While walking in Gongguan area, my attention stopped a few minutes on a odd looking “ball” at a corner of a building. Everybody was passing near it without paying any attention to it.

Having a closer look at it, I could see some text written on it:


“Landmark of Women’s culture

In 1987, a group of enthusiastic homemakers decided to “speak up, act out and take responsibility” to protect the environment. As a result, The Homemakers Union and Foundation was established in 1989.”

My interest was picked. While looking for information about what could be the Homemakers Union and Foundation, I found stumbled upon a book called Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang.

“On International Women’s Day in 1983, Lee Yuan-chen, a leader in Taiwan’s feminist community, urged middle-class housewives to extend their love and Concern for family to the community and the larger society.”

Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang.


Cover for Chang: Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan.

Not long before the end of the Martial Law in Taiwan in 1987, women and more specifically housewives facing social changes, problems and deficiencies in the environment and educational systems, started gathering in order to act and improve their community living environment.

Their active approach addressed various aspects such as child psychology, nutrition and health standards, consumers’ rights, communication and ecology.

It is important to remember that activism and any kind of protest during Martial law was toughly repressed by then KMT-led government as described in Environmental Governance in Taiwan: A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders by By Simona A. Grano.

While during the authoritarian era it was the KMT that defined activists as “hooligans” many sources in the environmental movement have used the word liumang 流氓 (hooligan or thief)  to describe the intimidating and rogue techniques employed by both construction companies and local governments to make them desist in their quest to stop construction projects.”

– A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders by By Simona A. Grano. 

After the martial law, those gatherings became more officials and led to the establishment of the originally named Homemakers Union and Foundation for Environment in 1987.

“As Taiwan’s primary consumers, members of the Homemakers’ Union considered themselves to be best suited for the propagation of environmental consciousness to their children and the public”

Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang.

The Foundation published multiple pamphlets and articles to newspapers and organized demonstration and mobilized municipal government to allocate human and financial resources to improve the environment and promote sustainable habits within the communities.

“The Homemakers’ Union popularized the idea of mass producing durable nylon shopping bags that could be washed, brought to grocery stores, and reused. Instead of placing purchased goods and groceries in new plastic bags that could only be used once”

Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang.

I personally question myself on the results of some of their actions today especially concerning the shopping bags which are still a disaster in Taiwan where thousands of single-use plastic bags are distributed every day. But nevertheless there is no doubt that the Foundation played a great role in the improvement of Taiwan’s environmental protection since 1980.

The foundation also cosigned with other associations, the 1988 Declaration in Opposition to the Building of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant among growing concern for health hazards especially on an Island with little space for waste storage and subject to many earthquakes.


Cover for A. Grano Environmental Governance in Taiwan: A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders

One positive note comes from Chen Man-li, the already mentioned chairwoman of the Homemakers United Foundation who, during our conversation, remarked how, in comparison to the 1990s when for activists it was quite dangerous to be working in the field of environmental protection, the situation has nowadays greatly improved, even though they still occasionally receive silent phone calls or threats, especially during a sensitive campaign (e.g., nuclear power opposition) (Chen Man-li, interview, July 20, 2011).

– A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders by By Simona A. Grano. 

With the increasing need for gender equality the Foundation distanced itself from the dominant environmental aspect. Thus, was created in 1989, the Homemakers Union and Foundation which was later renamed the Homemakers United Foundation (HUF).

The HUF is still active as of today and expressing its voice on various topics.

To visit the website of the Homemakers United Foundation, go to: https://www.huf.org.tw/

To go further Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang book preview: https://goo.gl/P2eY4Q

To go futher A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders by By Simona A. Grano. book preview : https://goo.gl/YjXZUF




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