Indien: Rashida Bee

A woman's life involves discarding relationships that she has known from infancy and adopting strangers as her own-then why should any other struggle for empowerment scare her?

— Rashida Bee

Rashida Bee is a leading personality in the global campaign to secure justice for the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide Gas Tragedy in Bhopal, the biggest industrial disaster in history. Rashida took her fight with Union Carbide Company and its giant partner, Dow Chemicals, to the streets of New York. Dow Chemicals is battling a series of cases that Rashida and other protestors filed against it. Rashida received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2004 for internationally center-staging the Bhopal disaster.

Since December 1984, the Union Carbide Company (UCC) methyl isocyanate gas leak has progressively killed more than 30,000 people in Bhopal, the worst and most shameful industrial disaster in history. Among many others, 48-year-old Rashida Bee, a providential survivor, has been a leading personality in the global campaign to get justice for the survivors, direct and indirect. Rashida, an uneducated beedi (tobacco)-packer from Bhopal, started her career in activism not quite volitionally when she fought for better labor conditions and wages for women at her factory. In 1989, after the protest reached the prime minister's residence in New Delhi, all the demands were met. Rashida then took the initiative to use the union's sudden self-confidence to seek recompense from UCC. In 1999, she and other activists and disaster victims filed a class action lawsuit against UCC in New York. Rashida then frontlined a series of protest marches, rallies, petitions, and fasts, including a 19-day marathon hunger sit-in in New York in 2002. The following year, Rashida and others confronted Dow Chemicals officials in Mumbai and The Netherlands with "samples" of toxic waste. This resulted in a tour of more than ten American cities, an impassioned siege of a Dow Chemicals shareholders' meeting in Michigan, and culminated in a 12-day hunger strike and rally on New York's Wall Street. American college and university students organized nationwide rallies; thousands joined protests in the United Kingdom, China, Spain, Thailand, and Canada.