We Fight on for Mother Earth and All Generations: WECAN International Analysis and Reflection on COP24 Poland Climate Talks

By Elaine Colligan, WECAN International COP24 Delegate


Mass civil society action on the final day of COP24 – Photo by Shaila Shahid

“We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.” – Greta Thunberg, 15 years old, Sweden

“We, women, we carry our temples in our wombs. Our bodies are our own territories. Our veins are rivers, rivers that pump blood through our bodies. Our fight is for our own lives, for our own kids, for our own people. For the forests, for the people of the forests, and for the waters. Our fight is for our Mother Earth, the Mother of all Mothers.”– Hamangaí Pataxó, Youth Delegate with Engajamundo, Pataxó Ha-Ha-Hãe, Brazil, speaking during the civil society sit-in and walkout action during COP24

At this year’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) climate talks in Katowice, Poland, powerful women leaders once again brought urgency, action and demonstrations of real, justice-based solutions to a climate conference that has consistently failed to deliver the critical and immediate change our Earth and communities need.

Building upon years of work, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International was honored to once again advocate alongside diverse movement allies at the 24th COP, working to uplift the leadership of women around the world standing for  climate justice. Learn more about WECAN’s participation in past COP’s here.

Our continued participation in the U.N. climate talks stems from the knowledge that women are facing the impacts of climate change first and worst, but are simultaneously building solutions in their communities, fighting to protect Indigenous rights and knowledge, preserving seeds and biodiversity,  defending their territories from mining and fossil fuel extraction, and rejecting false solutions while advocating for a just transition to a renewable, regenerative energy future.

Throughout the week, WECAN International advocated for systemic change including calling for an immediate halt to fossil fuel extraction, ramping up financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund, ensuring that climate solutions are gender-just, promoting energy democracy and a just transition for women and workers, centering the inalienable value of seeds, biodiversity, and natural ecosystems in climate solutions, and rejecting false solutions such as bio-engineering and carbon capture and storage.

Poland, the host country of COP24, has a notoriously polluting coal industry – and many countries, including the U.S. Trump Administration, used the conference to promote dirty, extractivist and exploitative energy sources such as coal, oil, gas, uranium and nuclear. As a U.S. based organization, WECAN International also attended the COP with the intention of denouncing the Trump Administration’s role promoting coal as an affront to the planet, and advocating for a just transition to a 100% renewable, regenerative agenda.

Collaboration with the Women and Gender Constituency was crucial to our work, as we continued to track and advocate for strong implementation of the Gender Action Plan, which was adopted at the previous year’s COP in Bonn, Germany. A Key List of Demands from the Women and Gender Constituency is available here. WECAN International was further present at the COP to push for the rapid adoption and adherence to the Escazú Agreement, in alignment with our dedication to the protection of women water, forest and land defenders. More information about advocacy with the WGC, and surrounding the Escazú Agreement can be found below!

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network COP24 Delegation was comprised of three powerful women leaders, who worked in concert with allied groups, advocated at a diverse array of events, participated in civil society actions and negotiations throughout the COP, and shared their stories and messages by speaking with the media, and during at our formal side event, “Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change.”

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WECAN International COP24 Delegates (left to right) Carmen Capriles, Ruth Nyambura, and Elaine Colligan

Carmen Capriles of La Paz, Bolivia started Reacción Climática in 2010, as a volunteer organization which aims to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on the Andean region. She has actively participated in different U.N. processes like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement, with special emphasis on women’s rights and gender equality – and most recently in the Escazú Agreement, advocating for Environmental Defenders. Carmen holds a degree from Bolivia as an Engineer in Agriculture, as well as a degree in Sustainable Rural Development from Egypt. She is an honored member of WECAN  International’s Advisory Council.

Ruth Nyambura is a Kenyan feminist who works on the intersections of gender, economy and ecological justice. Her organizing and research interests are on the agrarian political economy of Africa, the rural-urban movements resisting the corporatization of Africa’s food systems and the neoliberal turn as a whole.

Elaine Colligan is an activist and organizer passionate about gender and climate justice. Originally from Seattle, Washington, U.S., she is currently reading for the Masters in Philosophy in Political Theory at the University of Oxford. Before coming to Oxford, she co-directed a political action committee, “Clean Virginia” and worked on former U.S. congressman Tom Perriello’s gubernatorial campaign, advocating against two fracked gas pipelines and for a $15/hour minimum wage. Elaine began her career in U.S. politics through working with 350 Action on the 2016 presidential election, organizing students and youth to talk to presidential candidates about climate change. She has also conducted research on gender and climate change in Djirnda, Senegal. Elaine is proud to be part of the WECAN family, having assisted on a variety of projects throughout the years, including the recently-launched “Women Speak” project. She is deeply invested in promoting climate justice as a framework to understand and approach the climate crisis, which prioritizes the needs and solutions of people living on the frontlines of climate change, in particular women and Indigenous peoples.

Background Context:

The Paris Agreement and The “Rulebook”

At a time when governments continue to fail to act on clear scientific warnings that we must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, women are offering an alternative vision of how humans can live sustainably on this planet, in harmony and with respect for one another and the natural world. Although the U.N. process has lagged far behind the policies that women, frontline and Indigenous communities, and communities of color, who have been fighting environmental injustice and resisting colonial oppression for centuries, know we need to adopt, WECAN International remains committed to presenting at the COP in order to uplift real solutions and real leadership in a context in which these perspectives and leadership are urgently lacking.   

From December 2nd to 14th, 2018, heads of state and country negotiators from around the world met at COP24 with a focus on determining the “Paris Rulebook”, the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement. Adopted in 2015, the Paris Agreement replaced the Kyoto Protocol with an ambitious global vision of keeping warming well below 2°Celsius.

After having achieved worldwide consensus on a 2°Celsius warming ceiling, now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° Celsius has issued the loudest clarion call yet for a stronger, 1.5°Celsius target, highlighting the enormous benefits of keeping warming under 1.5, as opposed to 2 degrees. WECAN International, early on and for many years, has demanded this 1.5 degree goal, or even lower, to truly address the crisis at hand.

Most impacted populations, including women, coastal and small-island communities, Indigenous peoples, and farmers would be exposed to far less economic, health, and security risks under a 1.5°Celsius scenario. In fact, the IPCC estimates that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared with 2°C, could reduce the number of people both exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050.” Much lower risks are also projected at 1.5°C for heat-related morbidity,  mortality and infectious diseases, as well as species extinction, loss of biodiversity, and the irreversible decimation of forests, oceans, wetlands and tundras worldwide.

Critically, the 1.5° Celsius target also falls more in-line with urgent calls from frontline, Indigenous, people of color, and Global South communities who have made clear that action, or inaction, to meet these targets will greatly impact their ability to survive and thrive. A 1.5° Celsius target would also require an immediate halt to all new fossil fuel extraction, mining and drilling, as demanded by people’s movements for climate justice around the globe. The report states that global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions must “decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030” (Summary for Policymakers, page 14).

Glaringly, current country commitments to reduce carbon emissions (“nationally determined contributions”) simply don’t add up to a 1.5°Celsius world. Current plans to reduce emissions need to be tripled to keep warming below 2°Celsius, and increased fivefold to ensure warming does not overtake 1.5°Celsius.

Furthermore, monitoring those commitments every five years in what the United Nations calls a “global stocktake” will require a complex accounting process. Rich countries, notably the United States, have continued to skirt the topic of their insufficient commitments to cut carbon, and their historical responsibilities, by pushing for universal emissions reporting standards. The mobilization of significant finance from rich countries to ‘developing’ nations for loss and damages from climate change is another process around which many wealthy nations, including the United States, have continued to avoid responsibility. This is another critical reason that the demands and presence of the grassroots movement for climate justice is deeply needed each year at the U.N. climate talks.

Another major issue of contention at this year’s COP revolved around implementing respect for human rights, equity, and the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” in emissions reductions plans. The Katowice rulebook coming out of COP24, however, does not enshrine these rights in the implementation process, choosing instead to simply include references to the Paris Agreement preamble, which itself only motions to respecting women’s rights, human rights, Indigenous peoples’ rights and public participation in implementing national plans to cut emissions.

Women’s Leadership in Katowice

From delivering high-level interventions with the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency, to sharing local solutions at our Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network side event, WECAN International’s delegation to COP24 uplifted the power of women’s leadership at all levels of climate mitigation and adaptation, fossil fuel resistance, frontline solutions, and efforts to chart a way forward with a just transition framework.

While closely tracking the negotiation of the Paris Rulebook, with an eye towards gender at all levels and the rights of Indigenous peoples, WECAN International also spent time movement-building with young leaders and women leaders from across the global climate justice movement.

Key Highlights:

  1. Participation in the Women and Gender Constituency  

Each day, members of WECAN International’s delegation participated in the Women and Gender Constituency morning caucus meetings to track the negotiations from a women’s rights perspective and advocate for shared priorities.

The key policy priorities included: mainstreaming gender throughout the Paris Rulebook, notably maintaining references to gender, Indigenous and human rights in country emissions reductions plans; operationalizing a robust platform for Indigenous peoples and local communities, to respect the rights to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) in regards to adaptation and mitigation activities that occur in Indigenous territories; scaling up finance for loss and damage in vulnerable countries; rejecting market-based mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism and carbon offsets trading in the Paris Sustainable Development Mechanism; mainstreaming rights in the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture; and promoting a just transition for workers and women.


Members and allies of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency – Photo via: Annabelle Avril/WECF

On Monday, 12/10, WECAN International Delegate, Elaine Colligan, had the opportunity to attend the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement Co-chairs’ Dialogue with Observers Organisations with Hwei Mian Lim, Senior Programme Officer at the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW). Lim delivered a high-level comment on behalf of the Women and Gender Constituency in which she highlighted the absence of human rights language in the Paris Rulebook and asked for an update on status of integrating rights language. The Co-chairs responded that they took note of our concern regarding rights and the just transition, but frustratingly maintained that the COP negotiations are a process owned by Parties, and that in order to reach consensus among Parties there “need to be trade-offs.” This was very disappointing to hear, as it is our position, of course, that you can never “trade off” human or women’s rights!

Later in the day, Elaine collaborated with Chiara Soletti, Women, Rights and Climate Coordinator for the Italian Climate Network, to draft a question regarding why 12 activists were deported at the Polish border on their way to COP. We received the frightening answer from the Polish COP Presidency that these activists were refused entry for two reasons: they did not have a valid visa, or they were on a list of people who the Polish government has deemed a threat to the “public order.” The answer was very inadequate and exhibited the Polish government’s inclination to crack down on free speech and public activism during the COP.


Chiara Soletti, Women, Rights and Climate Coordinator for the Italian Climate Network; Hwei Mian Lim, Senior Programme Officer at the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW); and Elaine Colligan, WECAN International Delegate

During UNFCCC Gender Day at COP, Tuesday December 11th, WECAN International Delegates Ruth Nyambura  and Elaine Colligan attended a side event hosted by the Climate Technology Centre & Network to foster dialogue between civil society groups and the UNFCCC on mainstreaming gender in technology adaptation and finance. Ruth Nyambura asked a powerful question regarding corporate capture of technology financing and highlighted the need for more grassroots access to technology grants in the U.N. Climate Technology Centre.


Ruth Nyambura speaks out during a session on technology access and gender – Photo via: Elaine Colligan

WECAN International Delegates Carmen Capriles and Elaine Colligan also attended Gender Day events such as the prize ceremony for the Gender Just Climate Solutions Award.

  1. Participating in the disruption of the US panel.

On Monday, December 10th, WECAN International delegate Elaine Colligan joined with climate movement allies to help disrupt the only official U.S. government panel at the entire climate conference.

Under the Trump administration, the United States has announced that it will shamefully leave the Paris Agreement in 2020. For the second year in a row, the country also hosted an event promoting fossil fuel extraction and nuclear energy, entitled “Innovative Technologies Spur Economic Dynamism.” The panel was even more troubling and ironic given that the US government released just weeks before the Fourth National Climate Assessment report, warning that climate change would threaten hundreds of thousands of lives and jobs in the U.S.

However, U.S. civil society groups at the COP refused to accept the egregious panel as a  representation of the interests and goals of the country’s population. The disruption began when Jade Daniels, Communications Coordinator for the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, ignited peals of theatrical laughing from the audience at the sheer absurdity of promoting fossil fuels at a time when the urgent transition to renewables in a must. Felicia Teter (Yakama Nation/U.S.) spoke about the impacts to Indigenous communities of climate change, saying “We hold the solutions and we know we must keep it in the ground.”

The group dropped a banner reading “Keep It In the Ground” and gave the floor to four leaders, two of which were women, who spoke about their work in the U.S. promoting a just transition away from fossil fuels. First, Leona Morgan (Navajo/Diné Leader, U.S.) discussed the deleterious impacts of fracking, drilling and uranium mining at the Navajo Nation. Then, Aneesa Khan (India/U.S., SustainUs Delegation Leader) called out our leaders for their lack of ambition on climate, as her homeland in Chennai, India experiences life-threatening floods.

See the livestream of the action here and learn more via action coverage in the Pacific Standard and other international publications.

  1. Walking out of UK/EU forum promoting natural gas.

On Tuesday, December 11th, WECAN delegates participated in a walkout of a panel hosted by natural gas lobby group GasNaturally. While Marco Alvera, the president of the group, was speaking, protesters silently stood up and filed out of the room. Afterwards, Rita Uwaka, a woman leader with Friends of the Earth Nigeria, spoke to reporters about the need to immediately halt fossil fuel extraction and drilling in the Niger River Delta.

  1. Powerful Women Leaders speak at WECAN International Side Event: ‘Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’

‘Women for Climate Justice’ COP24 event speakers (left to right): Elaine Colligan, Aneesa Khan, Ruth Nyambura, Carmen Capriles, India Logan-Riley, and Cynthia Mellon

On Wednesday, December 12th, six women leaders shared their analysis, experience, and vision as women for climate justice ,during WECAN International’s official COP24 side event ‘Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’.

Speakers Carmen Capriles (Feminist, Human Rights and Environment Defender, Bolivia); Ruth Nyambura (Feminist, Organizer and Researcher, Kenya); Cynthia Mellon (Policy Coordinator, Climate Justice Alliance, Our Power Campaign, U.S.); India Logan-Riley (Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, Youth Climate Leader, Aotearoa/New Zealand); Aneesa Khan (COP24 Delegation Leader with SustainUS, U.S.); and Elaine Colligan (Organizer and Activist, Masters in Philosophy in Political Theory at Oxford, and Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Programs Contributor, U.S.) – spoke out on many topics to address the need for climate justice and feminist based solutions to the climate crisis, including forest and biodiversity protection, Indigenous rights advocacy, agro-ecology implementation, fossil fuel resistance, and protection of women land defenders.

WATCH the full event via Facebook Live here or via the COP24 video streaming page here.

Carmen Capriles (Reaccion Climatica, Bolivia) spoke first, exploring the importance of  the Escazu Agreement and the killing of environmental land defenders and Indigenous land defenders in Latin America. Adopted on March 4th, 2018 in Costa Rica, the Escazu Agreement is also known as the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters. It is the first environmental treaty of Latin America and the Caribbean, enshrining Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, and it establishes the right of access to information,  public participation and justice in environmental matters. The treaty importantly protects the human rights of environmental land defenders, guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression and assembly for communities while encouraging accountability and prosecution for those that threaten the lives and livelihoods of activists.


Carmen Capriles speaks out during the WECAN International COP24 side event

Carmen explained,

“Most of the killings of environmental land defenders are happening in Latin America and the Caribbean… All this blood of activists who want to take care of the resources, who want to take care of the Amazon, who want to take care of the rivers, just let it flow. And we can’t let this happen. In  2017 we had almost 200 environmental land defenders killed in Latin America. So in order to tackle this problem, we’ve been working on an institutional solution. Who are most affected by this persecution and harassment in the region are Indigenous people. Two out of three murders are of Indigenous people. Although we have lots of means and platforms for Indigenous  voices, they do not get to these levels, and [the world] still does not value these voices.”

Next, Ruth Nyambura (Feminist, Organizer and Researcher from Kenya) spoke powerfully about activism in the streets and transnational global feminism from the Global South. Nyambura began her talk by quoting sociologist Asef Bayat (University of Illinois) on the topic of streets as spaces of politics. “Streets are spaces of flow and movements, are not only where people express grievances, but also where they fight identities and large solidarities, and extend their protests beyond their immediate circles, to include the  unknown, strangers.”

She urged the audience to communicate beyond our narrow social circles in order to build global solidarity with people worldwide. Nyambura expressed solidarity with Polish movements for liberation, acknowledging the importance of transnational partnership and allegiance. She then argued that people from the Global South are constantly fighting for liberation from colonial Western mindsets, and it is the everyday leadership of women around the world, from the fields to the streets to the halls of the United Nations, that is charting a new way forward.

Poignantly, Ruth reflected during her presentation,

“Even in these difficult times, people are finding ways to resist authoritarianism and an economic system that finds us disposable, the majority of  us being women, being queer people, being farmers… We have to conceive our work in movements as a deeply political project. This is not the time to say we are neutral, to bring everyone to the big tent. As feminists, women and environmental defenders, we have to know that our work will be contentious… We have to build our movements with the aspirations of those on the margins of pipelines, coal power plants, corporations in their territories, and center the aspirations  of those on the frontlines of the crisis we face.”

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Ruth Nyambura speaks out during the WECAN International COP24 side event – Photo via: Climate Justice Alliance

India Logan-Riley (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga/New Zealand and Indigenous Youth Delegation Leader to COP24) spoke next, beginning her talk with a Maori language greeting to the audience and “the land we stand on, the house that we are in, and the families present and not present in the room.”

India articulated her identity in the way she would at home, naming the mountain and river of her homeland and the boat that brought her ancestors to New Zealand from across the Pacific. She then shared an origin story from her people, saying that in Maori culture Mother Earth gifted the Red Earth to her child, God of the Forests, to craft the first human, and he crafted a woman. So the first human that walked the planet was a woman, and from her was born the Goddess of Death. In Maori culture women are both life-givers and life-receivers, who we enter the world through and leave the world through, and menstruation recalls the sacred connection with Red Earth.

Logan-Riley spoke powerfully,

Of course, when Captain Cook arrived, and wrote some things down about Maori women, he changed that story. He demonized us, portrayed us as violent and uncivilized and hyper-sexualized, and that effectively dehumanized us as women, and the repercussions of that can still be seen in a lot of the narratives told about Maori women today. More often than not, if you come from a family that has a history of domestic violence, your  child will be planned to be taken off you before the child is even born, and that rate is much higher for Maori women than non-Maori women.”

India discussed how women in New Zealand got the right to vote in 1893, but lamented that eight years ago New Zealand passed a law removing prisoners’ right to vote, effectively robbing many Maori women of political agency, and highlighted People Against Prisons Aotearoa as a solutions group advocating for prison abolition for people across different genders. Logan-Riley also spoke about the growing the Indigenous youth climate movement in New  Zealand, where the fight against patriarchy and oppression continues and the need to promote women’s leadership is evermore urgent, as women perform gendered and emotional labor that is under-recognized and under-resourced. Over the past few years, Logan-Riley has been a recognized for leading an Indigenous youth climate delegation to the U.N. climate talks, the first of its kind. Most of the members have been women or gender non-conforming people.

Next, Aneesa Khan (SustainUs Delegation Leader, India/U.S.) spoke about her  personal relationship to activism and the publication of her graphic novel, Praxis, about organizers of color and Global South climate leaders. She showed slides of her illustrations, that narrate her personal story in youth activism, and her fight against depression and burnout in activism.


Aneesa Khan speaks out during the WECAN International COP24 side event – Photo via Twitter

Aneesa discussed growing up in Oman, where drilling for oil was cheaper than providing drinking water,  and contrasted her up-front view of fossil fuel extraction to the climate devastation in the form of flooding and droughts that her family in Chennai, India experienced.

Aneesa explained,

“We live in a time of tipping points, as war, racism, poverty, and a plethora of other issues drive society as we know it over the edge, every single one of these problems is being exacerbated by the worst planetary crisis we have ever faced: climate change. I’m not the first one to feel burned out, nor am I the last. There are thousands of strong people struggling for just causes every single day, and they are here to inspire us and they are the ones who keep us going, not the UN, not the federal government, not the people who are pushing us down. The only way we make it through this  is by finding our form of praxis.”

Cynthia Mellon (Policy Coordinator, Climate Justice Alliance and representative of the It Takes Root Delegation, U.S.) spoke about organizing for food sovereignty and energy democracy. She highlighted the work of members of the Climate Justice Alliance, an alliance of 68 different groups, in African-American, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander, and poor white communities.

Cynthia explained,

“We believe as CJA that in order to effectively confront the climate crisis, we must transition our priorities from global systems of production and consumption that are energy-intensive and fossil fuel-dependent to more localized systems that are sustainable, resilient and regenerative. But to do this, this transition must be just.”

She discussed the It Takes Roots Delegation, composed of the Climate Justice Alliance, Right to the City, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, who bring the message of decolonial Indigenous liberation, women’s rights, queer liberation and economic justice to the halls of the United Nations.

Mellon also highlighted the feminist organizing in the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, which holds feminist organizing schools and supports and trains feminist organizers of color. She then highlighted the work of the Black Farm Collective, whose members teach farming and food sovereignty to Black communities in the South, the Midwest and Puerto Rico. In particular, Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica is helping Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricane Maria by teaching agroecological farming methods to sustain and rebuild communities.

Mellon also uplifted the work of women-led organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, such as Urban Tilt, that are farming and teaching communities how to recover food sovereignty and local medicinal practices in the shadow of oil refineries that have a long history of polluting local communities. Furthermore, Cynthia shared the story of the Little Village Environmental Justice organization in Chicago, a women-led group, worked to close down two coal-fired power plants while developing a school that teaches people how to build and install solar panels, especially youth in the foster care system and people who have been incarcerated. She also uplifted the Asia-Pacific Environmental Network and the Black Mesa Water Coalition as organizations that are promoting the just transition, agroecology and local sustainable economies in their regions, with strong women and queer leaders at the forefront.

Finally, Elaine Colligan (WECAN Programs Contributor, U.S.) spoke about electoral organizing as global feminist solidarity and her work directing an anti-corruption, renewable energy Political Action Committee in Virginia.

She told her personal story about becoming politicized to working in U.S. politics through witnessing the impacts of climate change in Séerer communities in Djirnda, Région de Fatick, Senegal. Due to climate change, the traditional economic livelihoods of these communities were under stress from drought, sea level rise, biodiversity loss, and deforestation of the mangrove forest. This experience moved her to working to end the U.S. government’s close political ties with the fossil fuel industry and promote a just transition at home, in her country. She spoke about her work with 350 Action (the political arm of 350.org) training over 100 students and youth to talk presidential candidates about climate change during the 2016 election. Colligan said that even though Hillary Clinton didn’t win, young people were able to change the top-line priorities of the Democratic Party on climate change, as Clinton moved to supporting a ban on fossil fuel extraction on public lands by the end of the campaign. She then discussed her work as Deputy Director of Clean Virginia, a political action committee that funds candidates in the state of Virginia who refuse money from publicly regulated utilities.

After all the speakers had presented powerfully on their work, the women answered questions from the audience and spoke individually with researchers and reporters who were eager to interview each woman. The depth and breadth of analysis that the panel offered only echoed what study after study have shown: women’s leadership is central to climate solutions that prioritize communities and the natural world in a just transition to a sustainable future. Women are unwilling to compromise on human rights, gender equality, the rights of Indigenous peoples and the Rights of Nature, instead holding these values as central to a just transition and any climate solutions.

5. Interview with Magdalena Rozwadowska.

On Wednesday, December 12th WECAN International Delegate Elaine Colligan had the chance to sit down with Magdalena Rozwadowska, a Polish woman activist from the Lower Silesia Women’s Congress.


Rozwadowska discussed her work as part of this women’s organizing collective to oppose the destruction of the Białowieża old-growth forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site and biodiversity hotspot. Though she was not physically present at the action, she recounted how pictures of women breastfeeding their children on stumps elevated the issue to the European Commission, who then put pressure on the Polish government to halt the logging. She also discussed her work opposing the Polish government’s efforts to ban abortion, in which she took to the streets with hundreds of other women in a series of demonstrations that are slowly changing public opinion regarding women’s rights to their own bodies. Rozwadowska’s passion stems from her work keeping bees, through which she has seen how much biodiversity loss and climate instability impact local ecosystems.

The visit with Rozwadowska builds upon WECAN International’s effort to connect with local, frontline women leaders in each of the countries we visit during annual UNFCCC COP meetings. To learn more, please see our videos from powerful meetings and visits with women of the Hambach Forest resistance in Germany (during COP23) – and women farmers in Morocco (during COP22).

  1. Putting pressure on UK Member of Parliament Claire Perry.

On Thursday, December 13th, WECAN Delegate Elaine Colligan asked Claire Perry, a Conservative Member of Parliament (Devises) and Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, about the United Kingdom’s support for fracking in Lancashire and general reliance on natural gas. The Minister was speaking at a side event organized by the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a coalition of sub-national groups that encourage the transition away from coal but promote natural gas and the burning of biofuels as solutions. Along with the UK Youth Climate Coalition, WECAN helped to call out these false solutions in the transition away from coal and advocate for a 100% renewable, just energy transition. Colligan questioned Perry about her support for the continued use of natural gas in the UK in light of the IPCC report that calls for a rapid transition off of all fossil fuels. She received the unsatisfying and unjust answer that the UK would continue to open more fracking sites in Lancashire and consume natural gas at the same rate, despite the overwhelming science that the country needs to rapidly transition off of this dirty fuel.  See video here.

  1. Uplifting and Urging the Implementation of the Escazú Agreement.

On Thursday December 13th, WECAN International Delegate Carmen Capriles organized and led an action calling for all Latin American and Caribbean countries to sign the Escazú Agreement to protect the human rights of environmental land defenders.

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Carmen Capriles, WECAN COP24 Delegate and woman leader from Bolivia, takes action during COP to demand implementation of the Escazú Agreement. Photo credit: Annabelle Avril/WECF

The Escazú Agreement is a first-of-its-kind agreement between fourteen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, which “enacts binding provisions for States to equip their citizens with information, judicial corrections and spaces for public participation in environmental matters concerning them.” The agreement aims to encourage governments to provide more transparency, accountability and judicial scrutiny on the civil and human rights of environmental defenders. Latin America and the Caribbean are the regions with the highest numbers of murders of environmental land defenders in the world, as reported by Global Witness. Please see the action livestream here.

  1.  Mass Civil Society Action.

On Friday, December 14th, all WECAN International Delegates participated in a sit-in on the main steps of the COP conference center, to call for ramped-up commitments to transition rapidly off of fossil fuels and extreme energy, renounce false solutions, and center the leadership of grassroots, Indigenous and people of color-led initiatives.


Mass civil society action on the final day of COP24 – Photo by Shaila Shahid

The action was organized and led by members of the Demand Climate Justice constituency whose comprehensive policy framework to achieve climate justice can be found in the People’s Demands for Climate Justice, for which the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network is a signatory. Demand Climate Justice is a constituency whose membership is largely consists of organizations that hold a strong racial, Indigenous, economic and gender justice lens, and the Friday action was principally organized by the powerful leadership of Indigenous people, people of color and people from the Global South alongside global allies.

Over 200 people occupied the steps and dropped three banners reading, “System Change not Climate Change” “Whose side  are you on?” and “Keep It In The Ground.” Rita Walker (Nigeria, Friends of the Earth International), Taily Terena (Brazil), and Hamangaí Pataxó (Pataxó Ha-Ha-Hãe, Brazil) spoke powerful words about Global South, Indigenous, youth, and women’s resistance to extraction and the need to rapidly transition to local, sustainable systems that center Indigenous peoples’ rights and knowledge. The action concluded with a silent walk-out to protest the killing of Indigenous and environmental land defenders. Livestream from WECAN Delegate Elaine Colligan here.

In the same two-week timespan as all of these actions, young people from the Sunrise Movement were risking arrest in droves in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office, calling for the formation of a Select Committee to research a Green New Deal. The Green New Deal would be an economic stimulus package to transition the U.S. to 100%  renewable energy by 2030 and provide a federal jobs guarantee at a living wage for all.

The Green New Deal is facing various hurdles and blockages, but has the support of newly elected representatives, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NY). Along with many movement allies, WECAN International supports this effort while keeping a keen, critical eye to ensure that the Green New Deal goes forward with a strong climate justice framework, which will be no easy task. To be effective,  the Green New Deal must be protected from being co-opted by corporate agenda and false solutions such as carbon capture and storage, and instead remain grounded in frontline and Indigenous solutions and incorporate grassroots, people of color and Indigenous voices in the process of designing it from its inception.

Conclusions: The Power of Grassroots Voices for Climate Justice at the UNFCCC

In closing our time at COP24, WECAN International extends our  gratitude to our strong delegation who contributed to ongoing efforts to bring the voices and solutions of frontline women to the forefront of climate talks, call out the influence of corporations and polluters, and advocate against false and inadequate solutions within the climate negotiations process. As the global climate justice movement made clear once again at COP24, all of our struggles are interwoven, and we can only succeed in addressing climate change when we center the leadership of Indigenous Peoples, women, and frontline, most-impacted communities.

Unfortunately, at the close of talks, there remains a great frustration with ongoing stagnancy and lack of ambition by many nations; and a lack of implementation of policies which respect human rights and center frontline communities and community-led solutions.

Yet, it is vital that we ongoingly participate in the UNFCCC process to demand that governments commit to action that is commensurate with the urgency of what global scientists, Indigenous peoples, and community leaders are telling us. The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network  and movements of people will not stop fighting for our beautiful Mother Earth and the health and justice of our communities, and now we return home to continue our work on the ground. Our collective efforts at the local, regional, national and international levels could not be more urgent, and our courage to act boldly and fiercely could not be more needed.

Women Rising For A Thriving Earth and Communities: WECAN International Report-Back From GCAS and Peoples Movement Actions, September 2018


Women for Climate Justice on the steps of San Francisco City Hall at the end of the Rise For Climate march – Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International

“We are speaking out on behalf of a growing movement of diverse women for global climate justice. We are speaking out in recognition of the sacred interdependence of all life on Earth, and with respect for the Rights of Nature, and with the knowledge that business-as-usual economic models predicated on fossil fuel extraction have ushered in an era of unprecedented planetary distress, in which life as we know it is dangerously threatened.”- From the ‘Call For Climate Justice and Immediate Action’

For several days in mid-September, the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) brought international political, business, and other representatives, to Indigenous Ohlone Territory, San Francisco Bay Area, California to discuss efforts to accelerate the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.

Aware of the extremely dangerous gap between rhetoric and reality within the GCAS – WECAN International joined allied women’s rights, human rights, racial justice, climate change, labor, and Indigenous rights organizations (amongst others) – to seize upon the moment to call out false and inadequate solutions; demonstrate community-driven solutions; and put forward an uncompromising vision for real climate leadership that breaks free from the fossil fuel industry, and is led by those most impacted by social and environmental injustice.

WECAN International team members spent a week on-the-ground in the Bay Area, participating alongside many allies in vital peoples movement actions, events, and activities parallel to the Global Climate Action Summit – and were also joined by various WECAN International coordinators and advisors.

Our work included organizing and marching with a ‘Women for Climate Justice’ Contingent at the Rise For Climate march; holding a press conference featuring prominent grassroots leaders; hosting a full day public event, the ‘Women’s Assembly For Climate Justice’; writing and presenting a vital ‘Call to Climate Justice and Immediate Action’ to the GCAS leadership; advocating inside of the GCAS; and joining allies in the streets for actions to denounce false solutions and corporate greenwashing – and instead lift up community-led solutions, Indigenous rights, rights of nature, and feminist leadership.

Women organizing together in parallel to and inside of GCAS was an opportunity to lift up narratives on the effectiveness of  regional solutions specific to place and local communities, and show how these community-led programs and projects are essential for just climate solutions. We brought forward the question of how women’s groups can and are influencing the political discourse – and can address root causes of the climate crisis and social and economic injustices, thus creating a counter- narrative to business as usual by many elected officials.

Our strategy and analysis at GCAS, and far beyond, is best summarized with the words of our ‘Call to Climate Justice and Immediate Action’, which reads –

“We are calling for a transformation of how we relate to the natural world and to one another. We must transition from an extractivist, colonial paradigm of “exploit and extract” to a sustainable, globally-conscious one of “respect, restore and replenish.” We must rapidly halt the extraction and burning of coal, oil and gas, while simultaneously building a new economy predicated on community-led solutions and women’s rights, Indigenous rights, the rights of nature and the rights of future generations.

This starts with policies to promote energy democracy, in which women, Indigenous people, communities of color, low-income communities, municipalities and small businesses are empowered to own and manage our energy resources. We must recognize the inalienable rights and invaluable traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, and follow their environmental justice leadership in climate solutions. Such a plan must also prioritize and advance women’s leadership, as women are disproportionately harmed by climate change while possessing unique knowledge and skills to drive innovative solutions. Finally, we must protect biodiversity, seed sovereignty, and food security, and respect the rights of nature for the forests, oceans, rivers and lands upon which all life depends.

Crucially, we must do everything we can to ensure justice is respected in the transition to 100% renewable, regenerative energy. Any solution that does not safeguard the dignity and flourishing of people and the planet must be rejected. False solutions, such as dangerous nuclear power plants; increased natural gas extraction; mega-dams that cause irreversible damage to biodiversity, food sovereignty and livelihoods; geo-engineering; bioenergy; carbon trading schemes; and carbon capture and storage have no place in the Just Transition.

Finally, we call on all governments to respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest, and to immediately halt the criminalization of land defenders, whose efforts are central to a climate-just world.”

Learn more about core actions and events via this recap blog of analysis, resources, photos, and videos.

Women For Climate Justice Press Conference

To begin our week of activities, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action network organized and hosted a live press conference ‘Stories and Solutions From Grassroots, Frontline, and Indigenous Women’, featuring women living and working on  the frontlines of climate change: Kandi Mossett White (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lead Organizer on the Extreme Energy & Just Transition Campaign with the Indigenous Environmental Network); Eriel Deranger (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Indigenous Climate Action, Canada); Jacqueline Patterson (Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice Program); Thilmeeza Hussain (Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives; WECAN Advisory Council Member; Founder of Voice of Women, Maldives); and Antonia Juhasz (Energy author, investigative journalist and analyst); with Osprey Orielle Lake (Executive Director of WECAN International)..

Watch the full press conference here – and learn more via the press conference recap press release here.

Women For Climate Justice In Action For ‘Rise For Climate, Jobs, and Justice’

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Women for Climate Justice prepare to march together in San Francisco – Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International

For several months leading up to September,  WECAN International worked to mobilize our global, online network to take action as ‘Women For Climate Justice’ at worldwide, local ‘Rise For Climate, Jobs and Justice’ actions – including by providing a Women For Climate Justice contingent organizing toolkit, and serving as core organizers of the Women For Climate Justice, People’s Climate Movement hub page.

In the San Francisco, Bay Area, California, we also organized a local Women For Climate Justice march contingent, including through the hosting of July and August art builds, in collaboration with the remarkable movement artist, David Solnit.

Women from across the Bay Area joined us in Richmond, to learn art-ivism skills, connect with each other, and prepare signs, flags, and other art pieces for the September march. The second art build was held as a collaboration between women organizing a #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) contingent; the 1,000 Grandmothers Bay Area group; and WECAN International and women organizing for the Women for Climate Justice contingent.

Local Bay Area women come together to learn art-ivism skills and prepare banners for the march

As with many of the actions and events held throughout September, the WECAN International team was thrilled to be able to strengthen old relationships and build new relationships with partners and network allies in Northern California, where our offices are based!


On the day of the September 8th ‘Rise for Climate, Jobs, Justice’ march,  we took to the streets in San Francisco, while worldwide, over 900 diverse, creative, and powerful actions were held in 95 countries to demand climate action, and a just transition away from the extractive industries endangering the health of our communities and the Earth.

The San Francisco  march was led by the original inhabitants of the Bay Area, the Coastal Miwok and Ohlone,  alongside other Indigenous Peoples of California, across Turtle Island (North America), and around the world.  Frontline California community members and youth also played an important role at the forefront of the march.

With over 30,000 marchers coursing through downtown San Francisco, the march was hailed as the largest climate march ever to be held on the West Coast.

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WECAN International Executive Director with allies from Indigenous Climate Action, Amazon Watch, and the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador – at the Rise For Climate march

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network  was honored to provide art and banners, and rally the coalition of women’s rights, gender and climate organizations and individuals to marching as a collective ‘Women For Climate Justice Contingent’!


Several hundred women and allies joined our contingent on the streets of San Francisco, taking a stand for all future generations to live in a healthy and thriving world, and demonstrating women’s collective power to build just climate solutions!

Click here to explore more photos of Women For Climate Justice at the San Francisco Rise For Climate march

The march in San Francisco, and actions taken worldwide, made visible the immense and ever-growing power of peoples movements – and served as important days to continue to gather our hope, inspiration, and collective will to challenge the inter-twined injustices of capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy at the root of the climate crisis.  

Mass Action At The Meeting Of The Governor’s Climate and Forest Task Force

In the days leading up to the start of the Global Climate Action Summit, WECAN International stood in solidarity and action with our allies during a mass action outside of the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force meeting. The action was organized as part of the It Takes Roots Sol2Sol week of action, and was called to draw attention to the inappropriate and rights-violating conservation mechanisms being posed inside of the meeting, including forest programs, which allow corporations to continue to extract and pollute, while paying for this pollution through purchasing credits in forest programs.


Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation Councilwoman and WECAN International Advisory Council member, during the action outside of the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force meeting

These programs are most often on Indigenous lands, and cause negative impacts for local communities and Indigenous peoples who are the original custodians of the forests, and who have not given consent for the forests in their traditional territories to be involved in carbon trading schemes. Additionally, there has not been proper respect given to studies that demonstrate that the most effective way to protect forests is by investing in Indigenous people.

The mass action sought to highlight the voices of Indigenous community leaders and their allies, who oppose market mechanism approaches to climate change, and are demanding a seat at the table when their lands are being negotiated.

Several hundred protectors filled the streets with speeches and chants, until a representative of the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force meeting agreed to come outside and speak with community leaders, ultimately allowing several Indigenous leaders, including Mirian Cisneros, President of the Kichwa Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador; and Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation Council Woman and WECAN Advisory Council Member, to enter the closed-door meeting and present a vital letter from Indigenous Peoples to the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, and his Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force.  

(Left) Kandi Mossett White of the Indigenous Environmental Network speaks out – (Right) Representatives from Indigenous Climate Action and the Pueblo of Sarayakyu, Ecuador, read their open letter to the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force meeting

As we have for many years, WECAN International was honored to stand in solidarity with this Indigenous-led action, to say – stop pollution at the source – and support Indigenous peoples in their rights to their territories and forests.

WECAN International Event – Women’s Assembly For Climate Justice: Women Leading Solutions On The Frontlines Of Climate Change

“We need to move forward as women and take our rightful place. What men have done, continuously done to the land, by raping it – they also do to our bodies. It’s time for us to draw the line and tell our brothers it is time for them to stand with us, behind us, holding us up – and do the right thing by following women’s leadership and leaving everything, everything, 100%, in the ground. We need to clean our waters, clean our air and give something better to the next seven generations and beyond.” – Corrina Gould

On September 11th, WECAN International presented the ‘Women’s Assembly For Climate Justice: Women Leading Solutions On The Frontlines Of Climate Change’, bringing together over 30 international advocates, grassroots, Indigenous, and frontline women leaders to present their stories, analyses, and solutions for climate justice and a just and healthy world for generations to come.


Left to right – Amy Goodman (Host and Executive Producer of Democracy Now!; Eriel Deranger (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Indigenous Climate Action, Canada); Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca, Ponca Nation Council-Woman, and WECAN International Advisory Council Member); and Jacqueline Patterson (Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice Program)

Women leaders from across the U.S., as well as Canada, Ecuador, Marshall Islands, Ireland, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Brazil explored topics including the intersectionality of gender and environment; Indigenous rights and resistance; the just transition; forest protection and regeneration; fossil fuel resistance efforts; agro-ecology and soils; violence against women land defenders; and much, much more.

“Criminalization and violence against Indigenous women has taken our lives. We put our bodies, our lives, on the front row to protect the forest, the environment and the wildlife…by trying to protect the rivers, the sacred nature of the sacred space we have been very violently murdered, threatened, killed, actually killed. The reason why all the violence have been happening is to build up dams, build up roads, that are going to be used to build up the dams. And also for agrobusiness to plant soy or corn and sugarcane, huge monocultures. To export! It is not even going to stay in the country. I ask you friends, sisters, people from my own family, to think about that because it’s in the name of development that all this abuse been done, and all this violence and all these cruel things are happening. And when we talk about preserving the forest we talk about preserving it for all of us, for the whole planet.” Valéria Paye Pereira


Valéria Paye Pereira – (Tiriyó and Kaxuyana) Member of Executive Coordination for APIB (Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) in Brasília/DF – speaks on the dire escalation of violence and criminalization against defenders of the land

The Women’s Assembly For Climate Justice was held on the eve of the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) – and included the launch of the ‘Call for Climate Justice and Immediate Action’, a vital document from women for climate justice to GCAS, denouncing false solutions and calling for community-led solutions and real action for climate justice (more information below!).

The Women’s Assembly For Climate Justice can be watched via Facebook video links: Part 1Part 2  – Part 3 – and Part 4

Portions of the event can also be watched via Vimeo here


Wanda Culp – (Tlingit) Artist and forest defender, and Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Regional Coordinator in the Tongass, Alaska – shares a traditional song before beginning her presentation on protection of the Tongass rainforest

The event featured powerful stories and analysis from: Corrina Gould (Ohlone, Spokesperson Confederated Villages of Lisjan, Co-Founder of the Sogorea Te Land Trust, and Co-Founder of Indian People Organizing for Change); Pennie Opal Plant (Yaqui & undocumented Choctaw & Cherokee, Co-Founder of Idle No More SF Bay, Co-Founder of Movement Rights); Her Excellency President Hilda C. Heine (President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands) via letter/message to the event read by her daughter, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner (Poet and Co Founder of Jo-Jikum, Marshall Islands); Honorable Mary Robinson (President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate ;Justice, former President of Ireland); President Mirian Cisneros (Kichwa, President of the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca, Ponca Nation Council-Woman, and WECAN International Advisory Council Member); Amy Goodman ​(Host and Executive Producer of Democracy Now!); Jacqueline Patterson (Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice Program); Kandi Mossett White (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lead Organizer on the Extreme Energy & Just Transition Campaign with the Indigenous Environmental Network); Eriel Deranger (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Indigenous Climate Action, Canada); Nina Gualinga (Kichwa, Leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Michelle Cook (Diné, Human rights lawyer, and Founder and Co-Director of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign); Neema Namadamu (Founder of SAFECO, and Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Regional Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo); Antonia Juhasz (Energy author, investigative journalist and analyst, specializing in oil); Wanda Culp (Tlingit, Artist and forest defender, and Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Regional Coordinator in the Tongass, Alaska); Valéria Paye Pereira (Tiriyó and Kaxuyana, Member of Executive Coordination for APIB (Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) in Brasília/DF); Dr. Gail Myers (Agri-Cultural Anthropologist, Co-Founder of Farms to Grow, Inc., and co-initiator of the Freedom Farmers Market in Oakland, California); Miriam Nobre (Representative of World March of Women in Brazil, and member of the technical team of SOF, Sempreviva Organziação Feminista); Leila Salazar-López (Executive Director of Amazon Watch); Bridget Burns (Co-Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, WEDO); Shannon Biggs (Co-Founder of Movement Rights); Elizabeth Kaiser (Regenerative farmer, Owner/Operator of Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol, California); Doria Robinson (Executive Director of Urban Tilth, Representative of the Climate Justice Alliance); Amira Diamond (Co-Director of the Women’s Earth Alliance, WEA); Crystal Huang (Coordinator of Energy Democracy National Tour and Founder of CrossPollinators); Morissa Zuckerman (Representative with Sunrise Movement); and Karina Gonzales, Emily Arasim, and Osprey Orielle Lake of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International).

(Left) Miriam Nobre, Representative of World March of Women in Brazil, and member of the technical team of SOF Sempreviva Organização Feminista – (Right) Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner,  Poet and Co Founder of Jo-Jikum, Marshall Islands reads a statement from her mother, Her Excellency President Hilda C. Heine – President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Click here to learn more about and support the work of  all of the fantastic speakers

Click here to explore more photos from the event

“We can take swift action to localize our food choices, localize our diet, by deciding where we spend our money and who we seek to spend our money with. I suggest local farmers, sustainable farmers, women farmers, diverse farmers, who are always attuned to the agro-ecological systems and balancing the ecosystem. They grow food in a traditional way. And with growing this food with every seed they plant they recover a memory. There’s a memory in those seeds and it takes us back again to a time when everything was intact. When the farmers and the women and the traditional people made decisions around what was going to be planted and what was going to be harvested. It was a diversified system….Decolonizing the food system and the way we see it is about alternatives to capitalism, cooperatives, [because] we have got to get rid of this capitalism.” – Dr. Gail Meyers

(Left) Keynote speech by President Mirian Cisneros, Kichwa, President of the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador, and Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director of Amazon Watch – (Right) Panel featuring Jacqueline Patterson (Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice Program); Bridget Burns (Co-Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)); Morissa Zuckerman (Representative with Sunrise Movement); and Antonia Juhasz (Energy author, investigative journalist and analyst, specializing in oil)

Amongst the many esteemed individuals, organizations and groups featured at the event, WECAN International was thrilled to have the opportunity to feature the work of several of our projects and collaborations.

As part of the presentation of Wanda Culp, Tlingit artist, forest defender, and WECAN International Regional Coordinator in the Tongass, Alaska – we premiered our new video, A Call To Action To Protect The Tongass Forest.

The video, which features Wanda, was filmed during a WECAN delegation to Alaska to meet with local Indigenous women, to develop a strategy and campaign to increase awareness and highlight the violent logging impacting the land, water, and their communities and traditional life-ways.

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Wanda Culp and Osprey Orielle Lake

The Tongass is the largest remaining global temperate rainforest; the largest national forest in the U.S; and has been called ‘America’s climate forest’ due to its unsurpassed ability to sequester carbon and mitigate climate impacts. The video was released at the September 11th event, as part of an acceleration in work to block  the Trump administration attempts to strip down remaining protections, and open more of this ancient forest to logging.

We also heard from Neema Namadamu (Founder of SAFECO, and Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Regional Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo) about her work with the WECAN  reforestation project in the DR Congo, where women leaders are working to restore their home ecosystem through the planting of ten of thousands of native trees.


Neema Namadamu – Founder of SAFECO/ Hero Women Rising – Maman Shujaa, and Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Regional Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Michelle Cook, Diné, Human rights lawyer, and Founder and Co-Director of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign, shared about the struggle for Indigenous rights and the work of the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations, which embarked in October 2018 on the fourth delegation to pursue strategic action to pressure institutional divestment from extractive industries in Indigenous lands. WECAN’s Osprey Orielle Lake is honored to Co-Direct the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign with Michelle, and to facilitate the Delegations.

“As Indigenous peoples we remember a time before wall street, we remember a time when women were in control of their economies – and in fact, we are just doing what we’ve always done as indigenous women, and that is to protect our people and protect our future generations. And so I’m just carrying on that tradition of my ancestors….Land as possession is occurring in the United States against indigenous peoples and it is normal. It is normal here in the United States for our people not to have rights. And so, if we are serious, serious, about saving this planet, and keeping our world from burning, we have to secure indigenous peoples land rights in the United States. And that means challenging the domestic legal system here and implementing human rights standards that are found in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” – Michelle Cook


Karina Gonzales and Emily Arasim of WECAN International share the Women Speak database

In a special presentation, Karina Gonzales (WECAN Women Speak Program Coordinator), and Emily Arasim (WECAN Communications Coordinator) shared the Women Speak: Stories, Case Studies and Solutions From The Frontlines of Climate Change storytelling and research database, as a tool for all event participants to take home with them!

The ripples from this gathering continue to expand as new projects and working relationships were firmly seeded at the Assembly, as women collectively set forward their strategic analysis and campaigns.



Delivery Of The ‘Call For Climate Justice and Immediate Action’ To The Global Action Action Summit Leadership

In the months leading up to the Global Climate Action Summit, WECAN International worked to write and circulate – The ‘Call For Climate Justice and Immediate Action; A Message from Women for Climate Justice to the Global Climate Action Summit Steering Committee, Government Representatives and Participants‘.

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Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director, presents the Call For Climate Justice and Immediate Action to a GCAS representative

The ‘Call For Climate Justice and Immediate Action’ presents six core demands, including a call for assertive plans to keep remaining fossil fuels in the ground and ban new extractive energy projects; the centering of women’s leadership; the protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples; the promotion of decentralized and democratic and regenerative renewable energy systems; the upholding of the Rights of Nature; and the protection of biodiversity and food and seed sovereignty.

As it reads in it’s opening –

“We call on elected officials to steadfastly commit to keep global warming below 1.5°Celsius, as stated in the Paris Climate Accord, via policies that simultaneously prioritize social, racial and economic justice for all.”

On the opening evening of the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), members of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network and a contingent of allied women took action to deliver this bold set of demands and calls to action from global women for climate justice, to the formal GCAS leadership.

WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, presented the document to Mr. Nick Nuttall, Director of Communications for the Global Climate Action Summit, calling on him to ensure the delivery of the Call to Action to the GCAS leadership and participating elected officials.

At the time of delivery, the document had been signed by over 40 international organizations representing tens of thousands of people, including – Indigenous Climate Action (Canada), Indigenous Environmental Network, Greenpeace, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, Women’s Environment and Development Organization, Women In Solar Energy, Amazon Watch, Global Forest Coalition, Voice of Women (Maldives), Australian Earth Laws Alliance, TierrActiva (Peru), Adéquations (France), Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (Uganda) – and many others.


Honorable Mary Robinson discusses the Call For Climate Justice and Immediate Action during her speech inside GCAS

On September 14th, after obtaining credentials to enter the GCAS summit, WECAN representatives attended the morning session hosted by Mary Robinson titled “To Act On Climate, Empower Women”.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, used her platform to point out the need for more representation of frontline, Indigenous, and directly impacted women. She also mentioned the importance of the powerful and diverse women leaders who spoke at WECAN’s Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice earlier in the week – and drew the attention of fellow GCAS participants to the Call To Action document that was released at the Women’s Assembly.

Inside the closed doors of the summit, WECAN International continued to distribute The Call To Action to GCAS delegates and government officials.

‘Stand With Communities Not Corporations’ Direct-Action With Allies

Led by Idle No More SF Bay, Diablo Rising Tide, the Ruckus Society, It Takes Roots, Indigenous Environmental Network, the Sunflower Alliance and Brown’s Last Chance – many hundreds of people collectively and peacefully blockaded the entrance to GCAS on the conferences first full day, in an effort to make their voices heard by representatives inside of GCAS making decisions and deals largely without community involvement or consent.

(Left) Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN International and Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights during the #StandWithCommunitiesNotCorporations direct action – (Right) Frontline California youth leaders in action during the #StandWithCommunitiesNotCorporations direct action

The rallying call of the day, which rang true throughout all of the week of action, was for elected officials to ‘stand with communities, not corporations’. The direct action was covered by various major news outlets, helping draw vital national and international attention to the lack of real ambition and commitment; and the corporate green-washing taking place in the GCAS space.

In the Call to Action, WECAN also spotlighted issues within the US, recognizing the unique potential of the Global Climate Action Summit to drive change in the United States, the country with the largest emissions per capita in the world and with disproportionate geopolitical power and privilege. Therefore, we urged leaders in the United States, especially Governor Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg to demonstrate true climate leadership: banning all new fossil fuel leases and development, from offshore oil extraction to natural gas build-out countrywide (and in California through the Browns’ Last Chance campaign); prioritizing and respecting the rights and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples in North America, from the resistance at Standing Rock to the Bayou Bridge and Line 3 pipelines; refusing contributions from the fossil fuel industry by signing the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge; and advancing visionary climate justice policies such as Green New Deal and a Federal Jobs and Green Infrastructure Guarantee.

Advocacy In Solidarity With Indigenous Women Leaders Of The Kichwa Pueblo Of Sarayaku

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In action with women leaders from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, President Mirian Cisneros, Nina Gualinga, Samai Gualinga, and ally Leila Salazar Lopez of Amazon Watch

Over the course of the week, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network  representatives were honored to be able to stand in solidarity with Indigenous women leaders from the Kichwa community of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon, as Sarayaku representatives continued to share and advocate for their Living Forests Proposal and to fight for Indigenous rights.

“I am here to say, that we cannot negotiate with Earth, we cannot negotiate with climate. The economic, and the governments approaches to solutions is not getting us out of this crisis. The way this climate summit is being run, and the way that the governors climate and forest task force is being run, is not protecting the forests, water, and frontline communities that are key in preventing the worst effects of climate change…Before I came here, I spoke with many communities, and they have not given their consent to carbon trading. The only way to cease climate change is by keeping fossil fuels in the grounds, and protecting forests, and that means supporting and listening to Indigenous peoples who have been living in and protecting these forests for many many hundreds of years.” – Nina Gualinga

On the first afternoon of GCAS, Nina Gualinga took to the GCAS stage and delivered a powerful first hand account from her community, and analysis on  Indigenous leadership, rights, and solutions.

Watch Nina’s full speech to GCAS here.

Other Key Events and Actions With Allies

While in action over the course of the week, WECAN International had the opportunity to attend and participate in diverse events and actions hosted by allied organizations from across California, the U.S., and the world. A few select events are highlighted below.

As an opening to the action-packed week, WECAN International representatives were honored to attend an Inter-Tribal Teach In and Direct Action training led by Save the West Berkeley Shellmound, and local Ohlone leader,  Spokesperson of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan, Co-Founder of Sogorea Te Land Trust, and Co-Founder of Indian People Organizing for Change, Corrina Gould.

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Signs to reclaim space at the Berkeley Shellmound site

The day of ceremony, sharing, and training took place at the West Berkeley Shellmound, an ancient burial and ceremonial site of the Lisjan/Ohlone tribe, which is considered to be one the oldest sacred site in the Bay Area. While most of the Shellmound has already been eaten up by the surrounding city, one small section remains, and local Indigenous leaders and their allies have been engaged in a multi-year efforts to stop a proposed retail and housing development from being built atop the sacred ground, while simultaneously educating the community about the original inhabitants of the land, and their continue right to survive, thrive, and protect ancestral memory. Learn more and support this vital effort here.

On September 12th WECAN International’s Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, was invited to attend an event held by the former Prime Minister of Ireland, Mary Robinson, titled “Changing the Climate Conversation: Enabling Women’s Participation to Advance Climate Justice.”

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Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN International, with allies Achala Abeysinghe, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim during the ‘Changing the Climate Conversation’ event

The aim of the event was to broaden the awareness among decision makers to the lack of female perspective at the table and the more on-the-ground experiences indigenous women can provide. The event brought together heads of state, ministers, climate change policy-makers, civil society representatives, business leaders, activists, organizers and Indigenous leaders – who sat side-by-side and talked through problems within the climate change regime, and discussed ways to incite change.  Participants included Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, Minister Inia Seruiratu of Fiji, Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainability Energy for All and the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, as well as representatives of indigenous communities and grassroots activists from all corners of the globe. Key messages from the dialogue were highlighted in a formal GCAS session later in the week.

On the evening of September 13th, WECAN International attended the premiere of the documentary film, The Condor and The Eagle – which WECAN has contributed content to, and which prominently features our Advisory Council Member, Casey Camp Horinek, a Ponca Nation Council-Woman who recounts stories of the impacts of oil extraction on her community in Oklahoma, and on relatives from Standing Rock, North Dakota. Watch a trailer of the documentary here.

All throughout the week, were were also thrilled to be able to take part in various other events and actions held by the Sol2Sol #ItTakesRoots coalition, and by allies at Idle No More SF Bay and Amazon Watch.

The work engaged in by WECAN International and our allies during GCAS will continue to echo forward and grow, as land defenders, water protectors, advocates, activists, and community organizers continue to push forward for climate justice at the local, national, and international level, including the upcoming COP24 climate talks in Poland, where many of us will continue to press governments for action.

The people, united, will never be defeated as we stand for our beautiful planet and future generations.

(Left) Women for Climate Justice in action at the Rise For Climate march – (Right)WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, with long-time allies and collaborators, Pennie Opal Plant (Idle No More SF Bay) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation Council woman and WECAN Advisory Council member).

More information and photos from Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network’s work on the ground in California during GCAS and peoples movement actions can also be explored via media stories including:




[Training Links & Resources] Indigenous Women On The Frontlines: Report Backs & Calls To Action


Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International

‘Indigenous Women On The Frontlines: Report-Backs & Calls To Action’ was presented on February 27th, 2018 as part of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network series of WECAN Online Education and Advocacy Trainings!

During the training, we heard from three outstanding Indigenous women organizers surrounding the latest updates from their respective homelands, and the resistance movements for defense of land, water, climate and life with which they are each engaged.

Cherri Foytlin – Organizer with the L’eau Est La Vie Camp in South Louisiana, United States


Cherri Foytlin is an Indigenous writer, organizer, advocate, activist, photographer, speaker, and mother of six who lives in south Louisiana. She is of Dine, African-American and Latina descent. Cherri is the author of Spill It! The Truth About the Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig Explosion, and regularly contributes to http://www.BridgetheGulfProject.org and other local, national and international publications. In the Spring of 2011 she walked to Washington D.C. from New Orleans (1,243 miles) to call for action to stop the BP Deepwater Drilling Disaster, and has ongoingly taken direct action in support of human and ecological health of Gulf Coast citizens and communities. She has served as the State Director of Bold Louisiana, and as a Senior Fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics. She is also signatory to the Indigenous Women of the Americas – Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty.

Most recently, Cherri has emerged as a leader of the L’eau Est La Vie Camp, on the frontlines of the struggle against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, an Energy Transfer Partners project which threatens communities, waterways and ecosystems of the Gulf region.

Cherri joined the training to share vital updates, in the middle of an intense week of action and changes on the ground in Louisiana, where a temporary injunction has been placed on the project, and then almost immediately violated by the company as it attempts to continue construction.

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Photo via L’eau Est La Vie Facebook Page, December 2017

Cherri and the diverse coalition of communities and leaders engaged in the No Bayou Bridge pipeline movement have an immediate call for solidarity out for a Global Week Of Action, February 26th to March 4th – and asked training participants to take immediate action, by posting photo or video, or taking another direct action in support of social and ecological justice in the Bayou and Gulf Coast region.

Resources to learn more and support the L’eau Est La Vie Camp and Cherri’s work:

Eriel Deranger – Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action, Canada


Eriel Tchekwie Deranger is a founding member of Indigenous Climate Action and spent two years in the role of interim director, helping to build the strategic direction of the organization, before becoming the organization’s first Executive Director in August 2017. A member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Deranger has has worked for many years and with countless projects and collaborations to challenge fossil fuel development and champion the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. ​Eriel has previously worked with the Indigenous Environmental Network, Rainforest Action Network, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and with her home Nation the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. She is a wife and mother of two.

During the training, Eriel shared stories and analysis of the landscape of tar sands extraction in Canada, and how Indigenous peoples are taking action to oppose these projects and protect their lands and communities. Eriel spoke to the importance and strength of the leadership of Indigenous women (including within the Indigenous Climate Action organization!) – all despite the brutal and escalating violence against the land and women, including the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Resources to learn more and support Indigenous Climate Action and Eriel’s work:

Tara Houska – Anishinaabe, National Campaigns Director for Honor the Earth


Tara Houska, Anishinaabe of Couchiching First Nation, is a tribal attorney based in Washington, D.C., the National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, and a former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders. She advocates on behalf of tribal nations at the local and federal levels on a range of issues impacting indigenous peoples. She is a co-founder of Not Your Mascots, a non-profit committed to educating the public about the harms of stereotyping and promoting positive representation of Native Americans in the public sphere.

She spent over six months living and working in North Dakota fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline, and over the past year, much of Tara’s efforts have gone toward building a support network to defend the nearly 700 protectors who’ve been detained and arrested at Standing Rock, as well as divesting from banks that fund the pipeline. Her work embodies the notion that we can’t treat environmental and social injustice separately.

During the training, Tara briefed participants on the current situation and mobilizations in the Great Lakes region, where the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline is threatening an immense series of waterways, and the sacred wild ricing territories of the regions Indigenous communities. She reflected on her experiences including with direct action on the ground at Standing Rock in North Dakota, and her Minnesota homelands – as well as the global divestment movement, and Indigenous-women led efforts to defund the fossil fuel industry.

Resources to learn more and support Honor the Earth and Tara’s work:

Other Resources Shared During The Call:

* To learn more and join other future WECAN Online Education and Advocacy Trainings for Women for Climate Justice, click here *



We Will Not Negotiate On Mother Earth And Our Communities: Recap And Analysis From WECAN International At COP23 Climate Talks

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As part of the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP 23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) hosted in Germany under the leadership of a Fijian Presidency, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) spent two weeks on the ground engaging in intensive climate justice advocacy and action with a WECAN Delegation and diverse global allies.

While WECAN International retains its critique of the Paris Climate Agreement and the UNFCCC process as far from sufficient and based on false-solutions — which the climate justice movement must continue to expose and resist — we believe that it is valuable and impactful to maintain our strong presence at the UN climate talks so that we can make clear the root causes of the climate crisis; push back against corporate and capitalistic agendas; speak out against false and inadequate solutions; work to ensure that calls for women’s rights, Indigenous rights, Rights of  Nature, and the human rights of frontline and most-impacted communities are heard; and that just solutions rising up from frontline communities are amplified.

It is vital that grassroots, Indigenous and frontline women leaders have the opportunity to speak for themselves and present their struggles, stories, solutions, and poignant analysis directly to the policy makers whose action, and inaction, on climate change is impacting their lives and communities, and the well being of the Earth and all peoples. Helping create this advocacy space through our Delegation and the various events and actions that WECAN organized and hosted is one of our central goals and focuses throughout the UNFCCC process.

WECAN works to highlight crucial and unique messages to shift the narrative from complacency to action – bringing forward the urgency of the climate crisis  and the visceral and personal reality of daily climate impacts on the ground – and demonstrating that possibilities for climate justice still remain in the hands and hearts of women around the world.

As a member of the Executive Committee of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, WECAN also co-organized the Fourth International Rights of Nature Tribunal that ran parallel to the UN climate talks, as an important avenue to actively demonstrate what an alternative, transformative legal system would look like – as well as how it could be a powerful solution to the climate crisis and environmental and social degradation (see the Rights of Nature section below to learn more!).

As an organization with an international focus and network, but a United States base location, engagement at COP23 critically meant standing with many groups to send an urgent message to the world that, even in the face of a climate-denying and reckless U.S. administration, people’s movements across the country can, and will, stand up for climate justice, sustainability solutions, and systemic change.

During COP23 we spoke out frequently on the need to reclaim our democracy, and participated in actions to draw attention to and resist the abhorrent actions of the official US Trump administration delegation at COP23, which spent the two weeks largely hidden behind closed doors, with the exception of a key event promoting “cleaner and more efficient” coal and nuclear energy as the country’s climate policy (more information below on civil society’s response to this ill-advised side event!).

In many different events and actions, another core focus of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network at COP23 was to address the alarming rise of violence and persecution against women land defenders and water protectors, and the collusion between fossil fuel companies and state actors in suppressing peaceful resistance movements. WECAN, along with movement allies around the world, will not stand idly by as temperatures continue to increase, and as Indigenous peoples and land defenders continue to be criminalized and murdered as they stand for a livable world for generations to come.

In analyzing the outcomes of the COP23 climate talks, we are glad to be able to report and celebrate the adoption by Parties of the Gender Action Plan’ (GAP), a policy item that was hard fought for, years in the making, and which provides an opening for forward motion and disruption of the flawed system in regards to gender equity and gender-sensitive climate policy.

The Gender Action Plan (GAP), which the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency, allied Delegates, and allied organizations have advocated for with brilliant strength over many years, is designed to ensure that all climate action will include gender equality. Some of the goals of the plan are to increase the number of female climate decision-makers, support engagement of grassroots, local and Indigenous women, and hold trainings for policymakers on bringing gender equality into their agendas and funding mechanisms.

WECAN will be tracking GAP over the next few years to see how the plan is implemented, and if in fact grassroots, Indigenous and frontline women are truly engaged in a beneficial and meaningful manner, including seeing an increase in funding for women-led climate programs, and respect for women’s rights. The Gender Action Plan recommendation can be read in full here –  and more information is also available via Reuters here (featuring our WECAN Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake!).

The Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform was also adopted at COP23. This platform makes important calls for engagement of local communities and Indigenous Peoples knowledge and action in climate change, but is severely limited in that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are still not fully recognized nor protected, but rather, the platform states that governments need only “consider their respective obligations on the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.” The shortcomings of this plan stem from the reckless 2015 decision that Indigenous rights should be included in only the preamble, not the operative section of the Paris Agreement. Thus, we stand with our Indigenous allies in welcoming this small forward motion, but refusing to be placated with halfway measures.

It must be recognized that 80% of the biodiversity left on Earth is in Indigenous lands and territories, and that Indigenous peoples are putting their bodies on the line everyday to protect the land, water, air and diverse communities. First and foremost, the global community should be supporting Indigenous peoples because it is immoral and unjust that they face brutal violence as they fight to stop the destruction of their homelands and life-ways – however we also need to understand that everyone’s survival is interwoven and that we cannot live without water, forests and air.

It is paramount that we fight together for Indigenous rights as a central climate solution. For further analysis of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples, we direct you to an important press release from our allies at Indigenous Rising Media.

COP23 also saw the launch of the Ocean Pathway Partnership, which aims, by 2020, to strengthen action and funding that links climate change action with healthy oceans, including through the UN Climate Change process and via more explicit goals and ambitions in national climate action plans. WECAN will be keen to support allies pushing for a climate justice framework to the Ocean Pathway Partnership as we look toward 2018.

Importantly, we must also take stock on where we stand with action on carbon emission reductions, as December 2018 is the deadline for finalizing the rules and processes in a Paris Agreement “rulebook” for turning the ambition of  Paris into action. At the close of COP23, the Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) by governments to lower their carbon emissions are still dangerously off course, keeping the world on a catastrophic path to over 3 degree global temperature rise. Wealthy countries continue to avoid their historic responsibility, empowered by the thrust of the Paris Agreement, which relies upon carbon markets and techno-fixes which ultimately only impel the Earth further towards climate disruption through dependence on destructive extractive economies.

With all of this in mind, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network continues to demand that global warming must be addressed by confronting and transforming the systemic injustices of our political, social and economic systems as we work to heal damaged ecosystems. We will not negotiate on the well-being of Mother Earth or our communities – they are not commodities, but rather are sacred systems of life.

As we reflect on COP23, we reaffirm our commitment to bold action in the streets, in the forests, in our communities, and in the halls of policy makers. In every arena, from the ecological, to the social and political – this is a time for people’s movements to rise ever stronger to meet the great challenge of our time, and to re-build a just and a healthy planet which holds life for all, above profit of the few.  

Read on for a detailed recap of WECAN actions and events at COP23, including multimedia resources to explore and share.

Honoring the Work of Delegation Members

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WECAN International was honored to facilitate and/or support the presence of an incredible group of frontline women leaders at COP23, who advocated for climate justice and each led and participated in powerful actions and events over the duration of their time in Germany.


COP23 Delegates and longtime allies – Patricia Gualinga (left) and Thilmeeza Hussain (right), pictured with Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN

Thilmeeza Hussain is a Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives, and leader with Climate Wise Women, Voice of Women Maldives and the WECAN Advisory Council. Over the second week of COP23, Thilmeeza represented WECAN at the daily meeting of the Women and Gender Constituency; made presentations  at WECAN’s public event and UNFCCC press conference and side event; and organized and took part it varied advocacy efforts and met with government leaders to share her powerful voice and demands as a woman leader of a small island nation facing dire climate impacts now.

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Patricia Gualinga delivers an intervention during a high-level session at COP23

Patricia Gualinga, an Indigenous Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador, participated in the WECAN, Amazon Watch and Indigenous Delegations during COP23 in her work to protect the Amazon Rainforest and advocate for the Living Forest Proposal of her people. During her time on the ground, she presented at all WECAN events; joined with global Indigenous allies in action and advocacy; spoke at numerous side events and press conferences; and delivered a high level intervention on behalf of civil society on one of the last nights of the climate talks. Watch and share her powerful speech here.


Nina Gualinga, her son, and Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN

Nina Gualinga, also an Indigenous Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador, participating in the WECAN, Amazon Watch and Indigenous Delegations, was present at COP23 as an Earth defender, as a voice for the Amazon Rainforest, the Living Forest Proposal of the Sarayaku , and as a mother. While participating in WECAN and many other events, Nina and her son reminded all present of what we are really fighting for, bringing passion, urgency and poignant analysis to all events and actions where she engaged. Watch her demand action to keep fossil fuels in the ground during a people’s movement action here.

As always , WECAN is deeply thankful to be collaborating with our long time allies at Amazon Watch in advocacy and action with women leaders from the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Isabella Zizi speaking out during a US People’s Delegation action

Isabella Zizi, a Northern Cheyenne Arikara and Muskogee Creek youth leader representing Idle No More SF Bay Area and the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty, participated in COP as part of the Indigenous Environmental Network delegation, in alliance with WECAN. We were honored to hear from Isabella during our main WECAN public event, and on global news networks, as she spoke out and helped lead powerful direct actions to expose the dangers of the Trump Administration negotiating team; held an Indigenous Women’s Treaty signing and water ceremony; and spoke with Democracy Now! about the need to confront false climate solutions such as carbon trading within the UN process.

Our Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, and Communications Coordinator, Emily Arasim, were both also accredited for the UNFCCC COP23, working diligently over the two weeks to advocate for climate justice, organize and participate in events and actions, collaborate with allies, and support and document the work of our incredible delegates.

Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – WECAN Public Event


WECAN was honored to present a key public event, inviting local Bonn residents and global leaders participating in COP23 to join together for an afternoon of inspiration, learning and movement building.

This public event was organized with the conviction that real forward movement towards climate justice depends on the full and equal participation of women in all stages of decision making and implementation, and that real change will come from women mobilizing and taking action at the local, national, and international level. Policy-makers and international advocates spoke alongside grassroots, Indigenous and frontline women leaders from around the world.

Click here to watch the full event livestream – and explore a few photo highlights below.

This event featured extraordinary women leaders – Honorable Mary Robinson (President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, former President of Ireland), Bianca Jagger (President and CEO, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation; Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador); Noelene Nabulivou (DIVA for Equality; Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Fiji; Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, Fiji); Ruth Nyambura (African Eco-Feminists Collective, Kenya); Kathy Jetnil–Kijiner (Climate Change Activist and Poet, Marshall Islands); Thilmeeza Hussain (Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives; Climate Wise Women; Voice of Women; WECAN Advisory Council, Maldives); Kathy Egland (Hurricane Katrina evacuee/survivor; NAACP National Board of Directors, Environmental and Climate Justice Committee Chair, United States); Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Leila Salazar Lopez (Executive Director, Amazon Watch, United States); Nina Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Kalyani Raj (All India Women’s Conference Representative of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency, India); Shannon Biggs (Co-Founder and Director of Movement Rights, United States); Precious Phiri (Representative of Regeneration International; EarthWisdom, Zimbabwe); Monica Atkins (Cooperation Jackson; Just Transition Organizer for the Climate Justice Alliance Our Power Campaign; Representative of #ItTakesRoots COP23 Delegation, United States); Dorothee Häussermann (Representative of the Ende Gelende Movement, Germany); Isabella Zizi (Northern Cheyenne Arikara and Muskogee Creek youth leader with Idle No More SF Bay; Earth Guardians Bay Area, United States); Varshini Prakash (Organizer with Sunrise; Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network; Representative of SustainUS, United States); Constance Okollet (Chairperson of Osukuru United Women’s Network; Representative of Climate Wise Women, Uganda); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Founder/Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, United States).


“Us women are not only going half-way, we are not doubting…we know what we want and what we want is to protect the life of the Mother Earth…We are bringing our own proposal, from the Indigenous vision, from the people, from our own reality – something that has been hugely missing from the context of conservation and this global discussion of climate change.” – Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador), with Leila Salazar Lopez – (Executive Director, Amazon Watch, United States)


“If we save Tuvalu, we save the world. But what is we don’t save Tuvalu?

What if bees and butterflies become extinct? What if our islands don’t survive?

Just who do you think will be next?

I’m taking you with me.  I’m taking you with me.”

– Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, Climate Change Activist and Poet of the Marshall Islands opens the event with powerful words and her poem, ‘The Butterfly Thief’


“[We need to] have those really uncomfortable discussions between North and South social movements, and say, ‘truly, how are you truly changing your practice?’…. I do not believe in kumbaya politics, I don’t believe that we are all in this together, I believe that we have to have diverse bodies and powers, and movements that are willing to move this into something truly revolutionary….If we know that one person in an economic North space consumes 400 times the resources of a woman in Africa, that there is something so deeply wrong…and those conversations have to be had. And its tough for women together, but if no one else is going to do it, we need to be the ones that do it.” – Noelene Nabulivou – DIVA for Equality FIJI; Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Fiji (PPGCCSD); Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN), Fiji

WECAN COP23 Side Event and Press Conference

Inside of the UNFCCC COP23, WECAN held a formal side event and press conference, ‘Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’ – featuring global women leaders Thilmeeza Hussain (Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives; Climate Wise Women; Voice of Women; WECAN Advisory Council, Maldives); Maria Nailevu (DIVA for Equality, Fiji);  Heather Milton Lightening (Treaty Four Territory, Pasqua First Nation; Representative of Indigenous Climate Action, Canada); Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Nina Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Leila Salazar Lopez (Executive Director, Amazon Watch, United States, translating for Patricia Gualinga); Precious Phiri (Representative of Regeneration International; EarthWisdom, Zimbabwe); India Logan Riley (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga People’s, Te Ara Whatu Aotearoa/New Zealand Youth Delegation member from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand); Constance Okollet (Chairperson of Osukuru United Women’s Network; Representative of Climate Wise Women, Uganda); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Founder/Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, United States)

Click here to watch the full ‘Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’ press conference.

Click here to listen to the full recording from the side event.

Explore photo highlights and quotes below.


“Many women from around the world are here in Bonn to let governments know that it is far past time for a just transition to a democratized, decentralized, clean energy future. That is what is best for our communities around the world…And this is also a moment that tells us we must fight every harder for our democracy, including the right to stand up against the criminalization and murder of Earth defenders, which is on the rise across the world….Climate change is a threat to the entire world, but particularly to it’s women. Droughts, floods, infectious disease and food and water insecurity disproportionately impacts women and the global poor, the majority of whom are women, and when we analyze root causes, women experience climate change with this excessive severity because at a global scale, women’s basic rights continue to be denied. And yet while women are suffering, I think one of the most inspiring things about the work that we do, and the work of so many women in our networks, is that women on the frontlines are envisioning a world that is just, and they are putting their lives on the line to enact these global solutions.” – Osprey Orielle Lake (Executive Director of the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, United States)


“Our islands are being washed away, and we are losing the biodiversity that sustains and nourishes us, and these corrupt governments, including my own, are the ones destroying this biodiversity…We are seeing because of climate change 200 to 500 thousand people dying every year. We are living this climate genocide, and we cannot pretend that this is not happening. We have to call it for what it is – it is a climate genocide, and this genocide is fueled by corporate greed and funded by the fossil fuel industry, an industry that has crippled our governments with their money and eradicated our democracies…. But we are not going to sit by…you are not going to gamble with the lives of our children – we will fight back and we are fighting back, we will do everything we can. Our children will not be climate refugees.” – Thilmeeza Hussain (Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives; Climate Wise Women; Voice of Women; WECAN Advisory Council and COP23 Delegation, Maldives)


“What happens to the land happens to our women – we have something between three and five thousand missing and murdered Indigenous women that are unsolved cases in our country, and we believe this is a direct reflection of what’s been done to our land….and so I think there are a lot of challenges for us trying to figure this out, but we really believe in the power of our young people, the guidance of our elders, and the knowledge that we carry.”  -Heather Milton Lightening, Treaty Four Territory, Pasqua First Nation, Canada, Representative of Indigenous Climate Action, COP23 #ItTakesRoots and IEN Delegation


“I come from a family of very strong women who have been defending the Amazon Rainforest, and since I’ve been here at COP, I’ve really been asking myself, ‘why am I here’, and the reason that I am here is really for my son…And I have also been asking myself why the governments are here, why the corporations are here, and I think that more than anything, they are here to negotiate, thats what it is called, ‘climate negotiations’…but how can we negotiate with the climate, how can we negotiate with our future?” – Nina Gualinga (Indigenous Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador, participating in the Amazon Watch, Indigenous and WECAN Delegations)

Speakers stand together in solidarity following the COP23 press conference, ‘Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’

International Rights of Nature Tribunal, COP23 Advocacy and Report Release


A woman leader from Bolivia opens the case on TIPNIS

Over the course of two days at the start of COP23, a global coalition of people’s movement leaders organized by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature convened to hold the Fourth International Rights of Nature Tribunal, in parallel to the UN climate talks.

Rights of Nature Tribunals are a unique, citizen-created initiative which give people from around the world the opportunity to testify publicly on destruction of the Earth and their communities, while advancing and demonstrating the possibilities of an alternative legal framework for justice and living in harmony with the world and each other. Over the course of the Tribunal, powerful testimonies were shared by global leaders on topics including oil extraction and deforestation; prosecution of Indigenous and land defenders; global trade agreements; industrial agriculture; mega-dams; false climate solutions; financialization of nature; and much more.

WECAN co-organized the Tribunal, and ongoing Rights of Nature events as a member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature Executive Committee, and WECAN’s Executive Director served as a judge to the Bonn Tribunal climate change case.

Though the tribunal and final case judgements do not have official legal implications, they do provide political power and strong persuasive value, and many cases were amplified and heard far outside of Bonn, including serious responses from the media and political leaders concerning the Tribunal’s preliminary analysis and recommendation for the TIPNIS development in Bolivia. We will continue to report back on this and other cases, including the release of formal closing comments and recommendations for each case, coming soon via the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature webpage.


Leaders of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature share a report back during a COP23 press conference

A formal press conference and report back from the Tribunal was presented inside COP23 by leaders from the Global Alliance, including WECAN Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake. Click here to watch the full Rights of Nature press conference and read our final Rights of Nature press release here.


Maude Barlow of the The Council of Canadians speaks for water, and against global trade deals which dangerously impact the Earth, and endanger the Rights of Nature and global communities

In conjunction with the Tribunal – we are also glad to announce the release of an important new report, ‘Rights of Nature and Mother Earth: Rights Based Law for Systemic Change’, co-edited by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, Movement Rights and the Indigenous Environmental Network. Click here to download the full  Rights of Nature & Mother Earth report.

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At the closing of the Tribunal, the WECAN team had the opportunity to sit and speak with Mirian Cisneros, the extraordinary woman President of the Kichwa Pueblo of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon, who had presented at the Tribunal and events throughout the first week of COP. Click here to read the blog and watch the interview, where we speak with Mirian about the significance of being a woman leader in her community, and her people’s message at COP23.

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Women And Gender Constituency Advocacy


Advocates of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency at the daily Women’s Caucus meeting

During COP23 and far beyond, WECAN International is thankful for the opportunity to work in solidarity with the global members of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency (WGC). Before COP23, the WGC released a set of vital key demands, which can be read here, alongside other important analysis and copies of all interventions given by WGC representatives during the formal negotiation process.

Throughout the two weeks, the WGC members and allies carried forth ceaseless work, leading to the adoption of the Gender Action Plan (please refer to blog introduction for more analysis on this topic). While intense ongoing engagement is needed to secure real forward motion for gender justice in the UNFCCC climate process, it has been a powerful and beautiful process to watch the diverse women of the WGC make their voices and solutions heard. After many years of hard work, we have finally reached a point in the climate talks where global representatives are no longer asking ‘why is gender and climate relevant?’ – but rather ‘how can we address these complex inter-linkages?’.

One of our highlights with the Women and Gender Constituency in Bonn was participation in a critical direct action  on Gender Day, meant to bring light to the ongoing persecution of women land defenders (more information below!).


Thilmeeza Hussain of the Maldives represents WECAN during a Women and Gender Constituency Caucus meeting

Direct Action and Solidarity With Our Allies

We know that policy, advocacy and education are vital tools – however they are just some of the array of tactics needed in our movements to protect the Earth and generations to come. While retaining our strong presence in the meeting halls of COP23 – over the two weeks, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network also engaged in many direct actions, both inside and outside of the climate conference.

The day before the start of the COP23 climate conference, Germany’s powerful Ende Gelände movement and over 4,500 activists from around the world held a non-violent direct action to shut down part of Europe’s largest open pit coal mine, the Hambacher coal mine.

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Standing with the Ende Gelände movement to shut down the Hambacher coal mine

WECAN International joined in solidarity at the action as hundreds of  movement leaders went deep into the mine, putting their bodies on the line to prevent the work of the massive excavators ripping at the Earth; and to say ‘no’ to fossil fuels, and ‘yes’ to a just transition to a renewable energy future. During our main public event, we were also honored to learn more about this incredible movement from community leader, Dorothee Häussermann.

Just before the start of COP, WECAN Joined over 25,000 people on the streets of Bonn for a large international climate march. Mid-way through the climate talks, a second march was held with a focus on resistance to fossil fuel and nuclear power.


WECAN marches with allies from La Via Campesina during the second climate march in Bonn

WECAN participated in one of the most vital and impactful direct actions held during COP23 , which was led by allies from SustainUS and the #ItTakesRoots delegation – who organized participants to creatively disrupt a side event, in which representatives of the US Trump Administration delegation were proposing “cleaner and more efficient” fossil fuel and nuclear use as a climate policy. Hundreds of grassroots, youth, frontline, and Indigenous leaders from across the United States and around the world stole the show with songs, chants and speak outs – decrying the insanity of the U.S. delegations backwards policies; sharing stories of real solutions;  and making clear that the people of the US will rise from the ground up, ever-stronger in our collective work to build climate justice, stop expansion of the fossil fuel industry, and work towards a just transition to a renewable energy future.


The US people’s movement disrupts the pro-fossil fuel climate event hosted by US Trump Administration representatives

On Gender Day at the COP23 climate talks – the members and allies of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency raised our voices with fierce power and determination to bring light to the persecution of women human right, Indigenous and environmental defenders, who have and continue to face repression, persecution, threats, intimidation, violence, and assassination for their work to stand up for all we hold dear.

During the action held in the central zone of the conference, we demanded that political representatives recognize the vital role of women defenders in achieving climate solutions – and called for immediate action to expose and address the many hundreds of cases of violations that have taken place in 2017 alone. During the action, we called out the names of 20+ women defenders killed for their work in recent years, making sure their voices are never forgotten in the halls of the climate talks.


Members and allies of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency bringing light to the criminalization of women Earth defenders, inside COP23 on Gender Day

Another important direct action was held during the second week of the COP, led by members of the Indigenous Caucus demanding respect for Indigenous rights and knowledge in the climate talks framework. WECAN participated in solidarity.


Indigenous leaders hold a direct action demanding respect and real action to uphold Indigenous rights

As week two of COP drew to a close, WECAN representatives had the great honor of joining a Water Ceremony led by Isabella Zizi, which also included a signing of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty, a document and movement uniting Indigenous women of North and South America in active protection and healing of their homelands.

On the last day of COP, we joined an action led by the SustainUS youth delegation, as they set forward key demands and principles to ‘reclaim power’ and demonstrate what real climate commitment from global representatives would look like.



In action with allies from SustainUs and others on the last day of COP23

International Launch of Women Speak Project

On November 1, 2017 – WECAN International launched, ‘Women Speak: Stories, Case Studies And Solutions From The Frontlines Of Climate Change’ – a web-based research database and initiative designed to shift the narrative and to challenge dominant systems of exploitation and oppression of women and the Earth, through the collection and sharing of many hundreds, and ultimately many thousands, of stories by and about women leading struggles and solutions for climate justice under a variety of cross-sectional themes.

During our time at COP23, we were thrilled to formally share the project as part of our main public event, as well as through many strategy sessions and meetings with our network of allies, as well as with policy makers and international leaders. We’ve received wonderful support and feedback, and look forward to the ongoing growth of this initiative.


Osprey Orielle Lake (Executive Director) and Emily Arasim (Communications Coordinator) present the project during WECAN’s main public event in Bonn

‘Listening and Learning from Each Other’ Event with Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice



On COP23 Gender Day, WECAN’s Exective Director was invited to a Talanoa event organized by the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ), which brought together Indigenous and grassroots women with international ministers, policymakers and several allied groups, for a morning of collective strategy building.  The Talanoa focused on enabling grassroots and indigenous women’s participation in gender responsive climate action, and providing a platform for them to share their stories and lived experience of climate impacts, and demonstrate the value of local and indigenous knowledge in informing climate policy and action. It provided ministers and negotiators with an opportunity to engage with the women in different national contexts to inform gender responsive climate policy, while making the case for women’s participation in climate decision making.


During the event hosted by MRFCJ, Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN shares a moment with President of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine, the first female leader of any independent Pacific island nation

WECAN Visit and Reporting on the Hambacher Forest  Frontline Resistance Efforts

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WECAN Executive Director interviews women defenders of the Hambacher forest occupation

With the desire to learn about and support frontline struggles in all of the places where WECAN travels and works, our team visited the Hambacher forest, just 45 minutes outside of Bonn, the day after the close of the climate talks. This was our second visit to the mine site, where we also participated in the Ende Gelaende action just before the start of COP23.

The area is being ravaged by the largest open pit coal mine in all of Europe, which extends over 33 square miles, and is a site for digging and burning of lignite coal, considered one of the dirtiest of all forms of fossil fuel energy. To pursue expansion of the mine, 90% of the Hambacher forest, an ancient and unique ecosystem, and one of the last mixed forests in Central Europe, has already been cut. Many local villages have also been destroyed, or face imminent eviction to make way for growth of the mine.

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Overlooking the mining devastation

For the past five years, brave group of activists and Earth defenders have been peacefully occupying the remaining forest on the edge of the mine – setting up tree houses and a year round encampment. WECAN was honored to visit with some of the women of the Hambacher occupation to learn more about why they stand for the forest, and their visions for systemic change and climate justice. We encourage allies to learn more about  the mine and the Hambacher occupation, and the interconnected Ende Gelaende movement – and to keep an eye out for more multi-media storytelling from WECAN, coming soon.

Media Wrap Up: Explore select links below highlighting the efforts of the WECAN COP23 delegation!


Patricia Gualinga of Sarayaku Ecuador Delivers High Level Intervention at COP23 Bonn

During the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany – Patricia Gualinga of the Kichwa Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador delivered a powerful high-level intervention on one of the closing evenings of the conference.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network is honored to have helped support Patricia’s presence at COP23 Bonn, where she participated as a member of the WECAN, Amazon Watch, and Indigenous delegations.

Watch the video – and read the full transcription below!


My name is Patricia Gualinga and I come from the Kichwa People of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Our peoples fight for Mother Earth. Governments and the private sector only distract from the reality of climate change with their false solutions.

Climate change is not a business! Carbon markets, REDD + and geoengineering are nothing but distractions and attempts to maintain the system.

We, the grassroots communities and indigenous peoples of the world, we have the real solutions. From the people of Sarayaku to Standing Rock, from the Ogoniland to Lancashire to the Ende Gelände movement here in Germany – we are all fighting against destruction and for a decent life.

We are fighting for Climate Justice! We must keep fossil fuels in the ground!

We demand a profound transformation of the energy system and no new extraction. We demand a just transition to a 100% safe renewable energy for everyone. We’ve had enough with the financing of fossil fuels and false solutions.

Our struggle is for life, for justice, for Mother Earth. For women, youth, our children and their children. For our future!


Mi nombre es Patricia Gualinga vengo del Pueblo Kichwa de Sarayaku en la Amazonía Ecuatoriana. Nuestros pueblos luchan y resisten por la Madre Tierra. Los gobiernos e industrias solo distraen de la realidad con sus soluciones falsas.

El cambio climático no es un negocio! Mercados de carbono, REDD+ e ingenieria climatica son sólo distracciones y negocios para mantener el sistema.

Nosotros, las comunidades de base y los pueblos indígenas del mundo, tenemos las soluciones reales. Desde el pueblo de Sarayaku a Standing Rock, del Lancashire a Ogoniland al movimiento de Ende Gelände aqui en Alemania – todos luchamos contra la destrucción y por una vida digna.

Luchamos por Justicia Climática! Tenemos que dejar combustibles fósiles bajo suelo!

Demandamos una transformación profunda y no más extracciones. Demandamos una transición justa al 100% de energía renovable y segura para todos! YA BASTA con el financiamiento de combustibles fósiles y las soluciones falsas.

Nuestra lucha es por la vida, por justicia, por la Madre tierra. Por las mujeres, los jóvenes, nuestros hijos, y sus hijos. Por nuestro futuro!

WECAN Speaks With Mirian Cisneros, Woman President of the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador During the UN COP23 Climate Talks

While in Bonn, Germany for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP23 climate negotiations, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) had the opportunity to sit and speak with Mirian Cisneros, woman President of the Kichwa Pueblo of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Over many years, the community of Sarayaku has taken strong and courageous action to confront and work to stop stop oil extraction in their territories, setting an extraordinary example for fellow Indigenous nations, and for people all around the world seeking to prevent harms to the Earth and their ways of life.

WECAN spoke with Mirian about the significance of being a woman leader of her community – and about her people’s message to the world during COP23.


Osprey Orielle Lake: It is just really a momentous time that you are a woman president of your community – and I would love to know what that means to you, and the significance of that?

Mirian Cisneros: I’ve always loved to work with women, since I was very young, I’ve always worked with organizations, such as the youth organization of Sarayaku, through which I’ve worked a lot with women of different nationalities in my province, and across the country, with the women of the high mountains, of the coast, and of the Amazon. And the fight of the women has always been for us to come and occupy space within organizations, because they have often been led just by men, and the women have always had to complete our roles as women, taking care of the children, being a wife, taking care of the gardens and the homes. So often to assume a role of leadership has been complicated, has been difficult for women, but with the passing of time, through a process, us women have learned to value ourselves and raise our self esteem to say both of us, men and women must work together. More than just gender equality, we are talking about living in harmony. It could be a man or a woman leading within the organization, so long as we have the same rights and respect for both.

When I was named as President by the Congress of Sarayaku, I felt so nervous, because first of all, I did not know what challenges were awaiting me. And what I said to the women, because the women had been supporting me, was, ‘now is the time for us to demonstrate our leadership, because women have always been at the front of all of our fights, carrying our children, caring for our husbands, caring for the garden, feeding our households – in all aspects, including in the marches, so now we need to bring our strength together, to say that we are united, that we cannot be forgotten as leaders’. And so I said to them, ‘women, don’t leave me alone, I will be at the front, but it will be with the help of all of you that we will continue ahead. I will take the baton to lead not just the women, but the whole community.’ And the past presidents and leaders, wise people in the community, and the other women themselves, they have given me the support to assume this role and help strengthen my community. They have given me the strength to take on this role, so now I can say, ‘I am with my Pueblo, and my Pueblo is with me’.

Osprey Orielle Lake: It is so beautiful to hear, we love to hear these words about women and how they are working together. Because we are finding in our networks all across the world, that there is this beautiful solidarity that women are showing one and another at this time, and I think we really need that in terms of healing how we are living with Mother Earth and each other.  So, here we are at the climate negotiations in Germany, and I would love to hear from you, bringing the voice of your community, bringing the voice of women of Sarayaku and deep in the forest – what is your message here at COP, to the governments, and to the environmental movements, the social movements here. What is it that you would like us to know, the message you are bringing from your people?

Mirian Cisneros: My message here at COP23 for the people, for allies of the world – is that we need to fight together, unite forces, because the states that are here speaking in our name are at a negotiating table where supposedly they are looking for solutions, but these solutions are for them, not for Indigenous peoples. Our people are in our communities, while they are here making decisions for us. They are putting prices on our natural resources, they are putting prices on us, without fully comprehending that within our territories we exist as communities with huge wisdom, knowledge, science, technology. So we are asking allied peoples to keep resisting, because this fight is how we must maintain life, and to have the freedom to express ourselves.

We must be in these spaces and we must be consulted to see if we are in agreement or not. They are here deciding the fate of us all, so our presence here is vital, we must be here to express, to ask for a change in international politics so there is respect for us – and so that the proposals that come forward are from the original people themselves, made of our own cosmo-visions and our own decisions about how our lands will be cared for.

Environmental Destruction In Climate Vulnerable Maldives, To Make Airport

This guest blog post/op-ed was written by the woman leaders of Uthema and Voice of Women, Maldives – November 14, 2017

Maldives is a nation of nearly 1200 natural coral islands in the Indian Ocean, hosting approximately 150 wetlands of varying sizes with significant biodiversity and environmental importance. Kulhudhuhfushi island lies in the northern region of the Maldives in Haa Dhaal Atoll.  It is the most populous island in the north of the country, with a resident population of 8440, which includes 4475 women and 3965 men (Census, 2014).

The island of Kulhudhuhfushi is home to the seventh largest mangrove wetland in the Maldives. It is of special interest because it is the largest white clay wetland in the country.  The wetland is an integral part of the island and its relevance is woven into the fabric of the community, with links to the economy, culture, traditions and way of life of the community.

The Issue

The government of Maldives has made the irresponsible decision to reclaim a large part of the Kulhudhuhfushi mangrove wetland which involves the destruction of its mature mangrove forest, to make way for the development of an airport.  Notably, there is an existing international airport on the nearby island of Hanimaadhoo, which is only a 20 to 30 minutes speed boat ride away from Kulhudhuhfushi.

Concerned citizens, environmental and human rights advocates with civil society partners have been raising concerns since the government made its rushed decision to reclaim the mangrove wetland a few weeks ago.  A key justification is that this is a 2013 campaign pledge of the incumbent President. The Maldives Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report had warned of the damaging consequences of such a development. Nevertheless, the Minister for Environment and Energy, Mr Thoriq Ibrahim over-rode the due processes to expedite the reclamation project, by signing the decision statement of the EPA himself.  Additionally, the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MEE) undermined due process under existing laws and regulations by approving and starting the project 5 days before the public consultation and comment submission deadline. This denied the Maldivian public their right to have a say on the irreversible destruction of the Kulhudhuhfushi wetland.  The multiple irregularities and disregard to due processes by the authorities have led advocates to conclude that this alleged “development project” is flawed and unsound in every way – environmentally, socially, culturally, economically and in its governance.

On 13 November 2017, a leading environmental NGO, EcoCare Maldives lodged a civil law suit against the MEE and EPA in the Maldives Civil Court.

Environmental Damage, Climate Change and Disaster Risk

The mangrove wetland of Kulhudhuhfushi is an integral part of the island ecosystem and acts as a natural defense system of the whole island.  The wetland acted as a natural drainage system when the 2004 Asian Tsunami hit the island.  Notably, the island is geographically located in an area that is designated as ‘high risk’ to environmental disasters.  A 2013 detailed island risk and vulnerability assessment produced by the Maldives Ministry of Environment and Energy estimated that in the event of a severe tsunami, Kulhudhuhfushi may suffer loss and damage to the value of MVR 100m to 126m (USD 6.5m – 8.2m).  In the event of a swell wave, the island is estimated to suffer a ‘tangible loss’ of MVR 29m (USD 1.8m).  The significance of the mangrove wetland ecosystem to the stability of the community in both environmental disaster mitigation and financial terms cannot be over-stated.

Mangrove wetlands are well known for their carbon absorption capacity and are natural carbon sinks. The government’s decision to destroy a carbon sink to replace it with an airport, well known for increasing carbon emissions, is contrary to every climate change adaptation and mitigation principle or policy in the global climate change discourse.

The reclamation of the Kulhudhuhfushi wetland will cause widespread damage to the surrounding area, using a much celebrated trailing suction hopper dredger named “Mahaa Jarraaf”, purchased from China by the government company Maldives Transport and Contracting Company Plc (MTCC).  The impacted areas will include the pristine reef ecosystems of the island and its surrounding areas, which remain relatively untouched because large-scale tourism has not reached these areas of the Maldives yet.  The damage caused due to dredging and consequent sedimentation is expected to negatively impact the soft coral reefs in the area.  Professional divers and environmental experts raise serious concerns about the irreparable damage the dredging activities would do to the under-water reef ecosystems and wildlife.

Sustainable Livelihoods

The mangrove wetland of Kulhudhuhfushi is a source of livelihood, specifically for women on the island.  The wetland is used to bury coconut husks for soaking, a process that takes about 6-7 months.  The coir from the husk is used to make rope, a specialised skill that has been practiced in the community for generations.  The coir rope which is used for house-building and boat-building traditionally, continues to have a market in current day Maldives, particularly in the tourism sector.  The rope is also a completely natural product made sustainably using naturally available materials on the island.

Available information from a community based organisation shows that a total of 404 families depend on the mangrove wetland for livelihoods in coir rope making.  This informal industry is driven primarily by women and estimates show that this skilled manual rope-production work accounts for an annual revenue of MVR 8.7m (USD 0.6m), which is a significant income to the island’s economy. However, the families were given a few days to vacate their working areas on the wetland, to make way for the reclamation project. Notably, this informal economic activity has no social protections, unlike the formal employment sectors.  The vulnerability of those making a living from the wetland is highlighted by the fact that there has been no information about any plans to provide compensation for the women and families who have lost their livelihoods.  Additionally, it is known that 18 households would be relocated to facilitate the project.  However, news reports suggest that the householders remain “in the dark” about their relocation plans, as the project got under way on 28 October 2017.  

The reclamation project was formally inaugurated by the President of Maldives on 12 November 2017. Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, he said that Maldivian youth would not have to continue to soak coconut husks in the wetland because his vision of development is to expand the tourism industry in the atoll, increasing the bed capacity by an additional 1500 beds.  This would involve the reclamation of two large lagoons in the atoll to make artificial land to build resorts.  However, it is unlikely that the coir-rope makers of Kulhudhuhfushi would find their employment in the tourism sector.  History shows that three decades of tourism in the country has only provided space for women’s representation in that sector at a mere 7%.  Furthermore, a significant percentage of that single digit would be women employed as informal workers in insecure unskilled jobs and labour, such as road sweeping.

Biodiversity and Food Security

Kulhudhuhfushi mangrove wetland is a mature ecosystem that has survived and evolved over centuries and is home to a variety of vegetation and wildlife.  The mangrove habitat hosts 8 ‘true mangrove species’ that are listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species. The wetland is also a host for seasonally migrating birds that cross the Indian Ocean.  As a complex ecosystem of multiple types of flora and fauna, the wetland is a significant natural treasure and national asset in environmental terms.

Maldives is almost entirely dependent on foreign imports for food, and remain highly vulnerable to external economic and other shocks.  In times of food insecurity, many of the plants and trees that are abundant in this mangrove forest are known to have been sources of sustenance to the island community, preventing famine.  In addition, the wetland lake itself is a source of fish stock during monsoonal rough weather when fishing in the open sea becomes difficult and dangerous.  Although these resources are not used as a regular food supply today, their continued existence ensures a sustainable source of food in times of hardship and food insecurity.

The COP Must Not Be A COP-Out

The Minister for Environment and Energy Mr Thoriq Ibrahim is currently representing the Maldives at the UNFCCC’s 23rd COP in Bonn, Germany.  The assumption is that he is there to discuss the Maldives’ commitment to address the issue of global climate change with other member states.    Maldives is a climate vulnerable, low-lying small island state, concerned about rising sea-levels which would contribute to beach erosion and land loss. A situation which will increase the damaging impact of severe weather events on its communities which have inadequate resources to mitigate or adapt.  Maldives is concerned because of rising global temperatures which are bleaching and destroying the corals that make up the foundations of its islands.  Without active destruction of its fragile natural ecosystems, there are enough worries for Maldives about mitigating and adapting to climate change.

The question is, do member states of the UN COP know what the government of Maldives is doing to the country’s fragile environment back home? As the incumbent Chair of AOSIS, what quality of leadership is Maldives providing for other small island states to follow, to commit to the Paris Agreement or whatever other agreements they would commit to this year at COP23?

Is the donor community aware of the unsustainable and harmful environmental practices the government of Maldives has chosen to adopt, as global efforts are made to address the realities of climate change to communities like Kulhudhuhfushi at the forefront of climate related disasters?

As the high-level discussions at COP23 get under-way, the narrative of the global sustainable development goals must not be allowed to ring hollow.  The COP must not be turned into a platform that enables malfeasance by duty-bearers, to enrich themselves while they leave behind vulnerable communities to perpetually seek refuge from disasters due to climate injustice at home and abroad.

Kahontakwas Diane Longboat: “The Good Mind Will Transform The World”

Diane Longboat

Kahontakwas, Diane Longboat is from the Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Canada. She is a healer, ceremonial leader and traditional teacher of the spiritual ways. Diane is also the founder of Soul of the Mother, a teaching and healing lodge dedicated to spiritual activism and peace building.

Diane is interviewed by WECAN International ally, Terran Giacomini. Terran is a graduate student at the University of Toronto studying the commons and the transition to a post-fossil capitalist era. She serves as an associate member within Canada’s National Farmers Union and La Vía Campesina’s Climate Justice Collective. This interview was originally conducted in May 2016.


Terran: Please tell us about your work.

Diane: At Soul of the Mother located at Six Nations, dedicated Elders and Spiritual Leaders train people to become spiritual warriors of peace — to go out into the world to bring messages of peace, healing, balance, brotherhood-sisterhood, and inclusivity. The training is long and difficult. People are evolving from a place of being wounded as human beings to becoming balanced. Our work seeks to change the world one human being at a time.

We have been doing this work for almost 40 years. Over time, I have seen that many people are beginning to follow a deeper ethical code.

T: Describe this ethical code. How it can help us stop corporate destruction?

D: I think this is the central question. It goes back to the prophecies that spoke about Indigenous peoples leading the movement for peace. And the reason is this: we are only 500 years away from our original teachings and our original ceremonies and ways of life prior to colonization. Both my grandmother and grandfather died when they were almost one hundred years old. Just in my own generation, within my family, there are over 200 years of collective consciousness.

So what is “original?” It is the Creation Story which is at the heart of every First Nation. The creation story tells us what was in the Mind of the Creator when he made this place. Everything that we have here on Mother Earth came out of the mind of the creator. So those creation stories are very detailed. They take days to recite in the oral tradition. They talk about what is creation, what is our relationship to the world of spirit, to the Earth, to all the beings — the birds, the water-life, the grasses, the medicines, the animal life and all the plant life. What is our relationship to them? How do we speak their language? How do we honour them and always ensure that all life forms continue to thrive? Are you contributing to the continuance of life or are you taking from the Earth to rape her?

The creation stories also talk about how to get along as human beings; about conflict resolution and peacemaking, how to build a good marriage and raise your children, how to live a good life and contribute to your own life, your family and your community. They also talk about how to restore a relationship when there has been hardship between us.

The ethical code builds character. It creates within a human being a sense of honour that guides the way we live and relate to one another and to Mother Earth. If you do not live by that code, the physical laws of cause and effect come into being.

Whatever we do to the Earth we do to ourselves. We have to see ourselves in creation. Part of the problem is that people live with a strong sense of entitlement. They think that this Earth is here for the taking. Mother Earth is a living being. The ideas that the Earth can be bought and sold, that certain people deserve it and others do not, the fear of scarcity — these are very different from our understanding as Haudenosaunee. For us, there is so much abundance of life in the world to be shared. We should never be afraid of scarcity. But we should help each other to live well, equally, and with grace.

In order to confront the harm to Mother Earth, we need to give thanks, and we need to work collectively to create a spiritual community. The time is over for people to do their own thing at home in their meditation room. When we do ceremonies and make prayers together, we create love energy to defeat evil energy in the world.

T: Why are women, and especially Indigenous women, at the forefront of ecological struggles?

D: From the Creation Story we learn that the first being on the earth was a woman, Mature Flowers or Sky Woman. She was pregnant with new life. It is inescapable that women will lead. Women represent the earth. They have an intuitive capacity to listen to the spirit of the womb, to the waters, to the animal and plant life. They are born with it. Our work as spiritual leaders is to awaken the women to their sacred and divine power, and personal responsibility to serve the Creator with the gifts one has been given.

There is a whole different mindset when women lead. But women need to be spiritually activated to do it. It is not just about a female leading. It’s about spiritual female leadership.

At Soul of the Mother, we are inclusive of all women, not just women who are born as women. We open the door to anyone who wants to respectfully feel the true loving essence of the Creator. We do not expect anyone to change who they are in terms of gender identity, faith tradition, or ethnicity. We say you are welcome when you approach the sacred with respect.

T: What about the role of men?

D: Men’s role is equal to women within the circle and journey of life. They need to stand with women. Not in front, not above, but equally with women, to uphold women’s gifts. Women need to uphold men’s gifts which are very different from ours. Together women and men become a formidable force of change.

T: What are actions that settler-descendant Canadians can take to support First Nations’ struggles?

D: We need to learn about each other. We need to learn about pre-colonial times. Some important questions to ask are: What it was like here? How did nations co-exist here? How was peacemaking undertaken? How were conflicts resolved? How did we know where the boundaries were between nations? How did we respectfully enter their nation with protocols, prayer and offerings before we walked in their homelands as guests? All those pre-colonial times have to be explored in more depth so that settler peoples who come here understand that great civilizations lived here and their descendants are still here. The descendants of those great civilizations are still with us, still practicing their languages, cultures, ceremonies and lifeways. Also, Canadians need to learn about what it means when Indigenous peoples talk about nation-to-nation relationships. As First Nations, we need to support and lead the effort to learn about each other. It might take a generation, but things are going to change.

Finally, it is important for us to remember that we are one movement: we all have the same wishes and dreams. We are part of one big human family with spectacular cultures that make us rich and we all have to take our place within the circle of life to do the work that the Creator intended us to do.

We are going to change the world together, we really are.

Women for Soils: Healthy Soils, Restorative Small-Scale Farming and Carbon Sequestration 2017 Training Summary

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Training presenters (left to right) – Precious Phiri, Diana Donlon, Elizabeth Mpofuand Calla Rose Ostrander

Since the rise of industrial agriculture, global food production has become one of the top sources of fossil fuel emissions, biodiversity loss, habitat erosion, pollution and subsequent climate change impacts. However while chemical agriculture pushes us towards climate crisis – small-scale, agro-ecologic farmers are standing up to remind us that healthy soil, diverse seeds and strong farming communities are in fact an essential solution to cool the planet and feed the world in a just and sustainable manner.

As La Via Campesina points out, “policies for sustainable agriculture on a small-scale can not only reduce emissions from industrial agriculture, but can in fact contribute to carbon sequestration in the soil, and through the preservation of native forests and biodiversity.”

In countries around the world, women, who produce 60-80% of all food in developing nations, and 50% of food globally, are rising to protect their soil, seeds, lands and livelihoods.

During the June 2017 WECAN online Education and Advocacy training, ‘Women for Soils: Healthy Soils, Restorative Small-Scale Farming and Carbon Sequestration’ diverse speakers and participants from around the world united to explore topics including women farmers, agro-ecology, peasant farming, and carbon sequestration as part of the solution to the climate crisis, while highlighting farmers’ rights, food sovereignty and ecosystem integrity.

Calla Rose Ostrander, an independent advisor and agent for individuals and organizations committed to balancing the Earth’s carbon cycle, spoke as the first training presenter, sharing background on her engagement with leaders in California and the Western United States to return carbon to the soil through the way we grow, make and dispose of our food, fuel, fiber and flora.

Calla has worked with the California Carbon Campaign, and the the Climate Change Projects Manager for the City & County of San Francisco, where she created and managed the San Francisco Carbon Fund, internal agency sustainability reporting, and lead the update to the community wide Climate Action Strategy under mayors Gavin Newsom and Edwin Lee. She has also  co-authored of the City of Aspen’s first Climate Action and Adaptation Plans and was a Communications Fellow for Rocky Mountain Institute.

Diana Donlon, the Center for Food Safety‘s Food and Climate Campaign Director, spoke next, sharing her experiences from her  work leading Soil Solutions – CFS’s program, communicating the critical importance of rebuilding soil health for food security, fresh water availability, and climate stability. Soil Solutions to Climate Problems, a four-minute film she produced, was screened in the Blue Zone at the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris. Diana has worked for a variety of family foundations supporting youth and sustainable agriculture programs, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from UC Berkeley, a Master’s in Education from Harvard University and served in the Peace Corps in Morocco.

For ideas from the Soil Solutions team on how anyone and everyone can engage in restoring the soil beneath their feet as a key climate solution – visit their resource webpage here. For a powerful look into the work of one womens farming co-op in Morocco, watch and share Soil Solutions new video here.

Precious Phiri, a representative for the Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM) Hub in Zimbabwe, and with Regeneration International, spoke as the third presenter. Precious has vast training experience working with rural villages in the Hwange Communal Lands region that are implementing restorative grazing programs using Holistic Land and Livestock Management (HLLM). These trainings help rural communities in Africa to reduce poverty, rebuild soils, and restore food and water security for people, livestock and wildlife. Holistic Land and Livestock Management has been successfully used on different landscapes in Africa and many parts of the world.

Precious was born and raised in one of the communities now implementing HLLM, and has been involved as a great influence in helping communities restore land and water, while feeding themselves. She holds a BSc degree in Geography and Geographic Information Systems from the University of Fort Hare (South Africa) and an Executive Diploma in Business Leadership (EDBL) with the Zimbabwe Institute of Management

Scheduled speaker Elizabeth Mpofu, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, and incredible women leader and farmer from Zimbabwe, was unable to join the call, however we were honored to have the opportunity to hear from her colleague, Terran Giacomini.

Terran is a graduate student at the University of Toronto studying the commons and food and energy sovereignty. Terran is an associate member of Canada’s National Farmers Union, which is a member organization of La Via Campesina, as well as a member on La Via Campesina‘s Climate Justice Collective.  In her presentation she shared thoughts on the importance of Indigenous, peasant-led and local farming in protecting the global climate, and our diverse communities. Click here to explore more resources from La Via Campesinas work with women.

All allies are encouraged to learn more about the fantastic work done by these women and the organizations that they represent via their respective webpages.

Click here for information on the final session of this years WECAN Education and Advocacy Training Series, ‘Rights of Nature: Protecting and Defending the Places We Live’, to be presented on July 12, 2017.

Reclaiming Our Democracy: Resistance and Renewal

2017 WECAN Education & Advocacy Training Recap Blog

Compiled By Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

With remarkable diversity and great strength, women are standing to lead movements to protect people and planet, calling for systemic change and justice on the issues that we know are inseparable – from gender justice to Indigenous rights, from racial justice to immigrant rights, from climate change to economic inequality.

This moment in history demands that we unite across borders and experiences, and take our collective efforts to another level as we work towards a healthy and just planet in the face of oppressive and dangerous political landscapes. Strategic planning, action and solidarity is needed at every turn.

In this context, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network convened a May 2017 online Education and Advocacy training, ‘Reclaiming Our Democracy: Resistance and Renewal’, featuring powerful women leaders who shared pointed analysis and thoughts on how best to organize and pursue grassroots-driven systemic change; make a difference in local and national politics; and much, much more. The training focused on context, processes and examples in the United States, but welcomed the participation of global community members.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, opened the training with a brief contextualization of the first months of the presidency of the Trump Administration, during which we have seen brazen pushes for pipelines; the resurrection of previously defeated and outdated extraction projects and methods; the attempted dismantling of the US Environmental Protection Agency; the appointment of and collaboration with climate deniers and fossil fuel executives; and the violation of international norms and efforts to address the climate crisis. At the same time, the administration has attacked immigrant rights, workers rights, LGBTQ rights and women’s rights – amongst others.

However as Osprey explained, we are also witnessing the unfolding of a very exciting new chapter of resistance, action and global calls for justice.

“What is really apparent in this insanity is that across the country we are seeing people come together, and this is why we are having this call together today… there is a collective driving force and understanding that we need to stand together for the very future of life on Earth.”

Critically, many of these movements for justice are not just rising to say ‘no’ to violent systems of oppression – but are also offering a bold ‘YES’, as they build solutions and re-vision a healthy world.

Within this upsurge of action, the “power in women rising” has been central, including through the recent Women’s March on Washington, now considered the largest ever march in US history. And indeed, Osprey emphasized, women can and must be at the forefront of the movements to reclaim our power, re-build just economic and political systems, and protect and heal our communities and the Earth – as they are threatened on many levels by the policies and ideology of the Trump Administration. In the realm of climate change, it is women who experience disproportionate impact, be it through the spread infectious disease, food and water insecurity, or structural violence in the aftermath of climate disasters.

In this context, Osprey welcomed training speakers to share their thoughts on how and why women must take back our power; take action for new models of leadership, political participation, collective ownership, and local solutions; and address patriarchy, racism, capitalism as we fight to reclaim democracy and create a viable future for people and planet.

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Training speakers (left to right) – Cindy Wiesner, A’shanti Gholar & Liz Van Cleave

Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJA) and Co-Chair of the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) and the Our Power Campaign, spoke first.

Cindy has been active in the grassroots social justice movement for over 20 years, working previously with groups such as Men Overcoming Violence Everywhere, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Miami Workers Center and the US Social Forum National Planning Committee. She currently represents GGJA on the International Council of the World Social Forum, amongst other roles. Cindy is originally from Los Angeles and is of Salvadoran, Colombian and German descent and is Queer.

Grounding her presentation in her experiences as a Latina, lesbian, daughter of a domestic worker, and member of a family and community that has confronted a long history of impacts, oppression and resistance, Cindy reflected how in some ways, we are indeed living in unordinary times – however in many other ways, we are simply experiencing the latest and most intense manifestation of deep, systemic injustices that have been playing out globally for far too long.

Providing an inspirational example of how we can reclaim community power and protect people and planet – Cindy shared the work of the Global Grassroots Justice Alliance (GGJA), Climate Justice Alliance and #ItTakesRoots campaign, which focus on “movement convergence” and long term capacity and relationship building between frontline communities to support each other around sites of local struggle, and during key national and international mobilizations, which has most recently included direct actions, rallies and education in 25 cities around Trump’s inauguration, the People’s Climate March and May Day.

Drawing their strength from their intersectional focus – the movements that Cindy works within all see and act upon the vital connection between the struggles to address climate change, neoliberal capitalism, war and militarization, patriarchy, racism and fascism.

“Together, we can face the dangers ahead of us and really build the conditions for our collective liberation,” Cindy explained.

To do it, however, we have to ask and answer some serious questions, which Cindy put forth to the audience including – “What it really means to dare to have hope in this political moment?” and “How do we shift fear into power building, combatting that sense of isolation, mobilizing members, supporting and strengthening each other and our collective power?”.

In closing, Cindy discussed “visionary opposition” – and the need to take action on all fronts, including immediate response mobilization and community defense; policy and advocacy to open political space; and hopeful positive visioning and active daily work for a just transition. She also re-asserted her faith in grassroots, ground-up work as the key to reclaiming democracy and protecting the Earth – explaining that litigation and policy have limits and need major resources – which ultimately means that they cannot be successful without people’s movements. The movements must lead, so that the politicians and lawyers can follow or be left behind.

A’shanti F. Gholar, Political Director for Emerge America, spoke next. For 15 years, A’shanti has been a grassroots organizer and activist for women, communities of color, and progressive causes. Prior to her work with Emerge America, A’shanti served as the National Deputy Director of Community Engagement and Director of African American Engagement for the Democratic National Committee, and has also served as the Manager of National Partnerships for United Way Worldwide, as a political appointee in the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor, and as the Director of Public Engagement for the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee in Charlotte, NC.

During her presentation, A’shanti shared vital background on the current status of women in electoral politics, and why and how women across the US must stand up and step up to fill the gap.

According to her data, women are 51% of the US population but hold only 1/3 of 500,000 elected official positions across the country. For women of color, the discrepancy is even more vast and troubling. Critically, she explained then when they do run, women are just as likely to get elected as men – the trouble however, is that women are less likely to seek office to begin with.

On average, women have to be asked 7+ times (even more for women of color) to run for office before she will consider it, due to worries over qualifications, appearance and responsibilities that most men do not entertain. What all this really means, A’shanti explained, is that we all need to be challenging, encouraging and supporting our female friends and colleagues.

“I am asking you today to run for office – so now you can never again say that no one has ever asked you to run to office….Take the lead – please. You are never going to feel truly prepared, and that is fine.”

A’shanti shared key resources and pieces of advice for women interested in stepping into office, including taking in-depth time to map out and build relationships with the key activists, educators, funders and community leaders with whom you can ally; and “owning” your strengths and our flaws to become the most powerful, authentic and capable candidate for your community.

Liz Van Cleve, an environmental media and outreach communications professional and volunteer with the Indivisible Project, took the floor as the final presenter of the training, sharing the story of the Indivisible Project, which began in December 2016 as a grassroots, volunteer driven, public Google Document of strategies to effectively challenge the Trump Administration through engagement with members of Congress.

The guide, compiled by Liz and other former Congressional staffers as they reflected on lessons learned during their stints working in Washington D.C., has been downloaded over 2 million times since December 2016, and used by 6,000+ community driven Indivisible groups to hold actions and engage in powerful advocacy to effect local and national political outcomes.

One Indivisible guide tactic that has garnered attention and traction is the use of town halls, as a part of which local groups organize community meetings and invite their congressional representatives, who most often fail to show up for their community obligations, providing local advocacy groups with a powerful opening to exert pressure and call out the injustices being perpetrated by elected officials who are following the Trump Administration agenda to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of their constituents. [Click here for an excellent read about women mobilizing Indivisible groups in the Southern US].

“Be methodological, be vulnerable, be prepared,” Liz implored, sharing tactics from the guide including best practices for holding face-to-face meetings with representatives; getting the attention of the media; and harnessing tools to tell your own story as you speak out to disrupt business as usual and demand action by political representatives.

Bringing the training to a close, Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN thanked participants and speakers, and emphasized once again that the best and only way to take back our power is to work intersectionally across communities and across strategies as we engage in politics through strong citizen advocacy or pursuing elected office; build and join grassroots direct action; and support visionary leadership and positive solutions building.

Click here for more information about other past and future Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) Education and Advocacy Trainings.