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!

English

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!

Español

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!

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WECAN Speaks With Miriam Cisneros, First Female 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 Miriam Cisneros, the first female 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 Miriam about the significance of being the first woman president of her community – and about her people’s message to the world during COP23.

[TRANSCRIPT]

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

Miriam 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 lead 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, bring 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?

Miriam 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

Soil Training Women Headshot

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.

Outraged Yet Undeterred In Our Fight For Climate Justice – Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network Responds to US Withdrawal from Paris Climate Accord

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June 2, 2017

Following the announcement by Donald Trump regarding his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International expresses our outrage and disapproval, and commits to ever-stronger resistance, solidarity, and action across communities, issues, and borders as we rise with allies globally to protect and defend our lands, waters, climate, and children’s futures.

Our thoughts today are with frontline communities who bare the brunt of accelerating climate impacts. We stand in solidarity with our allies from the Amazon, to the Arctic, to the shores of Pacific Island Nations and countless places in between, as we continue to organize ceaselessly to end extraction of fossil fuels and the destruction of the planet for profit and power.

With seven years of engagement with the UNFCCC, WECAN maintains a strong critique of the Paris Agreement, which dangerously lacks a climate justice framework; fails to directly mention fossil fuels despite scientists telling us that 80% of all reserves must remain in the ground; promotes false solutions based on continued commodification of the Earth; and omits operative language on Indigenous and nature rights, and a full gender analysis. However despite these failures, the Paris Agreement remains an unprecedented and remarkable accomplishment in international negotiations, in recognizing that the climate crisis is real, urgent, and that governments must respond in an immediate and meaningful manner.

Trump’s decision to remove the US is self-serving, reckless, unjust and immoral – and stands in glaring opposition to the wishes of the US population, the majority of whom support US involvement in the Paris Climate Accord. It is a move that is illogical, un-strategic and deeply damaging in the diplomatic, political, economical and ecological arenas – with far reaching repercussions for international relations and global climatic health.

The Administration’s reasoning that withdrawal was needed to protect US jobs and economy from an overly demanding accord is simply false, and rather than see a strengthening in either of these spheres, we are likely to see the world forge ahead towards renewable energy and sustainable economies, while the US chokes on the stagnant and poisonous air of its oil-baron driven policies.  

In choosing to continue down the path of economic disparity, corporate greed, environmental racism and commodification of nature, the Trump administration fails to see the stark reality of the climate crisis – a crisis that can only be addressed through confronting and transforming the systemic injustices of our political, social and economic systems from the bottom up.

Fundamentally, the withdrawal is an act of violence against not only citizens of the United States – but against all of humanity and life on Earth. In particular, it is an act of violence against Indigenous people’s, communities of color, low-income and frontline communities, and nations of the Global South, who face direct hardship and life threatening circumstances everyday from mounting climate impacts. Women worldwide, and most especially from these impacted communities, will also bear the brunt of the Trump Administrations regressive choices, as they experience first and worse the effects of spreading infectious disease, food and water insecurity and extreme weather, amongst other impacts.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network finds this wholly unacceptable. In failing to deliver on already dangerously low commitments that the Paris Climate Accord calls for, the current US Administration is bucking its historic responsibility to act, and instead is showing its true face to the world in an ultimate demonstration of its perverse willingness to put profit and corporate privilege over the very lives and futures of people and planet.

However, in this reprehensible moment, the voices of peoples movements, civil society, forward thinking businesses and governments are rising louder than ever to reject climate change denial and attempts to stagnate progress on a climate agreement which, while insufficient and flawed, represents the culmination of decades of work and an unprecedented hope for committed global action on climate.

Leaders of the global movement for climate justice understand that true changes come from the grassroots up – and that it has always been, and will ultimately always be, about concerted local action and local solutions-building to topple structures of oppression and injustice to re-build a livable world for all. Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris Accord, however he will never be able to prevent the continued growth and blossoming of the stunning diversity of solutions and resistance strategies already in motion and growing stronger everyday.

Today and everyday, we the people must speak up and take action without fail. We must continue to organize, claim our community power, and actively build the world that we envision, in resistance to institutions that refuse to break with neoliberal economic agendas and worldviews based on extraction and domination.

If we are to surmount the great challenges we face, we must double down on our efforts to support the leadership of women and frontline communities, collaborate across borders, and creatively build forward with renewed urgency as we take action on all fronts – in the streets, the courtrooms, the forests, the halls of government, the classrooms and the fields.

As the histories shared with us by our Indigenous allies and allies of the Global South make clear, the United States  has reneged on countless treaties and agreements. It is up to us to  be discerning, wise and strong in our action to simultaneously fight back and denounce this dangerous decision, while also turning our energy forward towards the positive solutions that cannot and will not ever be broken by the Trump Administration’s acts of violence and ignorance.

Our work, the work that will define our time and the lives of generations to come, is calling to us now. We as a people’s movement must rise up like the immune system of the Earth herself to demand just, decentralized and democratic systems, to actively build the world that we seek – and to respect and love our magnificent, life-giving planet.

Please join us in action: PARTICIPATE  in our upcoming Women for Climate Justice TrainingsWATCH our call to action videoLEARN about our work in the world.

Read More:

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Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network representatives in action in Paris during COP21 alongside allies from the Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International

WECAN & Women For Climate Justice On The Ground NYC/DC April 2017

Blog & photos by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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A handful of WECAN event attendees, allies and outstanding speakers to the ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights & Communities’ forum stand together in solidarity outside of the United Nations in New York City following the event – Photo via Julie Bridham

The oceans are rising and so are the women of the world! Over the course of April 2017, representatives and allies of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) took action on the ground in New York City and Washington DC in parallel to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and as part of the People’s Climate March for Jobs, Justice and Climate. Explore the blog to learn more about events, forums and actions, and to access photos and videos, including full program livestreams from ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – DC’ and ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights and Communities’.

Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights & Communities –  New York City

“To understand the human rights violations that happened in Standing Rock, you have to understand that those violations did not occur in a vacuum, those violations stems and flow from a historic legacy of genocide, of colonization, of oppression, of land disposition….It is about more than human rights. What I think Indigenous women are articulating is an indigenous women’s liberation theology, to define and create a sacred nation…that we are all related. And part of our ability to do that is to challenge global capitalism.” -Michelle Cook (Diné; human rights lawyer and founding member of the of the Water Protector Legal Collective at Standing Rock, USA)

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN

Michelle Cook speaks during the event – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN

 Indigenous women around the world are impacted first and worst by the effects of environmental destruction and a rapidly changing climate, this disproportionate impact the result of a dangerous intersection of colonialism, racism and patriarchy. However despite all odds and against great challenges, it is these very same Indigenous women who are rising up, challenging the status quo, holding a vision, and taking action to build the vital solutions needed for a just and livable future for everyone.

During the April 26, 2017 New York City WECAN forum – ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights and Communities’ – we were honored to hear the stories, struggles and solutions of incredible women leaders from across North America and around the world, who shared stories of Indigenous, women’s and human rights violations in their homelands; discussed resistance efforts from Standing Rock to the Amazon; and shared vital thoughts on Indigenous rights, sovereignty and solutions for a just future for all people’s.

We extend the deepest thanks to event supporters, ClimateMama and MADRE, and to all outstanding speakers – Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca; Ponca Nation Council Woman, WECAN Advisory Council Member, USA); Lucy Mulenkei (Maasai; Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network, Kenya); Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara; Lead Organizer on the Extreme Energy & Just Transition Campaign with the Indigenous Environmental Network, USA); Gloria Ushigua (Sapara; President of the Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador); Betty Lyons (Onondaga; President and Executive Director of the American Indian Law Alliance, USA); Michelle Cook (Diné; human rights lawyer and founding member of the of the Water Protector Legal Collective at Standing Rock, USA); Heather Milton Lightening (Pasqua First Nation, Cree, Anishinabe, Blackfoot and Dakota; Indigenous Tar Sands Campaigner with Polaris Institute, Canada); Alina Saba (Limbu; Nepal Policy Center, Nepal); and special guest Brenda White Bull (Standing Rock Sioux People’s).

Click here to watch and share the full event livestream of ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights & Communities(Part 1; Part 2; Part 3)

Click here to read event coverage via IPS Inter Press Service – Indigenous Women: The Frontline Protectors of the Environment

Click here to explore the full event photo album

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Brenda White Bull of the Standing Rock Sioux People’s shares a special message with the audience – while supported by panel members (left to right) – Betty Lyons, Casey Camp Horinek, Kandi Mossett and Michelle Cook – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN

 People’s Climate March for Jobs, Justice and Climate – Washington DC

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

WECAN and allies marching as Women for Climate Justice outside the White House during the People’s Climate March in Washington DC – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN 

On April 29, 2017 – the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) joined more than 200,000 people on the streets of Washington D.C. – standing with a diverse coalition of women’s groups, climate justice organization and allies to march as a #Women4ClimateJustice Contingent. In advance of the march, WECAN worked to co-organize the Women for Climate Justice Contingent, including through contribution to a Contingent Toolkit prepared to provide resources, graphics and background analysis for allies marching in their local sister marches.

The People’s March for Climate Justice was organized to take place on the 100th day of the U.S Trump Administration’s term in office. With this in mind, #Women4ClimateJustice raised our voices to send a clear message to the Trump Administration and global leaders that, as women who stand on the frontlines of climate change across the U.S. and across the world, we are gravely concerned about the impacts of climate change, and the implications of a U.S. Administration that promotes climate skepticism, advancement of fossil fuels, an extractive economy, environmental racism, and bigotry and inequitable treatment of women and girls. As part of this work, we are dedicated to changing narratives outside of and within the climate movement, to ensure women are visibized, heard and supported in telling their stories and building climate solutions.

We want our children and all future generations to live in a healthy, just and thriving world – and as we made clear the the People’s Climate March and through our daily struggles – we will rise ceaselessly to bring this world to fruition.

Click here to explore a full photo album of #Women4ClimateJustice at the People’s Climate March

Click here to hear from WECAN ally, Autumn Harry, on why she marched as part of the People’s Climate March.

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Young women lead the way at the front of the People’s Climate March – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

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Ally Autumn Harry (Pyramid Lake Paiute) with WECAN’s Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, during the People’s Climate March – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN 

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WECAN ally Gloria Ushiga of the Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador – alongside WECAN’s Communications Coordinator

Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Washington DC

“We have to apply strategies so that frontline voices are uplifted, so that they are not co-opted, so they’re not replaced, invisibilized…we believe in changing root causes, we understand that climate crisis is not just a crisis of carbon, it’s actually rooted in a much deeper, toxic, polluting origin that affects our communities the worst…and so we do everything to figure out how to do a just transition, how to move away from this extractive economic system that extracts, that abuses labour, that focuses on colonialism and a corporate mindset, that reduces us to consumers..and that is what we have to fix. I think if you focus on climate, that will help us survive, if you focus on people, that will help us win – that will help us return to a regenerative economy where people matter, where women are valued for all they contribute to the world.” – Angela Adrar (Executive Director, Our Power Campaign)

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Panelists (left to right) Cherri Foytlin (Indigenous leader, State Director, Bold Louisiana); Pennie Opal Plant (Indigenous leader, Founding Member, Idle No More SF Bay, Co-Founder Movement Rights); Rhonda Hamilton (Ward 6 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and Buzzard Point Community Leader); Faith Gemmill (Neets’aii Gwich’in, Pit River and Wintu; Executive Director, Redoil); Leila Salazar Lopez (Executive Director, Amazon Watch) – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Immediately following the People’s Climate March in Washington DC, WECAN held a dynamic evening forum, ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – DC’ – during which diverse women leaders from across the US spoke out against environmental and social injustice and presented the diverse array of visions and strategies with which they are working to shape a healthy and equitable world for all. Included in the discussion was resistance efforts from Standing Rock to the Amazon; Indigenous rights, environmental racism and frontline communities; the intersection of gender and environment; and women’s leadership and calls for action within a climate justice framework.

Outstanding forum speakers included – Angela Adrar (Our Power Campaign); Tara Houska (Honor the Earth); May Boeve (350.org ); Rhonda Hamilton (Ward 6 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner); Cherri Foytlin (Bold Louisiana); Pennie Opal Plant (Idle No More SF Bay and Movement Rights ); Leila Salazar Lopez (Amazon Watch); Faith Gemmill (Redoil); Sally Coxe (Bonobo Conservation Initiative); Victoria Barrett (Our Children’s Trust); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network) – with special guest Tokata Iron Eyes (13 year old leader of the Standing Rock Sioux Peoples).

Click here to watch and share the full event livestream of ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – DC’

Click here to read event coverage via Huffington Post – Who Are The Women Leading the Fight Against Climate Change?

Click here to explore the full event photo album

“My generations is about protecting ourselves from the negligence of those in power…it is about being radical and about breaking down borders together. We don’t want any more of the same, we’ve seen the status quo and we are pretty over it. We are prepared to be unapologietically unconventional, basically. We may be tasked with facing another earth, but honestly, my generation is like no other generation before us…[this is] why I believe that, despite the world we are living in, we will be okay…young people haven’t given up and we’ve only become stronger. We see the seas levels rising around us, and we’ve determined that in order to save all we hold dear, we can only rise with them.” – Victoria Barrett (Youth Plaintiff with Our Children’s Trust)

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Panelists (left to right) – Angela Adrar (Executive Director, Our Power Campaign); May Boeve (Executive Director, 350.org); Tara Houska (Anishinaabe Peoples, tribal attorney, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders); Sally Coxe (President & Co-Founder,Bonobo Conservation Initiative); and Victoria Barrett (Youth Plaintiff, Our Children’s Trust)

Solidarity With Our Allies

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Indigenous women leaders Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation Council-Woman and WECAN Advisory Council Member) outside of the Citi shareholders meeting with organizers and supporters of the divestment action – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

While on the ground in New York City and Washington D.C. – the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network was very fortunate to spend time acting in support and solidarity with many diverse allies taking action as part of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, at the People’s Climate March, and as a part of other actions and events planned to uplift the voices, struggles and solutions of women, Indigenous peoples and communities on the frontlines of climate change.

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Women leaders and organizers from New York City lead chants in the rain during a Standing Rock and tar sands pipeline divestment action during the Citi bank shareholders meeting – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

On April 25th, WECAN took action in solidarity during an Indigenous-led direct action in New York City, where Indigenous leaders and allies advocated outside and inside of the Citi Bank shareholders meeting to demand divestment from the Dakota Access, Keystone XL, TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, Enbridge and other dangerous fossil fuel developments supported by the bank.

Click here to hear from Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation Council-Woman and WECAN Advisory Council Member) as they share reflections after the action.

In Washington DC, WECAN was present in support of the Indigenous Women’s Press Conference, held by our allies at the Indigenous Environmental Network outside of the White House the day before the People’s Climate March.

“I am here to say money is not power – power is in here [the heart] – and it is within all of us… and you can take my body but my babies are right behind me and we will not stop. We will not lay down. We will not let you take from us anymore….Never before has it been more obvious that silence is consent, and I will not be silent. I will not consent to the rape of Mother Earth any longer. I will not be silent to the loss of our resources, I will not be silent to water in my living room or my children’s home. I will not be silent as oil hits our shores. I will not be silent as our dolphins and turtles die. The time for silence is over.” – Cherri Foytlin, Indigenous Leader and State Director of Bold Louisiana

Click here to watch the impassioned speeches of Cherri Foytlin (Bold Louisiana) and Melina Laboucan Massimo (Lubicon Solar, Indigenous Climate Action) during the press conference.

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Melina Laboucan Massimo, Lubicon Cree First Nation leader with Lubicon Solar and Indigenous Climate Action speaks out during an Indigenous Women’s Press Conferences organized by the Indigenous Environmental Network outside the White House the day before the People’s Climate March in Washington DC – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Following the Indigenous Women’s Press Conference, WECAN united with our allies of the #ItTakesRoots Delegation for a powerful action outside of the US Capitol Building, where a diverse coalition of leaders raised their voices and took action to make clear that the diverse people’s movements are drawing a physical ‘red line’ in defense of all we hold dear, as we work together to connect and strengthen our struggles for climate, racial, economic, Indigenous and gender justice.

Click here to watch and share footage of #BlackLivesMatter leaders calling for racial justice, gender justice and climate justice during the #EarthsRedLine action.

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Members of the #ItTakesRoots Delegation, including WECAN allies Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Cherri Foytlin (Bold Louisiana) stand in non-violent direct action as part of the #EarthsRedLine action outside the US Capitol building in Washington DC – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

In the early morning preceding the People’s Climate March, WECAN team members joined Indigenous leaders for a sunrise water ceremony, as well as for a signing of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty. This vital and first-of-its-kind document, composed by and for Indigenous women of the world, unites women of North and South America in defense of the Earth and their communities, and includes a vital call to educate community and take action in your local region at coordinated times every month – learn more here.

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Leaders and signers to the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty gather before the People’s Climate March. Pictured here (left to right) – Gloria Ushigua, Pennie Opal Plant, Faith Gemmill, Cherri Foytlin and her daughters.

 In the face of escalating climate crisis and a climate denying US government, people around the world are rising to make clear that we refuse to accept the continued degradation of the Earth and our diverse communities. Without fail, it is the women who are standing at the front of these movements for justice – with fierce and ceaseless love, care and strength.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network sends immense gratitude to everyone who joined us to speak out, strategize, take action and learn with us during events and actions in New York City and Washington DC. Please click here to donate in support of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network’s (WECAN International) ongoing work for people and planet.

WECAN MENA Leading the Way at the First General Assembly of the Mediterranean Youth Climate Network

Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Middle East/North Africa regional program coordinators are hard at work in the collaborative creation and coordination of a Mediterranean Youth Climate Network. 

Regional Co-Coordinator of WECAN Middle East/North Africa, Soumeya Lerari, shares important updates and reflections in the blog below.

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The regional Co-coordinator of WECAN MENA Soumeya Lerari, signs the charter of the MYCN with Yann Lesestre (Climates) and Francesca Mingrone (Italian Climate Network)

The Mediterranean Youth Climate Network (MYCN) is the first regional network of its kind. It comes as a bridge-builder between the sides of the Mediterranean sea, aiming at enhancing the cooperation between climate-related youth-led initiatives in the Mediterranean region, in order to constitute a common front in the fight against climate change.

Indeed, the Mediterranean region is threatened more than ever with the disastrous consequences of climate change, and is also experiencing critical and highly sensitive impacts in regards to migration and refugees, and security threats and conflict. The diplomatic issues existent in the region and the delicate political situations in a number of countries often hinder the hopes of following a holistic and integrated approach to face the challenges of the region, and unfortunately climate change is not always included on the list of priorities.

The MYCN, however, intends to overcome these obstacles and focus on the power of Mediterranean  youth in all of their diversity, capitalizing on the available competences of young women and men of the region. Numerous organizations are carrying out impressive initiatives, and the MYCN aims to support and scale up their impact both locally and through the region.

The adventure started more than a year ago, when the Middle East/North Africa regional coordinators of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, Fadoua Brour and Hajar Imene Bouchair, represented WECAN in the organization of the Mediterranean Youth Climate Forum, which took place in Tangiers, Morocco on the 15th of July, 2016.

After a successful event, the representatives of the 7 organizations (WECAN, CliMates, Arab Youth Climate Movement, Italian Climate Network, Leaders Club, the Moroccan Youth Climate Movement and Eco-Peace Middle east) officially started the creation of the MYCN.

During  COP22 In Marrakech, Morocco last November, the representatives of the 7 organizations met to sign the MYCN charter, which was a milestone in the creation of the Network.

After months of cooperation and hard work, the 7 organizations finally met for their Constitutive General Assembly, on the 25th of February, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain; with representation by 10 of their members from Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Italy and France.

The MYCN is fully supported by the Union of the Mediterranean, which offered its logistical support and granted the Network the possibility of holding its General Assembly in its Barcelona offices.

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The 10 representatives met with the Union for the Mediterranean Secretary General Amb. Fathallah Sijilmassi and the Deputy Secretary General on Energy & Climate Action Mr. Jorge Borrego, who expressed their high hopes for the success of the MYCN, and once again showed the support of Union for the Mediterranean for the development and the future activities of the Network. This strategic partnership is a source of motivation and a sign of credibility for our intended activities.

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The 10 representatives in a meeting with the UpM SG Amb. Fathallah Sijilmassi & the DSG on Energy & Climate Action Mr. Jorge Borrego

We are also proud to announce that the General Assembly successfully held its elections and our regional WECAN Co-Coordinators, Imene Bouchair and Soumeya Lerari have been respectively appointed Secretary General and Vice-Secretary General of the Network.

We believe they will have an important value added to the Mediterranean Youth Climate Network by bringing the experience of WECAN regarding climate justice, and empower young women from the Mediterranean region in the fight against climate change and the protection of Mother Earth.

Women for Forests Democratic Republic of Congo – Winter 2017 Update

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In the Itombwe region of the Democratic Republic Congo, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, in partnership with SAFECO, ongoingly supports local women leaders in the development of tree nurseries and reforestation efforts in the area of Marunde, Rushasha and Malanda, serving 12 surrounding village areas and impact approximately 1,500 people.

The primary goals of this project are the protection of the remaining Itombwe natural forest from deforestation, the regeneration of new forest, and collaboration with and support of the Indigenous Pygmy peoples of the region in the protection of their traditional lifeways and knowledge.

The project also seeks to act as an avenue for climate mitigation through carbon sequestration. The 20,000 trees planted on 35 hectares this last rainy season will be sequestering 350 tons of carbon per year.

In planting tree seedlings, communities are also reducing reliance on the old growth forest for daily needs. Currently, twenty five percent of the trees planted are for human use, and seventy five percent are for regeneration of the land.

By restoring deforested, damaged lands and simultaneously providing an alternative source for sustainable forest harvesting and substenance – the collaborative program seeks to support the needs of the local Indigenous communities concerning forest use, while acting directly to stop deforestation and associated environmental degradation.

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Between the end of December 2016 and into January 2017, women engaged in this project planted over 20,000 trees by hand.

Tree species being planted at this time include: Eucalyptus,Cyprus, Grevillea, Mimosa Scabrella, Croton megalocarpus, African redwood, Cedrela serrata, Acacia mearnsii, Calliandra calothyrsus and Maracuja.

Mixed plantings of Eucalyptus with other species such as Acacia or Grevillea is being employed as a way to improve soil fertility. Tree species have also been chosen due to characteristics including being fast-growing, desiccation-tolerant, drought-tolerant and adaptable.

The deforestation situation in Itombwe is an alarming condition which needs urgent solutions, and these species and this project are key solutions. For further background and political analysis please see our previous blogs on this project.

Women are the principal stakeholders in this project, and have been working to learn, plan, envision and carry forth construction of the nurseries over the past four years. The women are able to earn money, learn about trees, care for a nursery, and gain support to be able to send their children to school.

Another important benefit from this project concerns the DR Congo forest law, which says that when a community or community member plants a tree or grows a crop, that land becomes their land. By involving women in planting trees, progress is being made to support women in gaining precious land titles to the traditional lands that have previously been unjustly taken from the women and their communities.

 In Itombwe, the planting season is from December to February, and tree nursery development takes place from May to October. With the December to February planting season coming to a close, WECAN and women leaders of DR Congo are looking forward to a new season of tree nursery development from May to October. Many women have expressed interest in joining the program and we are thrilled to see the strength of this program grow as we celebrate the growth of the new trees and the protection of the Itombwe’s natural forests.

Additional photos by Stany Nzabas

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