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.

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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.

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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

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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).

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“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)

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“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’

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“[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.

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“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)

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“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)

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“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

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“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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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!

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.

[TRANSCRIPT]

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

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.