COP22 Marrakech: Women Rising for Climate Justice

Blog by Emily Arasim and Osprey Orielle Lake

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During WECAN’s public event, ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Marrakech’ a group of attendees and speakers gather to raise their voices in solidarity with women Earth defenders across the globe

At the close of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP22 climate talks in Marrakech, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International reaffirms that women around the world stand at the forefront of the climate crisis, and are leading the way forward to address issues of social and ecologic justice, build a just transition to renewable energy, and to create a livable future for all. They stand in diversity, strength, resistance and love to denounce exploitation of the Earth and her peoples – taking action both within the UNFCCC and governmental processes, and with their communities, on the frontlines, in the streets, in the fields and in the forests. 

Women for climate justice will not wait for stagnated politicians nor rely on change within broken systems – we will continue to make our struggles and solutions known within the ‘halls of power’, and we will simultaneously push back and move forward to build the other world that we know is possible. Frontline, Indigenous and grassroots women from the Imider movement in Morocco to the Amazon rainforest in South America – from Standing Rock in the US, to Small Islands Nations of the Maldives and Marshall Islands, and countless places in between are all calling for an end to extractivism and immediate action to protect water, land and climate for all generations present and future.

There were several bright spots at the climate talks that will open doors in the process as we go forward, yet for the most part, as we have seen time and again, peoples and women’s movements worldwide are clearly stating that government action is not nearly ambitious enough given the urgency of the climate crisis we face. Despite being promoted as the “COP of action” – the past two weeks were filled with far too much familiar talk and hollow calls for ‘ambitious action’ left unfulfilled.

The United Nations itself confirms that under the Paris Climate Accord, which calls for action to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degree Celsius, current commitments by governments take us to a catastrophic 3 degrees rise. This is a reality that the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, and our frontline, grassroots and Indigenous women partners and  allies across the world simply refuse to accept.

Coming out of COP22, we denounce lack of action by wealthy countries and nations of the Global North, who continue to skirt their historic responsibility to act and provide meaningful support to those nations who are experiencing the life or death impact of the climate crisis now, and who have contributed the least to the accelerating degradation of the Earth’s ecosystems.

While many wealthy nations of the world continued to drag their feet and avoid serious commitment to climate action or financial support throughout COP22, forty seven developing nations united to create the Climate Vulnerable Forum and declare their intention to lead the green transition and work towards 100% renewable energy. We celebrate this positive momentum, and look forward to following this process to ensure that the transition that unfolds is just, decentralized, democratized and sustainable.

For a safe and livable world, we know there can be no more new fossil fuel development. Despite the ceaseless calls and actions of civil society leaders, this vital truth has not been fully acknowledged or acted upon by the majority of our world governments represented at COP22.

More over, climate talks in Morocco included unprecedented involvement of corporate interests who have consistently fought meaningful climate action, funded climate change denial and whose fundamental mission to extract and burn as much fossil fuels as possible stands in direct contradiction to the aims of the UNFCCC COP process.  Representatives of fossil fuel, mining, water privatization and industrial agriculture companies had a strong presence and access to most key meetings in Marrakech, including closed-door meetings with national representatives.

As we reflect on COP22, we are pleased to see some important forward momentum on the inclusion of gender-responsive climate action into the discourse of the climate negotiations. At long last, member states are no longer debating why gender is important, but rather seeking to understand how it can be acted upon. As member states seek to integrate gender into their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s), WECAN and our global partners and allies highlight the importance of projects not only designed for women, but by frontline women themselves.  The gender components of the Paris Agreement have been hard fought for over years by the dedicated efforts of the Women and Gender Constituency.

In light of the recent election of a climate skeptic and strong fossil fuel proponent as the next U.S. president, we also welcome the efforts and actions by the global community to reaffirm committed climate action despite political roadblocks and the dangerous implications of a Trump presidency. The Marrakech Action Proclamation is an important and strong show of global unity, however like the Paris Agreement itself,  it is not binding and represents goals that we have yet to see negotiators and members states put urgent and ambitious action behind given the rapid increase of global warming already being felt around the world.

We know that the international community and global peoples movements will move forward with or without full U.S. involvement, however, should the U.S. rescind on its Paris Agreement commitments, it will risk becoming a pariah state, and will show itself to be opposed to justice, peace, and the very life of future generations.  Even though the Paris Agreement is flawed and we do not support the false solutions promoted within it, it is imperative that the U.S. remain in the process and not abandon millions of people to accelerating climate chaos and disaster. Along with growing civil society networks, WECAN will continue to advocate ceaselessly for action by the U.S. regardless of the presidency.

We know our fight has just become exponentially larger, but we will never give up. We stand ever firmer in our commitment to protect and defend Mother Earth, courageous defenders of the land, all species, and the very web of life itself.  

Let it be known that diverse women around the world are not going to stop speaking out and demonstrating until we keep 80 % of fossil fuels reserves in the ground, stop deforestation and ocean pollution, implement gender equality, respect Indigenous rights and the rights of nature, and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy. Our red line has been crossed, and we are rising. We will not stand idly by as temperatures continue to increase and Indigenous peoples and land defenders continue to be criminalized and persecuted.

It must be recognized that 80% of the bio-diversity left on Earth is in Indigenous lands and territories and Indigenous peoples put their bodies on the line every day to protect theses lands, forests and waterways. First and foremost we all should be supporting our Indigenous allies because they should not be facing 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 we cannot live without water, forests and air, and it is paramount that we fight together for Indigenous rights as a central climate solution. It is a tragedy that Indigenous rights was only left to the preamble of the Paris Accord and not the operative part of the text.

While our WECAN analysis places emphasis on the many flaws and failures of COP22 and the UNFCCC process, we reaffirm our continued commitment to action within and outside of climate talks and negotiations. We stand to make sure women’s voices are heard; to expose polluters and false solutions; to offer just solutions; and to spark vital conversation around topics including seed saving, soil and farming, tree planting, Indigenous sovereignty, ending market mechanisms and neoliberal economic models, rights of nature, Traditional Ecologic Knowledge, overconsumption and lifestyle change, and gender equality and women’s leadership at the forefront of all climate decision making.

EXPLORE this Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network blog for futher information on the actions, events and advocacy work that WECAN and allies participated in while on the ground in Morocco over the past two weeks.

Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Marrakech

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Women’s Leadership and Solutions in Facing Impacts of Climate Change Panel, featuring (left to right) Neema Namadamu (Democratic Republic of Congo) – Diana Donlon (USA) – Natalie Isaacs (Australia) – Amina El Hajjami (Amazigh Peoples, Morocco) – Nina Gualinga (Sarayaku Peoples, Ecuador)

On November 14th, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network held a large public event in downtown Marrakech, gathering together worldwide women leaders to speak out against environmental and social injustice, draw attention to root causes of the climate crisis, and present the diverse array of visions and strategies with which they are working to shape a healthy and equitable world.

Over the course of four panel discussions and several keynote speeches, women leaders from Morocco, sub-Saharan Africa, Pacific Island Nations, North America, South America, Europe and Continental Asia spoke on diverse issues including women, seeds and soils; women’s resistance to fossil fuel extraction; women and forests; oceans; Indigenous struggles for sovereignty and Earth protection; violence against women land defenders; Traditional Ecologic Knowledge; and women’s leadership in climate policy and strategy, amongst many vital topics.

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Women Speak from the Frontlines of Climate Change Panel, featuring (left to right) – Thilmeeza Hussain (Maldives) – Carmen Capriles (translating, Bolivia) – Alicia Cahuiya (Huaorani Peoples, Ecuador) – Ruth Nyambura (Kenya) – Rachida Outouchki (Amazigh Peoples, Morocco) and her translator Marwa Natsheh of Palestine

We send the deepest gratitude to all of the outstanding speakers who shared their stories, struggles, calls to action and plans for real just action to address the climate crisis and global violations of human, Indigenous and nature’s rights. The event filled us and many who attended with inspiration, collective power, collaborative strategies and strength to continue ahead with the enormous work we must all engage in order to build a healthy and just world.

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Call to Action for the Protection and Rights of Defenders of the Land Panel featuring (left to right) Nicole Oliveira (Brazil) – Kayla DeVault (Shawnee/Anishinaabe Peoples, USA) – Cecilia Flores (Aymara Peoples, Chile) with Carmen Capriles (Bolivia) providing translation.

‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Marrakech’ featured: Her Excellency Hilda C. Heine (President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands); Honorable Mary Robinson (Mary Robinson Foundation: Climate Justice; Former President of Ireland); Neema Namadamu (SAFECO; Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Democratic Republic of Congo); Rachida Outouchki (Amazigh Representative of the High Atlas Foundation, Morocco); Amina El Hajjami (Amazigh Representative of the High Atlas Foundation, Morocco); Ruth Nyambura (African Eco-Feminists Collective; No REDD in Africa Network; Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Kenya); Alicia Cahuiya (Huaorani Peoples, Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador); Simone Lovera (Global Forest Coalition, Paraguay); Diana Lopez (Southwest Workers’ Union; Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, USA); Jacqui Patterson (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice Program, USA); Thilmeeza Hussain (Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives; Climate Wise Women; Voice of Women, Maldives); Kalyani Raj (UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency Representative, India); Nicole Oliveira (350.org Latin America, Brazil); Natalie Isaacs (One Million Women, Australia); Diana Donlon (Center for Food Safety, USA); Cecilia Flores (Abya Yala Women Messengers, Aymara Peoples, Chile); Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner (Climate Change Activist / Poet, Marshall Islands); Kayla DeVault (Shawnee/Anishinaabe Peoples, SustainUS Delegation, the Diné Policy Institute, USA); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, USA).

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Women’s Strategic Analysis, Policy and Advocacy for Systemic Change and Climate Justice Panel. Pictured left to right – Osprey Orielle Lake (USA) – Kalyani Raj ( India) – Diana Lopez (USA) – Simone Lovera (Paraguay) – Jacqueline Patterson (USA)

The event was opened with traditional Amazigh (Berber) songs by Yamna Oulamine and Nejma Ait Mansour of Morocco. We were also very honored by the presence of Fatima Khalloufi  and Aicha Abouh, two Amazigh women leaders of the community of Imider, Morocco, who are at the heart of one of the countries most critical movements, working for over 5 years to protect the water, life and Indigenous rights of the people of Imider from a disastrous silver mining operation on their land.

Click here for a look into the event, through the powerful words and poetry of Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner of the Marshall Islands.

Click here to read coverage of the event from Pacific Standard Magazine – How Women Are Going From Climate Victims to Climate Leaders

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Fatima Khalloufi (right) and Aicha Abouh (left) – women leaders of the Imider, #300km South movement in Morocco

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Alicia Cahuiya of the Huaorani peoples of Ecuador greets Marshall Island President, H.E. Hilda Heine and speaks about her struggles to protect her people’s lifeway and the Amazon Rainforest from continued oil extraction

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Yamna Oulamine and Nejma Ait Mansour Amazigh (Berber) women of Morocco open the event with traditional song

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Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner (Climate Change Activist / Poet, Marshall Islands) shares her powerful poem ‘Dear Matafele Peinem’ – Photo via Kaliea Frederick

International Climate March

On November 13th, thousands of people from across Morocco and around the word took to the streets of Marrakech to visibilize their social and ecologic struggles and send a strong messages to world governments meeting at COP22 that the peoples movement for climate justice will forge ahead with resistance and solutions regardless of the action, or lack thereof, from the political leadership of our countries. Calls by civil society included, no more polluters inside the COP, respect for Indigenous and women’s rights, Keep It In the Ground, 1.5 to stay alive, solidarity with Standing Rock, Imider and global struggles for Indigenous sovereignty, among many vital calls.

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Local Amazigh peoples and global Indigenous allies lead thousands during the Climate March in Marrakech – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

The march was led by Amazigh Indigenous people of Morocco, and Indigenous allies from all continents. The WECAN delegation was honored to march with many extraordinary women’s delegations and women’s groups from across the world.

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Scenes from the International Climate March in Marrakech. WECAN was honored to march with many strong women’s groups from around the world

Women’s Caucus and Women and Gender Constituency Advocacy

As participants in the Women’s Caucus and an ally of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency, WECAN International supported the Women and Gender Constituency Key Demands at COP22.

During COP22, we saw the next steps of mainstreaming gender-responsive language and increased space for the voices of Indigenous and women’s groups. Significantly, Parties adopted a decision on gender and climate change which extends the 2014 Lima Work Programme on Gender, and at long last moved from debating why gender is important, to discussions on how to design and implement gender-responsive climate policies. There were many strong conversations on women and gender by national representatives and civil society organizations, however we maintain a strong critique of the lack of concrete action and financial commitments for the support of women on the frontlines of climate change.

We particularly want to honor our hard-working allies, including the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, Women in Europe for a Common Future, the All India Women’s Conference and others, who have advocated ongoingly for just and gender-responsive action at the UNFCCC. We also honor Founder of Reaccion Climatica,  WECAN partner and WECAN COP22 delegation member, Carmen Capriles, who worked actively as part of the Women and Gender Constituency, and who delivered the Constituencies final official intervention on the last night of COP22.

Press Conference – Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change

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Global women for climate justice speak out during WECAN’s official COP22 press conference. Pictured left to right: Carmen Capriles, Marta Ventura, Ruth Nyambura, Neema Namadamu, Thilmeeza Hussain and Osprey Orielle Lake

On November 16th, WECAN presented an UNFCCC COP22 press conference, during which powerful women leaders spoke out to present their climate change struggles and solutions, and to disrupt business as usual and demand system change, not climate change. WECAN was honored to have the opportunity to present this press conference and amplify the voices of frontline, grassroots and Indigenous women from around the world, who are too often not present to speak for themselves within spaces such as COP22.

Ruth Nyambura of the African Eco-Feminists Collective, NO REDD in Africa Network and Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Kenya spoke out as one of the outstanding press conference speakers, explaining, “It’s very clear the the issue of climate change is first and foremost an issue of systemic and structural inequalities that march together. So, we need to re-imagine and transform our economic systems. As women and as feminists, we know too well what happens when we have the externalization of the costs of a capitalist, patriarchal system – and especially with the extractive industries. We understand what it means to have our waters privatized, our soils contaminated, our foods privatized. And so we must imagine an economic system that doesn’t just benefit the few corporations, the North, but actually provides economic justice, because that is something that we rarely talk about…These are fundamental issues we must sort out if we really want to talk about what climate justice is. Climate justice is not a word in a vacuum…we really need to go back to the heart of the matter, and we really need to challenge market based techno-fixes. We cannot solve the climate crisis and the triple crisis of food, water and climate using the same tools that created the current crisis…As much as we are in a dangerous space, there are so many beautiful stories of resistance and we must allow those to carry us through in this period of time.”

We send the deepest thanks to press conference speakers – Thilmeeza Hussain (Voice of Women; Climate Wise Women, Maldives); Neema Namadamu (SAFECO; Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Democratic Republic of Congo); Ruth Nyambura (African Eco-Feminists Collective; NO REDD in Africa Network; Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Kenya): Marta Ventura (Mayan Peoples, Abya Yala Women Messengers, Guatemala); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, USA).

Click here to watch the full WECAN COP22 press conference – Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change  

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Neema Namadamu (left) of SAFECO and WECAN DR Congo and Thilmeeza Hussain of Climate Wise Women and Voice of Women, Maldives, speak out during WECAN’s frontline women press conference

Side Event – Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change

During WECAN’s official COP22 side event, women leaders from around the world spoke truth to power, shared vital stories and climate solutions, and refused to shy away from the pressing realities about our global climate crisis and the need for just, women-led action NOW.  

During the event, Thilmeeza Hussain of the Maldives poignantly explained, “400,000 people are dying every year because of climate change – this is an ecocide that is happening, this is a genocide, this is criminal. We are letting this fossil fuel industry rule our planet and many of our politicians are in their pockets…there is no time to wait until tomorrow, all of us have a moral obligation and responsibility to stand up and speak out – this is not a fight between the developed and the developing, this is not a fight between rich and poor countries, this is a fight between those who are willing to act on climate and those who refuse to act. This is a fight between those who are speaking out and those who choose to stay silent. What we choose to do today will determine the course of the future, our children’s future. We must stand together.”

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Pictured left to right: Thilmeeza Hussain (Maldives), Neema Namadamu (DR Congo), Marta Ventura (Guatemala), Cecilia Flores (Chile), Precious Phiri (Zimbabwe), Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie (Canada) and Carmen Capriles (Bolivia)

We thank everyone who attended and packed this event to capacity, and honor the outstanding presenters – Neema Namadamu (SAFECO; Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Democratic Republic of Congo); Thilmeeza Hussain (Voice of Women; Climate Wise Women, Maldives); Marta Ventura (Mayan Peoples, Abya Yala Women Messengers, Guatemala); Cecilia Flores (Aymara Peoples, Abya Yala Women Messengers, Chile); Precious Phiri (Regeneration International; EarthWisdom, Zimbabwe); Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie (Anishinaabe Peoples from Sagkeeng First Nation; Red Rising Magazine; University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, Canada); Carmen Capriles (Reacción Climática, Bolivia); Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, USA)

Click here to listen to the full audio of WECAN’s official COP22 side event and hear directly from extraordinary women for climate justice from around the world.

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WECAN COP22 side event speakers stand together in solidarity and action at the end of the event. Speakers and attendees together filled the room with cries of ‘act on climate’ and ‘water is life’

Press Conference – Indigenous Rights and Rights of Nature: Foundations for Systemic Change in Climate Solutions

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, shared the critical work of the Rights of Nature movement during a COP22 press conference on November 17 – speaking out against the continued commodification of the Earth’s living systems within the UNFCCC process, and presenting an alternative vision for a legal and economic system founded upon respect for the inherent rights of our life giving mountains, forests, waters and soils.

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Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN International presents a Rights of Nature press conference inside COP22

This press conference was originally to be presented in partnership with the Indigenous Environmental Network, however urgent matters in Standing Rock rightfully prevented their presence. As such, the dynamic press conference focused on Rights of Nature. WECAN International is honored to present this work in partnership with the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.

Click here to watch the full WECAN COP22 press conference –  Indigenous Rights and Rights of Nature: Foundations for Systemic Change in Climate Solutions

Stand With Standing Rock Solidarity Action & Other Actions Inside COP22

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November 15 prayer circle and action. Photo via SustainUS.

From Morocco to North Dakota – we stand with Standing Rock. On the November 15th Day of Action for Standing Rock, held nationally in the U.S., WECAN was honored to join a prayer circle and solidarity action held at the entrance to the COP22 venue, with the leadership of Indigenous youth delegates and Indigenous allies with SustainUs.

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Global Indigenous leaders hold a Standing Rock Solidarity action inside of COP22 on Nov 17

On November 17th, we took action again inside of the formal UN space, uniting with allies from the Indigenous Environmental Network, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance and global Indigenous peoples to support this Indigenous-lead action, and to hear testimony and strong messages to world governments and to connect Indigenous struggles for sovereignty, water and life across the globe.

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Niria Alicia of the SustainUs delegation speaks out during the Standing Rock action inside COP22

During COP22, WECAN team members and delegates also took part in direct actions to declare that ‘We’re still in’ and ‘We will move head’ – making clear that civil society members, and communities and countries around the world will forge ahead for climate action regardless of the deeply troubling results of the recent U.S. election.

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Members of U.S. delegations and global allies gather inside of COP22 to declare that the peoples movement for climate justice will take action on climate regardless of the results of the recent U.S. election

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Civil society members and international delegates gather to send a strong message at the close of COP22 – we will forge ahead for strong climate action no matter the roadblocks faced

WECAN Delegation Member Advocacy

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WECAN Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, strategizes with WECAN allies & delegation members, Thilmeeza Hussain of the Maldives, & Carmen Capriles of Bolivia

WECAN International was thrilled to have a strong global delegation on the ground, who in addition to advocacy efforts, presentations and participating in WECAN actions and events, also led out individual work to meet with their regional representatives; build partnerships; and advocate and engage directly within the negotiating process.

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Carmen Capriles, WECAN COP22 delegation member and Founder of Reaccion Climatica presents the final Women and Gender Constituency intervention at 2:00 am on the last night of COP22

Carmen Capriles, longtime WECAN partner, delegation member, and Founder of Reaccion Climatica in Bolivia, was an active participant in the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency throughout the COP22 process. At 2:00 am on the final night of COP22, Carmen presented an inspiring final intervention on behalf of the Women and Gender Constituency, which can be read in full here. She also made a dynamic presentation at WECAN’s side event and kindly provided Spanish translation to various WECAN events and meetings, helping amplify the voices of women from across Latin America.

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Neema Namadamu of SAFECO and WECAN DR Congo shares her story and climate solutions with government officials, educators and journalists from around the world

Neema Namadamu, Director of SAFECO and WECAN Coordinator for the Democratic Republic of Congo was a main spokesperson during all WECAN events, and spent time meeting with African ministers and representatives, journalists and students to share her incredible work re-foresting the Itombwe Rainforest of Congo. Through this joint WECAN/SAFECO Women and Forest project, Neema and rural women from across the Itombwe region have planted more than 25,000  diverse trees, supporting the local women’s economy, health and sustenance base, while mitigating climate change and protecting the cultural and ecologic biodiversity of the region.

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Thilmeeza Hussain of the Maldives speaks out during a WECAN COP22 press conference

Thilmeeza Hussain, WECAN COP22 delegation member, representative of Climate Wise Women, and Founder of Voice of Women, Maldives, spoke out throughout COP22 as a representative of small Island Nations and other vulnerable communities who are experiencing the impacts of ‘climate genocide’ everyday.

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Fadoua Brour, WECAN Co-Coordinator in the MENA region and Founder of the Moroccan Youth Climate Movement and Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN strategize over dinner in Marrakech

Fadour Brour, WECAN Co-Coordinator for the Middle East/North Africa Region, and Director of the Moroccan Youth Climate Movement was a key organizer of the Conference of the Youth (COY) gathering ,which took place in Marrakech in advance of the climate talks. During COP22, Fadoua led work to strengthen the voices of Moroccan and global youth within the negotiating process and during civil society events. WECAN looks forward to our ongoing work with Fadoua in the MENA region as we act for climate justice.

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Members of the Abya Yala Women’s Delegation from Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Guatemala with WECAN’s Executive Director

WECAN was also honored to support and collaborate with members of the Abya Yala Women Messengers delegation from South America, including Alicia Cahuiya of the Huaorani Peoples of the Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador. We remain steadfast in our dedication to the protection of the Amazon Rainforest and the Living Forest Proposal presented by the Sarayaku Peoples of Ecuador.

With the Women of the Land

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WECAN team members visit the organic tree nurseries of High Atlas Foundation allies outside of Marrakech

In the days following COP22, members of the WECAN delegation were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the Ourika Valley of the High Atlas mountains outside of Marrakech.

On one day, WECAN visited a cooperative of women leading the development of sustainable local economies and agriculture through productions of Argan oil. We were delighted to organize with and accompany Her Excellency Hilda Heine, President of the Marshall Islands and her daughter, poet and climate activist Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner on this excursion.

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WECAN team members with H.E. President Hilda Heine and Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Farhana Yamin at the women’s Argan oil cooperative in the Ourika Valley outside of Marrakech

During our time together, we learned more about the climate impacts and issues facing the Marshall Islands, including radiation from US nuclear testing; littering and ocean pollution; and rising seas, which pose an immediate and dire threat to the peoples of the Marshall Islands. It was a true pleasure to have time with the President and Kathy to learn more about their ever strengthening work for socio-ecologic justice in their homelands.

The following day, the WECAN team met with local women allies of the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) to visit one of their stunning nursery projects, learn more about their work, and explore points of collaboration and information exchange.

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Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN and Amina El Hajjami of High Atlas Foundation discuss women’s leadership, biodynamic agriculture, and tree planting as a climate mitigation solution while visiting the nurseries of a local women’s cooperative in the Ourika Valley outside of Marrakech

Under the leadership of Amina El Hajjami, Project Manager for HAF, various women’s cooperative have been formed to work with Indigenous Amazigh (Berber) and rural women across Morocco to plant and distribute trees and medicinal plants to strengthen the local women’s economy and self sufficiency, and to mitigate the impacts of climate change and expanding desertification.

Click here to watch a short interview with Amina about the work of the women’s cooperatives.

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Indigenous Amazigh and rural women leaders meet with the WECAN International team to speak about their women’s cooperative and exchange ideas about women’s leadership and climate change

Women Act for Climate Justice: Ten Days of Global Mobilization

From October 28 to November 6, the days immediately proceeding the UNFCCC COP22 in Marrakech, diverse women and girls around the world in organized together to show our resistance to environmental and social degradation; highlight the climate impacts our communities are facing; demand drastic change away from unjust economic and development systems; and demonstrate the many effective, just and safe climate solutions, strategies and political calls that are being implemented by women and girls around the world on a daily basis.

Hundreds of women and allies from over 35 countries and all continents added powerful action photos and statements, and these messages were carried to Morocco by the WECAN delegation, and shared during various events and meetings. Click here to explore powerful actions from around the world collected in the ‘Women Act for Climate Justice – Ten Days of Global Mobilization’ gallery.

WECAN was honored to co-sponsor this campaign with the Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice.

The stories and calls to action shared in the gallery – like the strong voices shared by WECAN delegation members and global allies on the ground during COP22 – ring out with clarity and strength to declare that another world is possible, and that women around the world are already building it day by day. It is far past time for world governments to join women of the world in walking the path of climate justice and immediate, bold and equitable action on climate change.

Click here to explore a full album photo of WECAN Women for Climate Justice at COP22.

Media requests and comments about the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network on the ground during the UNFCCC COP22 Marrakech may be directed to emily@wecaninternational.org

WECAN COP22 Delegation and Women Act for Climate Justice Campaign in the media to date:

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Bringing Women’s Leadership and Indigenous Rights to the Forefront of Conservation Issues and Climate Solutions: WECAN at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature 2016 World Conservation Congress

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Patricia Gualinga (Director of International Relations for the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador) presents her Living Forest proposal during a main event hosted by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network and the IUCN Gender Program. Pictured with Leila Salazar Lopez of Amazon Watch and Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN International 

During the recent September 2016 International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) ‘World Conservation Congress’, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network spoke out, advocated and engaged with global governments, businesses and civil society organization in order to lift up the climate justice framework and show why women’s leadership; Indigenous rights and frontline women’s struggles and solutions; and deep systemic change are key to just and effective conservation policy, and to all attempts to move forward on the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

IUCN is the world’s largest environmental organization, comprised of both governmental and civil society representatives. The IUCN World Conservation Congress, held once every four years, focused this year on the theme of ‘Planet at the Crossroads’ in an attempt to build forward motion to fulfill the Paris Climate Agreement, adopted by 195 world governments in 2015.

As a global network of women for climate justice, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International felt strongly that this was an important moment to highlight the voices of grassroots, frontline and Indigenous women community and Earth defenders to the Congress to share their struggles, experiences and solutions; demonstrate resistance to false solutions to the climate crisis while offering clear directives for a just and safe energy transition; and advocate for No Go Zones and Rights of Nature.

In advance and on the ground in Hawaii, WECAN was honored to be collaborate with Amazon Watch, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), Center for Earth Jurisprudence, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and diverse allies gathering at IUCN through the Sacred Lands Film network.

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Our Executive Director had the honor of meeting up with Dr. Jane Goodall. We are deeply honored that Dr. Goodall is on our Advisory Council.

Listed below, explore key engagement points of WECAN Interational’s participation at the World Conservation Congress this year.

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Patricia Gualinga speaks at an IUCN Press Conference.

  • ‘A Deep Dive on Gender and Environment: Exploring the Policy Landscape, Strategies in Action, and Women’s Frontlines Solutions’ – key event and panel presented by WECAN and the IUCN Gender team.
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Women standing for No Go Zones, Motion 26, Living Forests, and Keep It In the Ground at the World Conservation Congress. From left to right: Leila Salazar-López, Paty Gualinga, Osprey Orielle Lake, Aura Tegría, Sônia Bone Guajajara and Atossa Soltani.

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Sally Ranney, Co-Founder of WECAN speaking at the WECAN event at IUCN.

  • Press Conference 1- Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change
  • Press Conference 2 – Rights of Nature
  • Advocacy for the end to oil drilling and respect for Indigenous rights and territories in the Ecuadorian Amazon alongside Patricia Gualinga (Director of International Relations, Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuadorian Amazon); Leila Salazar Lopez (Amazon Watch) and Atossa Soltani (Amazon Watch)
  • Women’s Caucus Participation
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Women’s Caucus: No Climate Justice without Gender Justice
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Women’s Caucus morning meetings
  • March with local Hawaiian groups to bring visibility to their local issues and voices during the Congress
  • No Dakota Access Pipeline Solidarity Action
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At the World Conservation Congress we learned of dogs attacking #NoDAPL indigenous water and land protectors in North Dakota — we were appalled and enraged! Indigenous leaders and allies in Hawaii sent our love and solidarity.
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March at the IUCN Congress with Bridget Burns of WEDO and Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN International
  • Oklahoma Fracking Awareness Action
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While at the WCC, Casey Camp Horenik, Ponca Nation leader from Oklahoma and WECAN Steering Committee and Advisory Council member informs us of largest earthquake yet in Oklahoma due to fracking. Indigenous leaders and allies stood in solidarity with Pawnee and Ponca nations after the terrible Earthquake. Casey told us that there had been 36 quakes just that one week.
Additional Photos:
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Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux and all allies protecting water and stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline. Indigenous land defenders from over ten countries around the world and allies gathered at the World Conservation Congress demonstrate support.
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Meeting with Hawaiian allies.
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Left to right: Patricia Gualinga (Pueblo of Sarayaku), Leila Salazar Lopez (Amazon Watch), Nina Gualinga (Pueblo of Sarayaku) and Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International)
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Preparing for the IUCN conference to uplift frontline women and their communities, our WECAN Executive Director had the pleasure of celebrating with Sylvia Earle on her 81st birthday! She is an incredible elder – an ocean elder and we are very honored to have her on our WECAN Advisory Council.

Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Change Solutions

Blog by Emily Arasim and Osprey Orielle Lake

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Gloria Ushigua (Sápara Nation, Ecuador) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation, Oklahoma, USA) joined in a moment of solidarity and love. These two outstanding Indigenous women leaders are uniting across continents to protect and defend the Earth and their communities from oil extraction – Photo by Joan Beard

Indigenous women around the world are impacted first and worst by the effects of environmental destruction and a rapidly changing climate, their disproportionate vulnerability the result of a brutal intersection of colonialism, racism and sexism whose effects continue largely unabated. However despite all odds and against great challenges, it is these very same Indigenous women who are rising up, challenging the status quo and taking action to build the vital solutions so desperately needed in order to chart an equitable and sustainable course for humanity.

On May 12, 2016, an outstanding group of Indigenous women leaders from South and North America (Turtle Island) united to share their concerns, struggles and plans for change at ‘Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Solutions’, an afternoon event presented by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and our allies at Amazon Watch and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

‘Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Solutions’ was held in New York City in parallel to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, with the expressed purpose of bringing public visibility to the diverse stories, solutions and demands of frontline women climate leaders.

While the sentiment and experiences shared by each speaker was unique and firmly rooted in their own homeland and place – there were two overriding themes that flowed from the women’s words: (1) respect for and implementation of Indigenous rights and knowledge is a prerequisite for climate justice and effective sustainability solutions and (2) in protecting the rights, health, lives and lands of Indigenous peoples, we ultimately safeguard the future not only of Indigenous nations (which is reason enough), but of the Earth and all it’s people. We are all unequivocally interdependent within the systems of life.

Throughout the presentations, the women also illuminated important points around the meaning of being an aware, respectful and diligent Indigenous ally, and shared a vision for the thriving future that we might still have if we learn to truly honor and uphold Indigenous rights at a global scale.

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Pictured left to right: Aura Tegria Cristancho (U’wa, Colombia), Leo Cerda (Kichwa, Ecuador), Gloria Ushigua (Sápara, Ecuador), Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca, USA), Crystal Lameman (Beaver Lake Cree, Canada), Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Executive Director) introducing the panel of speakers. Not pictured: Alicia Cahuilla (Huaorani, Ecuador) and Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, USA) – Photo by Joan Beard

In honoring the traditions of Indigenous allies, the event opened with prayers by Casey Camp Horinek, elder and a leader of the Ponca Nation (Oklahoma, Turtle Island, USA), who called for attention to the gift of the present day, and the capacity we all have to act, stand and relate to Mother Earth in a different way.

Casey reminded audience members that we are all relatives of each other and of the Earth, and that our greatest hope for the future lies in remembering this and growing together in strength and unity. She called upon all present to thank and honor the women and men who came before, standing in the face of adversity on behalf of the Earth, and through their brave actions allowing us to be here together today.

Osprey provided introductory remarks and a base for the day’s presentations by highlighting how Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous women in particular are the most vital voices and solutions bearers in the fight to address climate change and it’s roots in deep structural injustices within our social, economic and political systems. The audience was reminded that over 80% of the worlds remaining biodiversity lies in the hands of Indigenous communities, who have coexisted with and maintained these living systems for generations.

“We must make it very clear that we are interconnected. They [Indigenous women] are the ones on the frontlines defending our air, the mountains, forests, rivers. They are keeping the web of life alive, and if they go down we are all going down. People are putting their bodies on the line, people like Berta Cáceres… and we need to understand that this is directly our family. These women are on the frontline making possible the continuity of life for all of us, so let us listen deeply and engage,” Osprey commented.

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Gloria Ushigua – Photo by Joan Beard

Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women, spoke first, with translation by Leo Cerda (Kichwa) of Amazon Watch. [All translated quotes should be considered translations, not direct quotations]

Gloria is a land and community defender from deep within the southeastern Ecuadorian Amazon, committed to maintaining the cultural identity and integrity of the Sápara peoples and promoting the rights of Indigenous women. She stands at the forefront of the regional movement to stop oil drilling – speaking out, advocating within the United Nations, and leading marches and demonstrations in response to violent policies that continue to open the Amazon of Ecuador to fossil fuel development and the subsequent pollution and displacement of Indigenous communities.

In January of 2016, the Ecuadorian government and Chinese state owned oil corporation Andes Petroleum signed a new oil lease handing over almost one million acres of pristine rainforest forest overlapping the traditional territories of the Sápara people, as well as their neighbors the Kichwa of Sarayaku and the Shuar. On March 8, 2016, International Women’s Day, Gloria and hundreds of other Indigenous women of seven regional nationalities took to the streets in Ecuador to denounce the new contract. Their resistance to the new oil leases has been ceaseless.

“Our lives and our spirits depend upon the land that we live on, and they [the oil companies] do not understand this relationship that we have between the land, our families, our ancestors and the spirits.”

Gloria provided background on the intense threats and pressures her peoples are feeling to cede to extraction on their homelands, which remain uncontaminated unlike their neighbors to the north.

“We are going through a lot in our territory. The government has been threatening us and trying to create division within our territory… They think that we are going to get weakened by the divisions, by all of the problems they are bringing into our community, but they don’t know that we are strong and we will still stand strong even though they want to try to create this struggle. We are very few people, only about 200 in our territory, but we are strong. This is our land, this is where we have our livelihoods, our medicine, our water, our food.”

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Gloria Ushigua marches against oil extraction in the Amazon of Ecuador

Article 57 of Ecuador’s constitution requires that the consent of Indigenous peoples is obtained before any projects that impact their ancestral land or exploit resources within their territory lands can proceed. Indigenous consent is also a requirement of international law under the auspices of Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation (FPIC).

While the Ecuadorian government has repeatedly claimed to have consulted the Sápara Nation about the new oil leases, in actuality, they have instigated a campaign to intimidate and divide the Sápara. As Gloria made clear, in spite of the government’s false claims of community approval and attempts to create a divided Sápara leadership body, the legitimate federation of the Sápara does not and will not recognize any consent for access to or development in their territory.

“I come here to bring the message from my people….the government thinks we are alone but we are not alone, we have an international community of supporters like you, like the people here…” Gloria continued, “The people in my community want to keep oil in the ground, and that is a consensus.”

In the month following the May 2016 event in New York City, Gloria Ushigua and her family members and community began suffering from escalated violence, intimidation and harassment. In solidarity with Gloria, Frontline Defenders and the Women’s Urgent Action Fund have both released urgent statements for organizational sign-on and wide spread public sharing and advocacy.

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Indigenous women leaders of seven Indigenous allies march against oil extraction in the Amazon in Puyo, Ecuador on International Women’s Day, March 8 2016. Gloria Ushigua (Sápara Nationality, Ecuador) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation, Oklahoma, USA) pictured at left – Photo by Emily Arasim

Alicia Hueiya Cahuilla is Huoarani woman leader, born and living in what is now called Yasuni National Park, Ecuador, spoke next. Alicia is the Vice President of the NAWE, the Association of the Huaorani Nationality of Ecuador, and has also served as the President of AMWAUE, the Association of Huaorani Women of Ecuador. She is a foremost woman defender of Yasuni, and has received death threats and faced other intimidation for her work.

Alicia Hueiya believes that action to respect Indigenous rights and keep oil under the ground is the most vital, effective climate solution, and has delivered this message, and the story of her communities poisoning and resistance, with great conviction in front of grassroots leaders, concerned allies, news and media, international governments and policymakers and fellow Indigenous women land defenders across the globe. Alicia spoke at a WECAN International event in Lima, Peru in 2014 that ran parallel to the UNFCCC climate talks at COP20 – watch the powerful coverage on Democracy Now! here.

Unlike Gloria and the Sápara people in the Southern Ecuadorian Amazon, the land immediately surrounding Alicia’s homeland in the Northern Amazon has already been experiencing the horrendous impacts of oil extraction for several decades.

Alicia told the story of women in her community and other as rising as the voice of the Amazon herself. She denounced excursions for oil into supposedly protected national parks such as Yasuni, and made clear that it is the lands in Indigenous hands, free of oil extraction that continue to flourish, create real development, provide for their people and maintain the balance of the global climate.

At Alicia’s request, her direct comments, quotes and photos have not been shared publicly outside of the event, and are not included in this blog.

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Aura Tegria Cristancho (U’wa people of Colombia) and Leo Cerda (Kichwa people of Ecuador, Amazon Watch) – Photo by Joan Beard

Following the translation of Alicia’s powerful presentation, Leo Cerda, Amazon Watch Field Coordinator and Kichwa man from the city of Tena, Ecuador, shared more background and an update on the unfolding situation in Ecuador.

Leo explained that the Ecuadorian government is repeatedly violating the Rights of Nature officially enshrined in their 2008 constitution, and also failing to respect laws of Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous peoples regarding fossil fuel extraction and mining. Echoing Alicia, he explained that even the countries national reserves are no longer off limits.

Leo further detailed the story of the ‘11th round’ of oil concessions, which opens up over twelve million acres of vibrant forest to extraction in 16 ‘oil blocks’. The two blocks encompassing the lands of Gloria and the Sápara people represent just two of these sixteen potential disaster zones.

“The process of the government is to try to create division within organizations and communities. So the women in the past years have been the strongest ones to come up front – they are the frontlines,” Leo explained, referencing many past actions including the March 2016 International Women’s Day march in Puyo, Ecuador.

“We see an uprising of the women coming together…because their territories are going to be effected, because they take care about the land and they care about the future, the future of next generations. We are talking here about climate change, about human rights – and this is not only an Indigenous struggle anymore, this is a struggle of all of us, the people that breathe…if we don’t protect the Amazon and forests around the world, how will our children live?”

“I am honored as the next generation to be with such amazing women speaking out,” Leo reflected.

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Kandi Mosset (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) leads a ‘toxic tour’ of a fracking spill site near the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota, USA – Photo by Emily Arasim

Kandi Mossett spoke next, joining the event via Skype.

Kandi Mossett is a Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara women from what is now called the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota, USA. Kandi stands on the frontlines of the fight to stop fracking and other forms of extreme energy extraction through powerful community organizing efforts and work as the Indigenous Environmental Network Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaign Lead Organizer. She has emerged as a leading voice in the fight to bring visibility to the impacts that climate change and environmental injustice are having on Indigenous communities across North America, engaging in international advocacy work, including participation in several UN Forums and a testimony before the U.S. Congress on the climate issue and its links to issues of health, identity, and well being on tribal lands.

She introduced herself and began her presentation in her native language, “Hello relatives my name is Eagle Woman, my English name is Kandi Mossett.”

Kandi told a brief history of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara peoples, three groups driven together following colonization and the brutal devastation of the smallpox epidemics inflicted by US settlers. After facing and surviving generations of colonization, Kandi explained that her people now face a new danger threatening to take their lands and livelihoods – the threat of hydraulic fracking.

Since the early 2000’s, a fracking epidemic in the Bakken region of North Dakota has rocketed the state to the position of second largest US oil producer after Texas, bringing a range of social and environmental impacts to the region, with particularly devastating effects on Indigenous women in North Dakota.

Kandi began her presentation by showing photos of turquoise lake water, the result of fracking runoff which has caused severe pollution, green-blue algae blooms and oxygen deprivation in Lake Sakakawea, a dam at the center of the at Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara lands, and at the headwaters of the Missouri River.

She also shared photos from a July 2014 fracking brine spill near the lake, which residents were told was nothing to worry about despite the visible dead zone and failure of the US Environmental Protection Agency to provide full reports and analysis.

Kandi recounted how local women leaders, including Lisa DeVille, spearheaded action and brought Duke University students out to take soil samples and analyze the spill site and dead land. Their report back told of high levels of benzenes and a wide range of cancer causing chemicals far exceeding safe consumption levels – all left sitting on the surface of the land.

“Own tribal council has sold out to corporations – they believe the lies, they believe it is safe without doing their own due diligence,” Kandi explained.

She detailed some of the horrendous environmental practices taking place in North Dakota, including largely unregulated direct flaring (burning) of natural gas. The open flares make the once dark plains of the state glow on satellite images like the lights of a major metropolis, and have made the Bakken the source of more that 2% of global methane emissions.

Kandi spoke solemnly, “No matter where you are in the world, you are still breathing this in.”

She recounted the rush of dangers experienced by local communities, including toxic air, poisoned water, oil truck explosions, and countless social ills brought by oil workers – ranging from vandalism and racist threats, to human trafficking, drug abuses and violent abuse of local women.

Many of the social dangers are centered in ‘man camps’, large trailer complexes housing hundreds, even thousands of oil workers. In a context of lawlessness and disregard for local Indigenous communities and the land, where Kandi reports that rapes have shot up roughly 168%, with the vast majority of abuses falling upon Indigenous women.

“Violence against women follows violence against the Earth. Them digging, flaring, polluting – this is violence against our Mother…We are facing so many social problems and we haven’t even begun to really see the environmental problems, that’s why I get so emotional. Twenty years down the line we will see it, the bone cancers from the radioactive materials… I am scared for our children and our future and this horrible legacy we are leaving behind. And so we are saying we wont do this anymore, lets get out and fight this.”

Even in the face of great pain, Kandi held out countless examples of reason for hope.

She told the story of the Standing Rock Sioux in the Southern part of the state, who had witnessed the devastation of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara peoples to the north, and stood up to push back, block pipelines and ban fracking within their sovereign lands.

Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara youth in Fort Berthold are also standing up, joining local women like Kandi and Lisa DeVille who have been fighting to expose the extreme circumstances on their lands for years. As Kandi spoke via Skype, a group of young Fort Berthold youth had just mobilized and rode horses over a Lake Sakakawea bridge to interrupt a tribal council meeting and deliver their message against continued exploitation of the Earth and her peoples.

“People are starting to see it, youth are starting to stand up and say ‘What are we doing to our planet?… We are up against big money, big corporations, but over the past years we’ve seen more and more that all it takes is people power, our youth fighting back to make change.”

Kandi reflected that standing out and being an activist is often a frightening thing to do, but that “we are all we have…We as human beings taking action are the only ones that can change the problems that we humans have created…so use your voice, fight back.”

She provided more hopeful examples including a recently held water blessing on Fort Berthold reservation, which Kandi’s elders said was the first large collective water ceremony in over 20 years. She cited other important cases of Indigenous leadership and resistance, including the recent horse ride across South Dakota in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline; the story of youth who ran over 500 miles to the Army Corps of Engineers in Nebraska to say no to fossil fuel infrastructure; and the broad and quickly growing global #KeepItInTheGround movement.

Kandi spoke to the great need for creative activism and community organizing, and for the peoples’ movement to get together, hold onto tradition and show our power. She called for simultaneously organizing locally and connecting across borders, recalling powerful work connecting pipeline fighters from the US Gulf Coast to North Dakota and the Canadian Tar Sands, as well as the ground breaking work of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact signed between Indigenous women of the US, Canada and Ecuador in 2015 and now being signed by many Indigenous women worldwide.

“We have to make it so that it is no longer profitable and OK for them [oil companies] to continue their business as usual,” Kandi explained, emphasizing that rather that pursuing a ‘not in my back yard’ type of fight, we must stand together to stop extraction in North America, and the homes of all our global brothers and sisters.

“We are addicted, to oil, and it is no better that any other addiction people have. If we want to get off this addiction we need to come together, with Indigenous women leading all across the frontlines….We know we have to protect the water. It is no coincidence that our babies are born in water…. We know that water literally is life, and it has to be protected at all costs.”

Kandi ended by urging audience members to study and explore colonization of the mind.

“What we are really talking about is decolonizing, and changing our mindset, changing the way that people interact with each other…” Kandi explained, “We want to protect future generations, and protect seven generations ahead.”

Most politicians and corporate barons, she pointed out, don’t think of the past or future generations “because they have a sickness, and that sickness is called greed.”

To build a foundation of climate justice, she pointed to the need for decolonization and a move away from extractive capitalism, which both center on the idea that we can “take and take and never give back”, something explicitly discouraged in all Indigenous worldviews.

“As Indigenous people we have ‘Traditional Ecologic Knowledge’, but here is the secret – ‘common sense’. Whatever happens to one person happens to all of us.”

Crystal Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree of Treaty No. 6, Alberta, Canada took the floor next.

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Crystal Lameman – Photo by Joan Beard

Crystal Lameman is the Treaty Coordinator and Communications Manager for the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, working previously as a Climate and Energy Campaigner for Sierra Club Canada, Prairie Chapter and as the Canadian Tar Sands Campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network. Since 2008, Crystal has been at the forefront of legal action by the Beaver Lake Cree, calling for action to address infringement of their people’s inherent and Treaty Rights to hunt, fish, trap, and gather in perpetuity, due to over-industrialization and extraction in their territory.

Crystal opened in her traditional language, and provided background on her home in the lands of the Cree and Dene.

Today, Crystal reported that Alberta, Canada is the source of more than 37% of the countries greenhouse gas emissions. Roughly 22% of these emissions come from the Alberta tar sands, making them the single biggest source of climate change causing pollution in Canada, and one of the largest sources of emission in the world.

Crystal explained that tar sands extraction has a dire two-fold impact, contributing to long-term climate change, while also wreaking havoc through immediate environmental consequences. Both long term climate changes and direct pollution are having growing impact on the land and the Indigenous Nations, like Crystal’s, who maintain a close relationship with the land, and rely upon it directly for medicines, food and water. Because of this close relationship, Indigenous communities are often the first to see and experience the degradation of the land, and contamination and displacement of ecologic and social communities.

Crystal mapped out the three large tar sands oil deposits in Alberta (cumulatively the third largest global crude oil deposits after Saudi Arabia) and the three Indigenous treaty territories violated by their extraction.

“Through invasive energy extraction we have found ourselves, literally, in a fight over Mothers bones, her very core – playing environmental roulette with our lives… and there is one thing about that game, someone always looses, and right now it is our next generations that are loosing… Right now my biggest responsibility is that I am a mother, I am blessed to give life, and I have a responsibility to those children,”

In addition to speaking to the dire effect of tar sands air and water pollution, she also spoke to the dire situation around deforestation of Canada’s pristine Boreal forest.

According to Crystal, millions, if not billions of tons of ‘overburden’, the industry term for pristine forest and soil, and one of the worlds most important carbon sinks – is ripped away, moved and destroyed to make way for expanded extraction. In total, the amount of land destroyed and moved for extraction in Alberta is estimated to be more than for the Great Wall of China, the Suez Canal, Great Pyramid of Cheops and 10 largest dams in world – combined.

A large portion of tar sands expansion is happening in and around Indigenous First Nations territories, on lands being taken and violated without respect to internationally recognized rights of Indigenous peoples to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Crystal additionally cited Article 32 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples, which declares Indigenous rights to determine and direct priorities for use of land and resources that fall within or affect their territories.

34,773 of the 38,972 square kilometers of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s traditional territory as been leased to oil and gas and is suffering the cumulative impacts of removal of forests, soil loss, oil pollution, toxic spills, run off, and disruption of migration patterns, to name but a few.

Contamination of traditional foods, including fish, beaver and moose, is growing threat, with arsenic levels in caribous recently found to be reaching 450 times higher than safe consumption levels.

“They [the government and oil companies] like to talk about ‘reclamation’, essentially trying to give back what was never theirs to take,” Crystal asserted. Despite this, only 0.2% of tar sands extraction lands have seen any type of restoration attempts.

Despite the great loss faced by her community and others across Alberta, Crystal continued on to provide incredible reasons for hope.

“Some of our last remaining forests, the planets biodiversity, rivers, lakes and streams are in Indigenous peoples territories…So in order to fight climate change, stop deforestation and meet sustainable development goals, there is an urgent need to recognize the collective land rights of Indigenous peoples,” Crystal explained, making the case for Indigenous rights as perhaps the most important, effective rights-based legal mechanisms for environmental and social defense.

“Through the rights of Indigenous peoples, we have the last remaining stronghold in protecting our environment.”

Through the ongoing Beaver Lake Cree legal case, Crystal and her colleagues and allies are seeking to demonstrate that Indigenous rights are the strongest possible legally binding strategy to halt the expansion of the tar sands.

“Many communities nations in our territories are moving towards determining what Indigenous economic sovereignty looks like by participating in the Just Transition and launching large renewable energy projections, exercising food security and sovereignty…we are growing and we are producing on our lands, while at the same time continuing to break down legislation that undermines our rights and labels us as bad people for wanting better for our children”

In closing her presentation, Crystal drew attention to the massive fires raging in Alberta, and the social justice components of work to end extraction.

“We need to stop pretending like genocide no longer exists. It continues, it is alive and well in extreme resource extraction. But we are here, as Indigenous people we are here and we are not going anywhere. And we continue to fight because the very essence of who we are is in the land and the water… so our land has not and will never be for sale,” Crystal concluded.

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Aura Tegria Cristancho – Photo by Joan Beard

Aura Tegria Cristancho, young woman leader and representative of the U’wa people of Colombia, spoke next, with Spanish translation by Leo Cerda.

At 18, Aura became the first ever Indigenous U’wa woman to attend university, receiving her law degree and going on to work as the legal advisor for the Asou’Wa Association of the U’wa people. Since then, Aura has worked extensively with EarthRights International, based out of Lima, Peru. In 2014, she traveled across the US to speak with hundreds of people at a host of public presentations, private advocacy meetings and media interviews – working to bring light to Caño Limón pipeline, Magallanes drilling project and other pushes to expand oil and gas drilling in U’wa territory, which has traditionally expanded across five Colombia provinces.

Aura began with reflections based upon the stories and prayers told to her by her grandparents. In the beginning, she recounted, the creator established and created the Earth in equilibrium, and in the heart of the U’wa people, left an original message – instructions to care and protect Mother Earth. Protecting the Earth thus became the mission and center of the U’wa mind, body and spirit.

When oil companies entered their territories, the U’wa knew automatically they had to speak out in defense of the land and had no misunderstanding about the perils of extraction.

The U’wa call oil “ruiria” and explain that this is the source of all plant and animal life, as well as the human spirit.

“For the U’wa, the oil is like the blood of Mother Earth, it is vital to life – if you take out the blood, the whole planet will die, including human beings. In this sense, we must gather our strength and unite in defense of the Earth, in defense of life. All of us together, black, white, Indigenous, old young, all of us,” Aura explained to the audience.

When Occidental Petroleum came to drill the oil from their lands in the 90s, the U’wa protested, stating that they preferred collective suicide than to watch the destruction of their community and lands. It would be a worthier death than at the hands of the exploiters, the U’wa reasoned.

The U’wa people had already witnessed the ruinous results of oil extractions in nearby territories. Their subsequent campaigns, in addition to support from international groups moved by the U’wa’s powerful dedication and message to the world, generated successful results. In 2002, Occidental Petroleum withdrew from U’wa territory. In part, the company claimed this was due economic problems and finding a dry well in an early phase of the project, however it is clear that the ardent protests weighed heavily on their decision. Unfortunately, this key victory was not long lasting and the U’wa have been and are facing many ongoing extraction threats in their territories from the fossil fuel industry.

Despite loses and struggles, Aura stated that the movement is only getting stronger. She and her people are fighting immediate environmental destruction, but also acting and teaching so that ‘little brother’ (the Western world) can come to understand again what life really is, namely the rivers, air, forests and all that sustains us.

On May 12, as Aura spoke to the crowd gathered in New York City, leaders in her community were taking direct action to protect their sacred Zizuma mountain, a critical source of water for the region.

In closing, Aura urged all present to engage with and support their ongoing struggle, and to think deeply on how we can change the dominant cultures way of living with the Earth.

“We need to change ideas around money. You cannot eat money. Without lands and water and territory, money serves no purpose. In this sense, this can be a huge contribution to change from all of us here today, to work to help change this philosophy– to return to the ancestral, the roots, to return to understanding of what is truly important in life – land, water, air and the sky.”

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Leo Cerda and Gloria Ushigua stand in solidarity with the U’wa people in their efforts to protect sacred Zizuma mountain– Photo by Joan Beard

Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation, Oklahoma, Turtle Islands, USA took the floor as the last speaker of the day.

Casey Camp is a Ponca Nation tribal Councilwoman, Indigenous Environmental Network representative and WECAN Advisory Council member, amidst many other roles. She is a long-time Native rights activist, environmentalist, actress and traditional Drumkeeper for the Ponca Pa-tha-ta, Woman’s Scalp Dance Society, working to maintain the cultural identity of the Ponca Nation for herself, her family and her community. Casey has been at the forefront of grassroots community efforts to educate and empower both Native and non-Native community members on environmental and civil rights issues. In 2008 Camp-Horinek, as a delegate of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), was chosen to speak to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and present IEN’s global platform regarding the environment and Native rights. Since then, she has led and participated in countless international and local actions, events and high level policy forums around climate justice, Indigenous rights and care for the Earth. Recently, she embarked on a journey as a leader of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact.

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Casey Camp Horinek – Photo by Joan Beard

Casey began by commending and sharing her love with the young women who spoke before her; “I could rest, but I am not going to!” she laughed.

Casey told of the genocide inflicted upon her people, including days of forced removal, boarding schools, relocation and five signed and broken treaty’s. Like Kandi and Crystal, Casey likened the modern boom in fracking to a continuation of these genocidal and colonial processes.

Ponca lands in Oklahoma are now surrounded by underground toxic waste storage facilities, drilling rigs and a “nexus” of pipelines carrying oil across the US and down from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Taking out a piece of paper, Casey explained that seven earthquakes had already happened in Oklahoma that very day. She reported 128 in the last thirty days and 2,388 in last year – all man-made and all directly linked to fracking injection wells, of which there are over 10,000 in the state.

Recently, Oklahoma’s new governor passed a law preventing communities within the state from passing local fracking moratoriums. In response, Casey, along with other leaders in her community, are working to organize the Ponca Nation to use their sovereign Indigenous rights to pass a resolution that stops injection wells, and puts a ban on fracking and dewatering.

The resolution points out that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are the trustees of the Ponca Nation and its members, “with a fiduciary duty to protect tribal trust property and trust resources”, including federally reserved Indian water rights to a satisfactory supply of quality water.

Thus far, the BIA does not have a policy on fracking, injection wells and dewatering operations to guide the leasing of Ponca lands or to guide BIA approval of assignments of existing oil and gas leases for extraction. Even though there is not a policy in place, the BIA has been approving leases already, not taking into account Indian water rights or the public safety of the Ponca Nation and its members, amongst other destructive outcomes.

The BIA has also not obtained Free, Prior and Informed Consent from the Ponca Nation according to Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Upon these points and others, the Ponca Nation has called for a moratorium on fracking in their territories to override the Oklahoma governors law, and have requested that the BIA to design a plan to protect the Ponca Nation water rights, in direct consultation with the Ponca Nation.

In pursuing due implementation of Indigenous Rights– the Ponca and other Indigenous communities offer a strong, tangible solution that will protect them and their non-Indigenous neighbors. Casey is confident that their method of protection will hold up in a court of law when they have the means to carry their work forward to the courts.

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Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation) speaks with allies at the start of ‘Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Solutions’ – Photo by Joan Beard

Casey closed with reflections on the “cellular memory” and DNA of her people and all Indigenous people as fundamentally tied to the land.

“We are willing to do anything we have to do to protect our Mother, and to protect all that she provides us with.”

She held up a cup of water, “the guest of honor”, and asked why negotiators and ‘leaders’ in United Nations were not willing to sit with a cup of oil in front of them to quench their thirst as they negotiate the fate of the climate.

Casey’s last words that brought home a vital theme highlighted by all event speakers;

“We [Indigenous peoples] got your back – so what you need to do is jump on board and demand the implementation of the declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples, because we are going to save your ‘you know what’s’…Our issues are your issues, we really can’t separate them, and that is why we are here today… we understand the same air flows around Mother Earth, the same rain comes in the thunders and down the streams – the same breath, everything is within us and we share it all.”

Osprey of WECAN International moderated a Question and Answer session, and then closed the event with words on supporting Indigenous allies, and solidarity with the global #KeepItInTheGround and #BreakFree movement. 

“Break Free from infringements on Indigenous rights

Break Free 

Break Free from patriarchy

Break Free

Break Free from the commodification of Nature

Break Free

Break Free from sacrifice zones

Break Free 

Break Free from colonization

Break Free

 Break Free from fossil fuels

Break Free”

Special thanks to Harriet Sugarman of ClimateMama and all the amazing NYC volunteers for their tremendous support of this event.

Additional Event Photos by Joan Beard:

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Speakers and allies stand in solidarity with the U’wa people in their efforts to protect sacred Zizuma mountain– Photo by Joan Beard

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Crystal Lameman presents on tar sands extraction and Indigenous rights and community mobilization in Alberta, Canada – Photo via Harriet Shugarman

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Aura Tegria Cristancho speaks on the situation of the U’wa people of Colombia. Pictured with Leo Cerda (Kichwa of Tena, Ecuador; Amazon Watch) – Photo by Joan Beard

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Event attendees stand to demand immediate action to #KeepItInTheGround – Photo by Joan Beard

Uplifting Rights of Nature to Protect Our Living Earth: 2016 WECAN Training Recap

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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Living forests of the Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo by Emily Arasim

For just and effective climate change solutions, we must transform dominant economic, legal, social, political and cultural frameworks surrounding our relationship with each other and the living Earth.

On April 25, 2016, activists, educators, students, mothers and many other diverse allies joined together to explore this vital concept via an open online training, ‘Rights of Nature: Protecting and Defending the Places We Live’, presented by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International.

Over the course of the training, presenters Shannon Biggs (Movement Rights) and Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN) shared the paradigm-shifting work of Rights of Nature, and explained how it is already being used around the US and the world to challenge legal systems based on exploitation of the Earth, and instead usher in a new set of frameworks based upon the inherent rights and natural laws of Mother Earth.

Osprey Orielle Lake began the training by presenting an overview of the dynamic international Rights of Nature movement.

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WECAN presents at a Rights of Nature press conference in Paris during the UN 2015 COP21 Climate Negotiations. Pictured left to right: Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network), Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN) and Pablo Solon (Fundación Solón) – Photo by Emily Arasim

Osprey is the Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, working internationally with grassroots and Indigenous leaders, policymakers and scientists to mobilize women for climate justice, resilient communities, systemic change, and a just transition to a clean energy future. Osprey serves as co-Chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and as a member of the Bay Area Alliance for the Rights of Nature, acting as a judge and secretariat at numerous Rights of Nature Tribunals and events in recent years. She is the author of the award-winning book, ‘Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature’.

For Osprey and WECAN International, encountering Rights of Nature was a breakthrough, defining moment which allowed the organization to begin to address climate change at the deep systemic level that crisis of this magnitude demands – a level that confronts and calls for changes in our entire way of being, from the personal to the political.

“Rights of Nature is a revolutionary and evolutionary concept – which at the heart, at a very deep level, can address the dysfunctional economic and legal frameworks that are currently destroying people and planet,” Osprey began.

“After decades of environmental protection laws, which have had some notable successes, we can see that modern legal frameworks overwhelmingly fail to prevent the threats of climate change, degradation of our ecosystems and the growing displacement of humans and other species. So to live sustainably, we really need to change the very DNA of our legal frameworks,” she continued.

Osprey explained that the vast majority of modern legal frameworks treat nature as property, meaning that life giving forests, mountains, rivers and lakes can be sold, consumed and devastated under the protection of trade, property rights and commerce laws.

Because the Earth is treated as property, it has no legal standing of it’s own, rendering violations and harms to the Earth invisible in the modern ‘justice’ system.

“Yes we have environmental laws, but who is writing them? Yes we have regulation, but they are just giving limits to pollution, not attempting to halt it.”

“It is clear that we cannot solve this crisis by further subjecting the Earth to the very same system and worldview that caused this crisis,” she explained, outlining how capitalism and extractive modern economies inherently and by their very nature rely upon this legalized ownership of the Earth.

According to Osprey, the consequences of dominant legal frameworks reach deeper than just empowerment of destructive economics and failure to protect the growing threats of climate change.

“In adhering to current structures of law, we are furthering a dangerous human relationship with the natural world, and a vision of exploitation that cannot be allowed to continue. It all comes from, and continues to support this old paradigm, based in patriarchy and colonialism. A paradigm of ‘dominion over’ – dominion over women, dominion over the Earth, and dominion over Indigenous cultures. This is why at WECAN our four founding principles are the Rights of Women, the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Rights of Nature and the Rights of Future Generations. ”

“Just as we recognize that it is wrong for men to consider women property, we really need to have an entirely different legal configuration that recognizes that Earth’s living systems are not the property of humans,” she continued.

Osprey went on to share inspiring news – action to challenge dominant systems of law and usher in a vision of rights and respect for the living Earth is not just theoretical, but rather is being put into action by a growing body of organizations, communities and countries.

Countries like Bolivia and Ecuador have adopted Rights of Nature measures within their national constitutions (albeit with serious problems in implementation). In New Zealand, a river has been giving legal rights and standing. Across the US and beyond, communities are passing local Rights of Nature ordinances to stop fracking, GMO’s, corporate theft of water and much more.

“Rights of Nature is a tool to directly stop corporate activities by raising human and Earth rights above those of the corporations,” Osprey emphasized, “We can change our laws, and we have the right to do that.”

With this strong vision, Rights of Nature thus emerges as a tool to challenge extractive industries, corrupt trade deals, carbon trading and false climate solutions, while also opening a door for personal and collective return to a life affirming relationship with the Earth.

“There is a real need to also change our fundamental personal values and what we uphold as meaningful in our lives…In this sense the development and implementation of Rights of Nature is best understood as a deep and necessary shift in our human understanding of our tie to Earth, as well as a change in legal and economic structures. It is about changing our values, our laws and our culture at the same time.”

In closing her presentation, Osprey highlighted a parallel and deeply interconnected movement from Indigenous leaders of South America.

“‘Sumak Kawsi’ or ‘Buen Vivir’, ‘good living’ has been described by Indigenous allies in many ways, including living in ecological and economic balance; harmony in relationships; personal and collective growth appropriate to local conditions; good health; living well in community, including the larger ecologic community; and a worldview centered on a “living cosmos that we are part and particle of.”

Sumak Kawsi is a worldview poised to helping bring life and actualization to the critical ideas encompassed within Rights of Nature.

Another avenue through which Rights of Nature are being put into action is International Rights of Nature Tribunals, a growing body of events in which expert judges and witnesses try diverse cases of Earth rights violations to demonstrate how Rights of Nature could be implemented, and the incredible momentum and results that can be engendered by their use. Osprey closed with a short video on the recent Tribunal in Paris during COP21 climate negotiations.

As the enchanting final words of Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation) closed the video, Shannon Biggs took the floor.

Shannon Biggs is the Co-Founder and Director of Movement Rights, an organization born in 2015 out of 12 years of work with Global Exchange, where she served as Director of Development before beginning the Community and Nature’s Rights Program.

Shannon is a leading international speaker, author and activist on the growing movement for Rights of Nature, and is the co-author of two books and many reports, including ‘Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots’ and ‘The Rights of Nature’. She is a lecturer of weekend ‘Democracy Schools’ that explore the rights-based framework for change, and leads Rights of Nature trainings around the country and world.

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Shannon Biggs presents on fracking as a violation of the Rights of Nature at the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris during COP21

Shannon began her presentation my framing two critical questions – ‘What would it look like to live in a world in which the Rights of Nature are upheld?’ and more importantly, ‘How do we get there?’.

Shannon’s reply to the second question was short and powerful; “System change starts where you live.”

Through Movement Rights and other allied organizations, Shannon is working to build towards system change by “shifting law and culture”.

Her works sits at the intersection of Rights of Nature and community rights, focused on helping communities take back power in their locale by writing new laws that recognize their right to protect the Earth and determine what happens in their community, effectively placing their rights and Earth Rights over the supposed ‘rights’ of corporations.

“We are told that things like fracking, or dams or water withdrawals or the many other things that makes our homes sacrifice zones, we are told that we don’t have the ability to say no to say to those things,” Shannon explained.

“…but the kind of rights we are talking about are not gifts from governments, the kind of rights we are talking about are inalienable – the right to clean water, clean air… We cannot give these away and this is not something the government can grant us.”

“So our work is about changing the rules. If the law is standing in the way of us protecting our children, protecting our families, protecting Nature – then it is time to change the law and change where decisions are made.”

“Imagine, for example, what would it look like for the Gulf coast if the ecosystem had rights in a court of law to sure BP for full restoration? How quickly would we have changed how deep sea drilling is done, or if it is done at all?” she questioned.

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Shannon Biggs and Osprey Orielle Lake pictured in front of open hydraulic fracking flares in North Dakota, USA – Photo by Emily Arasim

Shannon framed law as “how we use power to make real a worldview”. Currently, law is empowering a worldview based on patriarchy, rights and dominion over the Earth and endless material growth, but this need not be the case. In challenging and changing law, we break down structures of power and dangerous worldviews.

“History shows us again and again that culture changes law, and law in turn broadly changes culture,” Shannon explained, drawing attention to Right of Nature as a continuation of the trajectory of past peoples movement for rights, including movements to abolish slavery and fight for women’s rights.

Shannon also spoke deeply to the centrality of Indigenous rights and leadership within the context of Rights of Nature.

“This is a time for Indigenous leadership. This is about learning from the original instructions… and this is what we need most desperately – how do we begin to restore our relationship with the Earth – in our mind states, laws and cultures?” she reflected.

“Indigenous people are standing up at this time, all around the world, to showcase how to protect the Earth. They are the defenders and protectors of the most biodiverse places on Earth, and from them we have so much to learn about how to live in balance. As part of Rights of Nature we must support global communities to make sure that Indigenous lands stay in Indigenous hands.”

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Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca, Oklahoma) and Gloria Ushigua Santi (Sapara, Ecuador) standing in mutual solidarity in Paris for the COP 21 (in front of their respective portraits by Mona Caron. Photo via Movement Rights.

Shannon closed by sharing the case of Tamaqua Borough, Pennsylvania, USA, the first global community to enact a local Rights of Nature ordinance.

In the face of attempts to fill a nearby mine site with contaminated sludge, citizens organized successfully to create a local law declaring the right of the ecosystem to be free from further contamination. Since this 2006 victory, the movement has spread quickly.

“What started as a ripple in the pond in Tamaqua Borough went to Ecuador, to Bolivia, to New Zealand, to India and it also came back to countless small communities who began asking ‘how can we do that here?’.”

Shannon noted that most Tamaqua Borough residents did not necessarily see themselves as environmental defenders, or as beings spiritually connected to the Earth, but rather saw Rights of Nature as a practical and effective tool for community, home and land protection.

“This is very important to consider as we explore how this movement can grow and spread. We must meet and start where people are.”

Nonetheless, Shannon explained that recognizing Rights of Nature and the legal standing of the Earth does ultimately means taking responsibility for our personal stewardship, recognizing that we are part and parcel of the Earth, and involving ourselves in organizing and action to defend and ensure that her rights are effectively and justly upheld once recognized.

Shannon closed by sharing information about the Bay Area ‘What Would The Delta Say? Rights of Tribunal’, held in April 2016 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Tribunal was used as a stage to discuss and try corporate and state actors seeking to build tunnels to take water from Northern to Southern California to spur development and continued fracking and oil drilling.

“Through the Tribunal we want to give a voice to the Delta ecosystem. It is an opportunity for the fish to speak, for the marshes to speak, for us to truly look at how this affects the people and ecosystems of the Delta. It is an opportunity to pursue environmental justice and to envision a world in which rights were upheld.”

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Mobilizing to protect the Bay Area Delta. Photo via Movement Rights.

In closing the training, Osprey framed Rights of Nature as a powerful tool to take back power in our communities, reassert our democracy, and challenge corrupt ‘1%’ governance structures facilitating environmental and social abuses around the world.

The training ended with a fascinating Questions and Answer session in which participants delved into topics including the applicability of Rights of Nature to movements to protect seeds, farmers rights, and stop GMOs; connection between Rights of Nature and work to defend and support land defenders; Rights of Nature as an element of preparations and community capacity developments for Treaty negotiations of Indigenous peoples in US, Canada and beyond; problems with commodification of the Earth and assigning monetary value to ecosystem functions; and reflections on identity, “deep and ancient reciprocal relationship” and our sacred interconnection with the Earth.

More information about this and other recent WECAN US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Education and Advocacy trainings available here.

Rights of Nature Training Resources (shared by presenters and training participants):

 

 

Women In Defense Of Territories, From Their Bodies – Mujeres En Defense De Territorios Desde Sus Cuerpos

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Women land and community defenders of the Ecuadorian Amazon stand for justice and an end to oil extraction during an International Women’s Day March – March 8, 2016 – Photo by Emily Arasim

English – WOMEN IN DEFENSE OF TERRITORIES, FROM THEIR BODIES

Throughout memory and history, women have always fought shoulder to shoulder, weaving movements, building roads and reducing inequalities

By Kiyomi Nagumo, WECAN Coordinator for the Latin America/Caribbean Region

National commitments made under the Paris Agreement, aiming to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and avoid climate crisis, focus on providing mechanisms for adaptation and mitigation, and work to quantify losses and damages. Structures of global governance have the same focus, hoping that participating countries will meet their goals and objective.

Global activists however, are demanding systemic change, a transition of our energy models and above all, an end to exploitation of natural resources and intensive production systems, all with focus on gender equity and equality, inter-generational justice, respect for Indigenous territories, Indigenous rights, human rights, and a guarantee of access to participation and climate justice for all.

Despite all this – countries like Honduras, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Peru have opened their development policies in favor transnational corporations under the structure of overexploitation of natural resources and the opening of its tropical forests for exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons, construction of mega energy projects, etc. These energy policies pollute, emit high levels of greenhouse gases, and critically violate fundamental rights of Indigenous peoples and rights of women and their communities, causing environmental disasters, generating environmental violence and deeply affecting Mother Earth.

It is these same women who are violated that come to fight for respect for themselves and their territories – seeking equality and the reduction of inequalities, and working to create real governance regarding the management and conservation of natural resources located in their territories. They are the ones who have come repeatedly to the defense of water, forests, and the biodiversity of their lands, ecosystems, communities and peoples.

From the core of their bodies, out from under the social and familial roles ascribed to them by a patriarchal system, women have raised their voices, have mobilized, organized, revealed and fought, but they still too often remain violated, silenced, intimidated, arrested, raped and murdered.

So to talk about a systemic change necessitates self-questioning and questioning of others; if these development policies disguise themselves as global governance and exert themselves above local territories and rights – how will they affect and violate women and their environment?

Español – MUJERES, EN DEFENSA DE LOS TERRITORIOS DESDE SUS CUERPOS

Desde la memoria y la historia, las mujeres siempre han luchado hombro a hombro, tejiendo movimiento, construyendo caminos, disminuyendo desigualdades

Por Kiyomi Nagumo –  Cordinadora Regional Latino America y el Caribe

Los compromisos nacionales adquiridos bajo el acuerdo de París, con el objetivo de disminuir las emisiones de los gases de efecto invernadero y evitar una crisis climática, enfocadas aportando con mecanismos de adaptación y mitigación, así como cuantificar las perdidas y daños. La gobernanza global, se centra en estos mismos con la esperanza de cumplir las metas y objetivos adquiridos por los países participantes.

Activistas del mundo reclaman un cambio sistémico, una transición de los modelos energéticos y sobre todo, evitar la sobre explotación de los recursos naturales y sistemas productivos intensivos; enfocados en la equidad e igualdad de genero y generacional, respeto a los territorios indígenas, derechos humanos e indígenas y sobre todo garantizar el acceso a la participación y justicia climática.

Países como Honduras, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brasil y Perú han abierto sus políticas de desarrollo en favor a empresas transnacionales bajo la estructura de sobre aprovechamiento de sus recursos naturales y la apertura de sus selvas tropicales para la exploración y extracción de hidrocarburos, construcción de mega proyectos energéticos, etc. Estas políticas energéticas contaminantes y altamente emisoras de gases de efecto invernadero, violan derechos fundamentales sobre todo de indígenas, derechos de las mujeres y sus comunidades, ocasionando desastres ambientales, generando violencia ambiental y afectando a la madre tierra.

Son las mismas mujeres, las que salen a la lucha por el respeto de ellas y sus territorios buscando la igualdad, la disminución de inequidades, y conseguir una verdadera gobernanza sobre el manejo y conservación de los recursos naturales ubicados en sus territorios. Son quienes han salido a la defensa del agua, los bosques, y la biodiversidad de sus tierras, ecosistemas, comunidades y sus pueblos.

Desde sus cuerpos, con las cargas sociales y familiares de un sistema patriarcal, que les son atribuidas como roles, las mujeres han levantado sus voces, se han movilizado, organizado, revelado y luchado, pero aun así siguen siendo vulneradas, acalladas, amedrentadas, arrestadas, violentadas y asesinadas.

Entonces, para hablar de un cambio sistémico es necesario auto-cuestionarse y cuestionar; sí las políticas de desarrollo se disfrazan de gobernanza global y estas se sobreponen a la territorialidad, a los derechos, y cómo éstas afectan y vulneran a las mujeres y a su entorno.

#MujeresPorLaSelva – Indigenous Women of Ecuador Stand for an Amazon Free from Extraction on International Women’s Day

 Text and photos by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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Indigenous women of the Ecuadorian Amazon mach together in defense of the Earth and their communities on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016

On March 8, cries, cheers, shouts and drum beats rang out in the air of Puyo, Ecuador, the streets pulsing with the movement and steady steps of over 500 Indigenous women leaders and international allies, standing together to denounce a new oil contracts recently signed between the Ecuadorian government and Chinese oil corporation Andes Petroleum.

Women leaders from seven diverse nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, including the Andoa, Achuar, Kichwa, Shuar, Shiwiar, Sapara and Waorani nationalities had decided to unite on International Women’s Day 2016 with the expressed purpose of drawing attention to the dire social and ecologic implications of these new oil contracts, while calling for respect for Indigenous rights and the lives and just solutions of local women leaders, who’ve consistently put their bodies on the line to stop destruction across the Ecuadorian Amazon.

International Women’s Day events and actions began with a powerful forum at a central school and community center.

Women from across the region and their male allies, from toddlers and youth to honored elders, packed the open air auditorium, filled with anticipation as speakers gathered on stage, colorful banners were strung from the roof, and signs with statements such as ‘Femicide = ecocide – No persecution of women defending Pachamama ’, ‘We want the state to hear us – Andes Petroleum out of our territories’ and ‘They want to criminalize me for protecting my territory‘ were distributed throughout the crowd.

To join the day of action in the jungle town of Puyo, many women had walked, canoed and bused from deep within the Amazon, some carrying small children on their backs and in their arms, and many dressed in the intricate, unique and sacred clothing and adornments of their peoples.

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Women from across the Ecuadorian Amazon traveled by boat, foot and boat to join events in Puyo

The forum opened with ceremony led in partnership by local women and Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation, Oklahoma, USA Councilwoman Leader and WECAN delegation member and Special Projects Advisor. Following prayers, thanksgiving and welcomes, key women leaders representing all the nationalities present took the stage to share information about recent developments and current extraction threats in their area, and to share traditional songs, dances, wisdom, calls to action and plans for change.

In just one of many inspiring moments, women leaders of the Huaroni people, who hail from the Northern Amazon where oil extraction has already been devastating the land and peoples for years, took the stage to attest that the Huaroni will stand until the end with their sisters of other nationalities in an attempt to protect their rivers, air and soil of the Southern Amazon, much of which remains uncontaminated under the vigilant care of local women leaders.

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Women leaders of seven nationalities shared songs, dances, wisdom and calls for action and unity before the International Women’s Day march

Osprey Orielle Lake of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network and Leila Salazar Lopez of Amazon Watch took to the stage to share words of solidarity from the international community and connecting the day’s march to global struggles of women standing in defense of Mother Earth, and for just climate solutions.

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Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN shares words of solidarity from the international community and highlights the importance of women uniting globally to stand for climate justice and the for protection of the Amazon Rainforest and the Indigenous communities.

Osprey shared that more than 2,000 signatures from 60 countries had been collected on a WECAN petition and statement in support of the International Women’s Day actions and ongoing struggles to protect and defend the Amazon and its diverse communities. She also pledged on behalf of WECAN to work in solidarity with the Indigenous women of the Amazon everyday into the future until threats to the women’s communities and territories have been stopped in their tracks.

WECAN delegation member Casey Camp Horinek also spoke after the series of presentations by Amazonian women, recounting experiences of colonization, discrimination and dire environmental damages at the hands of the fossil fuel industry in her Oklahoma, USA community – with the intent of providing insights and support to the women of the Amazon working to prevent similar mal-development and destruction in their homelands.

A tribute was held in honor of Berta Caceres, the Honduran Indigenous environmental leader killed the previous week over her work defending rights and territories from privatization, plantations, and mega dam projects.

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Leila Salazar Lopez of Amazon Watch and Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN  prepare to march with Huarorani women leaders of the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon

After the series of powerful testaments from regional women leaders and allies, the women began to assemble to march, spilling out of the school and onto the street.

Mujeres Sapara – presente! Mujeres Shuar – presente! Mujeres Kichwa – presente! Mujeres Waroni– presente! Porque mobilizamos? Por la vida! La selva no se vende, la selva se defiende.

Sapara women – present! Shuar women – present! Kichwa women – present! Waroni women – present! Why are we mobilizing? For life! Don’t sell the forest, defend the forest.

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EYoung women of the Kichwa community of Sarayaku lead the March 8 International Women’s Day march in defense of life and the Amazon

An estimated 500 women moved forward through the city with fierce determination, holding children, leaves and plants representing the forest, and signs with powerful statements and heart wrenching photos of oil contamination and flares.

As the march unfolded, the Ecuadorian government and Andes Petroleum convened a meeting in the nearby town of Shell in an attempt to organize an entry into Sapara territory, knowing that key leaders were away from home attending the march. Outraged, a delegation of Sapara returned to Shell to deliver a letter to the meeting, underscoring their opposition to the new oil project and the governments exploitative attempts to divide the community by falsly claiming there was community consent. The Sapara successfully thwarted the plans to enter their lands, and returned to the growing march.

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Scenes from the March 8 International Women’s Day march in Puyo, Ecuador, where more than 500 women from across the Amazon united in defense of the Earth and their communities

“We are here as the Indigenous women of the Ecuadorian Amazon on this day, the 8th of March, because it is an opportunity, with our presence, demonstrating, to leave messages for the whole world that we, the women of the Ecuadorian Amazon do not want petroleum exploitation, we do not want destruction, we want respect for our rights as Indigenous people of the Amazon. So that is why we are here, shouting, angry but happy as well,” explained Rosa Ruiz, a Sapara leader from the community of Torimbo, which is inside the new ‘Block 83’ oil concession.

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Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN and Rosa Ruiz, Sapara leader of Torimbo, Ecuador demand action to keep fossil fuels in the ground across the Amazon and beyond

After hours of marching across the scorching Amazonian city, the women convened again in a central square to raise their voices, share experiences and make plans to protect the Amazon and their diverse communities into the future – vowing to never step down in defense of the living forest and their families and culture.

The following day the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network delegation returned to the capital city of Quito, Ecuador with a van full of Indigenous women leaders and allies from Pachamama Alliance/Terra Matter, strategizing together on the road winding from the edge of the Amazonian plains up switchback curves into the Andean mountains.

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Shuar women leaders march with signs reading ‘Pastaza in danger from extractivist politics’ and ‘Femicide=ecocide – No to the persecution of women defending Pachamama’

The women discussed the critical need to organize ongoing meetings between the women leaders of the seven nationalities and beyond, their conversation underscoring a potency of force and ability to unite across all other divisions seen as lacking amongst male leaders, but displayed brilliantly by the women during the previous day’s march. Plans began to get news and photos of the march and forum out to other women in remote areas to help bring strength and a sense of support to those facing threats and divisions at the hands of extractive industries on a daily basis.

Upon return to Quito, the women presented an evening event, ‘Women of Ecuadorian Amazon and International Allies Stand For Protection of the Amazon Rainforest’ at FLASCO University.

Casey Camp Horinek and Osprey Orielle Lake presented opening talks linking the social, ecologic and climate crisis and detailing the central role of women in just climate solutions from Latin America to North America and across the world.

They then passed the floor to Narcissa Mashenta, Shuar maternal health provider of Morona-Santiago.

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Narcissa Mashenta (Shuar) and Gloria Ushigua (Sapara) present at the FLASCO University event ‘Women of the Ecuadorian Amazon and International Allies Stand for Protection of the Amazon Rainforest’, hosted by WECAN and Terra Matter

“We as Amazonian women, we work to guard our forest, our land, because women feel that we ourselves are Earth, we are forest, and our children must have safe and healthy air to breathe.”

“Take care of the little bit of the pure Amazon that is left to us, that exists in Pastaza and Morona- Santiago and amongst the other nationalities where there is still sacred Earth, the waterfalls, the rivers that are not contaminated, where our children can bathe safely, the waters that our children need, and which their children will also need.”

Her comments were followed by those of Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women, FLASCO university professors and directors, and Belen Paez of Terra Matter who was a central organizer in all the events.

Students, activists, political officials and teachers from Quito and a host of international bodies and Indigenous communities packed the room and engaged in questions and discussion throughout.

Together across borders and communities, allies united this International Women’s Day to stand for the living forest and the women guardians standing for justice for the Earth and their peoples.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network is honored to partner with Amazon Watch who has a 20 year history of  work in the region and with the Sapara people and Kichwa of Sarayaku to expand longtime collaboration – and together to move forward with the momentum of International Women’s Day action to bring forth an end to extraction in the Amazon.

Additional Resources:

WECAN Announces International Women’s Day Delegation in Solidarity with Sápara and Kichwa Women Allies

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Sapara and Kichwa women leaders with allies in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly, September 2015 – Photo by Emily Arasim 

From WECAN’s urgent petition: ‘No Extraction In The Amazon! Women of Ecuadorian Amazon and International Allies Reject Oil Concessions, Stand For Rights of the Earth and Communities’ (Click here to add your signature today!)

In late January, the government of Ecuador signed a contract with Chinese corporation Andes Petroleum, handing over rights for oil exploration and extraction in two controversial Amazonian blocks which overlap the traditional territory of the Sápara and Kichwa peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The Sápara indigenous people are a small, threatened group of only 300, which have official recognition by UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.

Concession plans open up almost a million acres in the center of Ecuador’s road-less southeastern Amazon, where Indigenous communities have successfully prevented extraction for decades. The concession means large swaths of deforestation and irreversible devastation of the forest’s magnificent ecological, social and cultural diversity.

The implications of this contract for the rights and health of local communities and ecosystems, as well as for climate disruption at a global scale, cannot be overstated. Approximately 20 percent of the carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by tropical forests around the world, and this is just one of many critical ecologic functions. Consequently, protecting the Amazon rainforest, the largest of the world’s tropical forests, must be central to environmental and economic policies.

Within this context, Indigenous peoples and their rights must be respected and protected because it is their intimate relationship with their forests and their courageous ongoing struggles to defend their territories that has and will continue to bring about the highest protection of the Amazon rainforest.

The government of Ecuador and China have signed these most recent oil contracts just a month after pledging at the UN COP21 climate negotiations in Paris to take action along with 195 countries to keep global warming below 2.0 degree Celsius. Scientists have stated that we must keep 80% of global fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid climate catastrophe. Oil extraction in the Amazon will contribute to the negation of the Paris Agreement and the demands of science.

Additionally, the Ecuadorian government claims to have consulted the Sápara in accordance with Article 57 of the constitution, which requires Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation (FPIC). However, rather than consult the communities, as Ecuador’s constitution requires, and obtain their consent, which is required under international law, the government has wager a campaign to divide the Sápara. Despite the government’s false claims of community approval and attempts to create its own Sápara federation, the only legitimate federation of th Sápara does not recognize any agreement for access to Sápara territory.

The Sápara people and the Kichwa of Sarayaku have denounced the new contracts as a violation of their fundamental rights, and have made clear their intentions to keep resisting extraction and protecting their rainforest.

In solidarity, WECAN denounces and calls for cancelation of the new oil contract for Block 79 and 83 in the Ecuadorian Amazon; demands action by the government of Ecuador to heed the calls of the Sápara and Kichwa to immediately halt all further exploration and extraction in the Amazon; and calls for international action to expose the rights violations in Ecuador. WECAN also calls for alternative options to be explored by the Ecuadorian government and international community to address oil extraction caused by economic pressures.

Additionally, WECAN expresses urgent concern about the violence against Indigenous women working to protect their territories and their families and cultures.

Click here to read and sign the full petition, including poignant declarations directly from the Indigenous women Earth defenders of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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Oil extraction in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo by Emily Arasim

Action and Delegation Details

As part of an ongoing response to current events in Ecuador (detailed in our petition), the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International, in collaboration with Amazon Watch, is organizing a Delegation to Ecuador for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016.

We will join our Amazonian women allies at forums, marches and press conferences, uniting in solidarity to denounce to the dire threats facing the living systems of the Amazon and it’s Indigenous communities as a result of the Ecuadorian governments new oil contract with Andes Petroleum.

In particular, the WECAN delegation will stand with and work to bring light to the stories, struggles and solutions of the Sápara and Kichwa women, who continue to put their bodies on the line to defend the rights of their communities and the health and wellbeing of the planet for generations to come.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network delegation will consist of Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Executive Director), Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation leader, WECAN Special Projects Advisor, Representative of the Indigenous Women of the Americas: Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact 2015, signed between Indigenous women of the US and Canada, and women of the Sapara and Kichwa people of Ecuador) and Emily Arasim (WECAN Media and Communications). WECAN is very honored that Casey Camp Horinek will be joining us to share her critical leadership and knowledge and to continue to build a powerful link between Indigenous women of the North and South.

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Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women, speaks on the situation in her homeland at the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris, France, December 2015 – Photo by Emily Arasim

The delegation will commence on March 6/7 in Quito, Ecuador where WECAN will host strategy sessions before departure to Puyo, east-central Ecuador.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Delegation, in solidarity with Indigenous Sápara women and the Kichwa of Sarayaku, will help organize and participate in a direct action, march, press conference and forum in Puyo, working to bring international attention to the grave and intertwined social and ecological threats posed by expanding oil extraction in the Amazon, with particular focus on the dual violations against Indigenous women, and their powerful resistance and solutions building.

On March 9, the WECAN Delegation and several of the Indigenous women leaders will travel back to Quito to hold a press conference with the assistance of local allies, highlighting the movement of women coming to Ecuador for International Women’s Day in solidarity with the Sapara and Kichwa women, and making it known that the world’s eyes are on Ecuador to cancel recent oil contracts in recognition of the Rights of the Indigenous communities of the Amazon, the Rights of Nature, and the vital importance of protecting the Rainforest as a climate change mitigation imperative.

Through WECAN outreach, United Nations representatives have been made aware of and invited to participate in the Ecuador Delegation. Regardless of their attendance, they will be petitioned to write letters in support of the Kichwa and Sapara women, for presentation in Ecuador by the Delegation. WECAN International will additionally compose and send letters to international leaders calling for support and intervention.

WECAN is also engaged in conversations with allies about alternative solutions to addressing Ecuador’s pressure to drill for oil.

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Rainforests of the Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo by Emily Arasim

WECAN is asking global women and allies to circulate blogs/statements/news resources, add their name to the signature campaign, plan/participate in global solidarity events, and/or share photos/message of solidarity on social media. WECAN will be hosting a  network-wide call in advance of the delegation, to further inform and engage global women allies to take action.

In the Bay Area, California, WECAN US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Steering Committee member, Pennie Opal Plant of Movement Rights and Idle No More SF Bay Area, will organize and lead a parallel action on March 8th.

Throughout the time on-the-ground in Ecuador, WECAN will conduct video and print interviews with Sapara and Kichwa women and document the marches and actions taking place in Puyo. Videos and interviews will be published and shared internationally following the delegation, and will potentially be incorporated into a larger documentary on women and climate struggles and solutions.

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Please contact WECAN Communications Coordinator, Emily, at emily@wecaninternational.org with questions, comments and media requests.

Women for Climate Justice Call for Rejection of New Oil Contracts in Ecuadorian Amazon

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The Ecuadorian government has just signed a contract with Chinese corporation Andes Petroleum, handing over rights for oil exploration and extraction in two controversial Amazonian blocks which overlap the traditional territory of the Sápara and Kichwa peoples.

Concession plans open up almost a million acres in the center of Ecuador’s roadless southeastern Amazon, where indigenous communities have successfully prevented extraction for over two decades. The concession means large swaths of deforestation and irreversible devastation of the forest’s magnificent social and cultural diversity. In light of the fact that global rainforests, of which the Amazon is the largest, absorb upwards of 20% of fossil fuel emission – the implications of this contract for global climate disruption cannot be overstated.

The Sápara and the Kichwa of Sarayaku have denounced the new contract as a violation of their fundamental rights, and have made clear their intentions to keep resisting extraction and protecting the Living Forest.

WECAN reaffirms our unyielding commitment of support and collaboration with the Sápara and Kichwa peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon. In particular, we stand with and wish to draw attention to the stories, struggles and solutions of the Sápara and Kichwa women, who continue to put their bodies on the line to defend the rights of their communities and the health and wellbeing of the planet for generations to come.

We are here in solidarity and in defense of the forests, peoples and lifeways that have lived in harmony with the Amazon for millennia. We demand that this latest oil concession be revoked, and that the Ecuadorian government heed the calls of the Sápara and Kichwa people to move immediately towards an end to extraction in the Amazon.

Click here to sign an urgent statement to Minister Poveda, hosted on the webpage of our partners at Amazon Watch.

For Earth & Future Generations: Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change, Paris

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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On December 7, 2015, women from around the world united at ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Paris’, a Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network event held in parallel to United Nations COP21 climate negotiations.

In holding with tradition, WECAN began the event by honoring the peoples of the land on which event presenters and participants stood. Osprey Orielle Lake, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Executive Director, presented a gift and opened the floor to Josefina Skerk, Vice-President of the Sami Parliament of Sweden, who offered a traditional Sami welcome on behalf of the Indigenous peoples of Europe.

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“We are all bound to each other, and we are all bound to Nature,” Josefina reflected, “As Indigenous peoples, the bond that we have to Nature is that of a family member, it is someone that does not have to be vocal for you to understand them. And right now our family member, our mother, our Nature is screaming. But thanks to people like you and me who are speaking out, taking action and working together to build strong alliances against this exploitation, there is hope. We are becoming joined in a beautiful weave.”

Sally Ranney, co-Founder of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network took the floor, sharing thoughts on consumerism, personal responsibility, and the imperative of changing our cultural narratives.

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Sally Ranney (Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network)

“We are experiencing a wake up call, both internally, for our internal journeys and decision making protocol, and for our global decision making protocol. Climate change asks us to look really deeply at what are values are, and these are the kind of discussion that aren’t happening inside COP21,” Sally explained, handing the mike back to WECAN co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake for a critical analysis and foundation for subsequent panels and presentation.

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Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network)

“It is not a time to be timid, we are not in a rehearsal but rather in a truly a transformative moment,” Osprey began, noting that COP21 discussions and emissions cuts happening simultaneously just outside of Paris remained absolutely insufficient, “There is no later date – the time is irrefutable now, so we are calling for radical change and I want to bring that forward today,”

“There needs to be an understanding that there is a systemic link between the climate crisis, our economic model, and the ongoing exploitation and disempowerment of women,” she continued, outlining why women are impacted first and worst by climate change, but more importantly, why women are key to climate justice and global peace making.

“To address systemic problems, women are advocating for and implementing models of collective ownership of the plants, the forests – they are working to localize their economies… they are already demonstrating alternative plans and policies, small scale solutions with very large impacts.”

“There is something else that women are bringing to the conversation that really cannot be left out as we face massive loss of life, species extinction, and the increasing threats of climate change, and that is our emotional and spiritual intelligence. Healing our seeming disconnect to Mother Earth is a solution, and women’s voices are central to this.”

Osprey drew attention to the critical leadership of Indigenous women across the globe – framing their struggles and solutions as one of the most critical untold stories of the climate crisis.

“We are Mother Earth’s immune system – standing up together to protect and defend and heal her. Through our collective networks, we are calling for system change, not climate change. We need climate justice, and we need to have the courage to change everything about how we are living with each other and the Earth,” Osprey concluded, bringing the first group of outstanding women leaders to the stage for the ‘Women Speak from the Frontlines of Climate Change’ panel.

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Pictured right to left: Kandi Mossett, Josefina Skerk, Eriel Deranger and Thilmeeza Hussain

Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara), Climate and Energy Campaign Organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network of North Dakota, Turtle Island, USA spoke first – sharing immensely powerful words on what is happening in her homeland, and on the connections between capitalism, colonization, and violations of women and the Earth.

“This is COP21 – they have been doing this for 21 years… the truth is that women and Indigenous peoples have the answers, if you would just listen to us and stop telling us what is best for us. You cannot expect to take and take and take and never give back.”

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Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network)

“Without balance we will destroy ourselves, and I think that is why women are leading the movement… women have always played a central role in the balance of life and livelihoods…look at the COP21 and what you’ll see is primarily a room full of older white males in suits making decisions on our behalf. My two and a half year old daughter is at home and has no idea about the decisions they are making for her, we must think about the next generation and the seventh generation. ”

Kandi’s spoke on her experiences in North Dakota, where fracking has exploded and brought dire environmental threats and a host of social injustice to her communities’ doorstep. She looked to the roots of escalating pollution, cancer, violent crime, drug use, and sexual assaults and sex trafficking – which all lie in the rapidly expanding toxic industry.

“We need to use the gifts that shine down on us almost everyday from the sun, the wind that blows in our face… So my message to the leaders that are listening, if they are listening, is to use your common sense. Get away from these ideas of greed and power – because when they are sitting around in a torn up world and everything around them is polluted, they will not be able to drink their oil and they will not be able to eat their money.”

Josefina Skerk, Vice President of the Sami Parliament in Sweden, took the floor again to share more on her peoples, lands and the stark climate impacts being felt there.

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Josefina Skerk (Sami Parliment)

Josefina explained that a two-degree temperature increase in most regions results in an eight degree rise in the far North, and that the traditional life and livelihood of the her people is already directly threatened and changing rapidly due to fragile ice and warming ecosystems. The Sami have persevered through intense discrimination and forced sterilization as recently as the 1970’s and 80’s – but now climate change is bringing new threats to their very existence itself.

“We are not strawberry jam, a wise Sami women once said…we do not want to be preserved,” Josefina stated to a resounding applause and calls of solidarity from the audience and fellow presenters.

“However through global work and though connecting with Indigenous people and others – through raising our voices – we are truly finding a way forward. There are demonstrations, there are protests and what we see is leaders taking their place, and they are normally Sami women from our society,”

“I do not know where the men are,” she laughed, “but I do know that women are fighting back and I see the strength of this. Raising our voices is immensely effective.”

Eriel Deranger, Communications Manager of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Treaty 8 Territory in Northern Alberta, Canada spoke next, bringing critical light to the importance of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous women’s climate solutions.

“Despite centuries of colonization and attempted assimilation, we have persevered and we have survived. Now, in 2015, it is time to abandon patriarchal and colonial ideologies… we have always been here, we have not been discovered. … we cannot move forward to a just and balanced society if we do not unpack these systems of patriarchy and colonization that have brought us to where we are today.”

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Eriel Deranger (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation)

Eriel continued, “We are seeing a merging of movement, and it is imperative. The environmental movement, the Indigenous rights movement, they are coming together because we have a common goal – the protection and preservation of the lands, of Mother Earth, of the places that have given us life and bred cultures that have persevered… I have no intention of stepping down – I will stand up to every government so that my children know who they are, so that my children can go back to the Delta and eat the fish and caribou and moose and know who they are. Without the strong voices of the women on the frontlines of climate change, without the strong voices of Indigenous women on the frontlines – we would not have a hope, so I want to pay homage to the strong women, all the strong women, I raise my hands up to you.”

Eriel passed the floor to Thilmeeza Hussain, Founder of Voice of Women, Maldives, who offered a jolting testimony based in her experience as a woman of a highly climate vulnerable small island nation.

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Thilmeeza Hussain (Voice of Women Maldives)

“We need to look beyond the negotiations, beyond the text – we need to put a human face on what is going on – we need to understand what is really at stake. Lives are at stake, we are loosing lives, people are dying – that is what is at stake… how many lives are we willing to sacrifice before we act on climate change? How many dead bodies should we serve on a gold platter to these oil corporations before we can satisfy their greed and move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy?”

Thilmeeza continued, “as mothers, as women, as sisters – as responsible citizens of this world – we cannot afford to watch our children be killed by climate change, we need to look beyond Paris and insure our governments are held accountable for the promises made here… we need to take strength from each other and move forward, we cannot afford to look back.”

Patricia Gualinga, Indigenous Kichwa leader of Sarayaku, Ecuador took the stage as the afternoon’s first keynote speaker. Patricia spoke on the struggle and victory of her people, who have campaigned and successfully prevented oil extraction in their territories in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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Patricia Gualinga (Sarayaku, Ecuador) with translation by Leila Salazar-López (Amazon Watch)

“Our people, our women are determined that there will be no oil extraction in our territory, there will be no mining or industrial development. For this reason, we can say that we are already combatting climate change,”

Patricia spoke to the role of women in this vital work, to the need for strengthened global solidarity, and on the Kawsak Sacha ‘Living Forests’ proposal, her communities integral plan for a just and sustainable future. She framed the global climate crisis as fundamentally rooted in Western thought’s division of the material from the spiritual, and its loss of vision surrounding the profound interconnection of humans and the Earth.

“There is much worry about regarding what the governments are doing [inside COP21]… in many ways it pains me, they are so isolated – have you noticed how they drive in blacked out cars, how they hold meetings in these very cold sites that are so cut off from contact with reality? They have imprisoned themselves in their own heads in some ways, and they are the ones making decisions about the planet. We need to be very worried – if they are generating laws that don’t include us, with which we have never agreed, then we do not have any reason to obey them. If they are going to destroy the planet, it is our responsibility to resist them.”

Patricia continued with words of hope and unity;

“Now is not the time to see social classes, or colors or different languages – now is the time to transform ourselves, it is time to see each other as brothers and sisters. It is the time to understand and the time to change…. This is not a matter for Indigenous peoples, this is not a matter for just those who are out on the front fighting every day against oil concessions in our territories. This is an issue for everyone – respect Indigenous rights, respect the integrity of our lives, of future generations. In this we are all united, and if we are just one more everyday, then we can generate change,”

After concluding the translation from Spanish, Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, provided closing comments contextualizing why it is imperative that we work with communities like Sarayaku to protect the Amazon, and sharing the newly released document, ‘Keep It In The Ground: A Declaration for the Health of Mother Earth‘.

Fleur Newman, Programme Officer and UNFCCC Gender Focal Point representing the UNFCCC Secretariat, spoke next after having listened to the first panel.

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Fleur Newman (UNFCCC Secretariat)

Fleur presented an overview of her role within the UNFCCC, and the various programs and mechanisms around women and climate change that she helps facilitate, including the UN System Wide Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. She shared words of support and encouragement with the women leaders, helping bring the formal COP21 process together with the frontline and grassroots women leaders present at the event.

Following Fleurs remarks, presenters of the second panel, ‘Women’s Strategic Analysis, Policy and Advocacy for Systemic Change and Climate Justice’ took the stage. 

Titilope Akosa of Centre for 21st Century Issues, Nigeria and representative of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency opened the panel with an in-depth analysis on the status of gender equity in the Paris climate accord and the work of the Women and Gender Constituency inside of COP21.

She presented the ten point Women and Gender Constituencies COP21 Key Demands document, and outlined the Constituencies struggles and ceaseless work to retain gender responsive language in the Paris accord.

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Titilope Akosa (Centre for 21st Century Issues & the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency)

“We have made it clear that this agreement, the global agreement on climate change will not be complete without women…you cannot write off half of humanity, it is not possible. If gender is not referenced and if the aspiration of women is not included, if the aspirations of the women on the frontlines are not included in this global agreement, then a whole half of humanity is excluded,”

“We do not want a polluted future, we do not want a future that is used up before our children come to life,” Titilope continued, “We are women, we are the ones that create, we are the ones that bring forth life and this is why we must stand strong for the people and planet. And this is why I am here, I come all the way from Nigeria in Africa – I said that I cannot sit down and allow this to go on, and allow these leaders to gamble with the future. If I have to talk to my children, the ones yet unborn, I will be happy and grateful to tell that when it was time to act, I was there, I stood for their future and I am proud to say that I am a warrior on this land and I am ready to fight to the end. We will not give up on our beautiful planet.”

Mary Louise Malig, Campaigns Coordinator and Research Associate with the Global Forest Coalition in the Philippines spoke next, shedding light on connections between climate change, agribusiness and global industrial trade, and presenting small-scale agro-ecological farming as a critical, tangible and immediate climate solution.

She discussed how the WTO and trade agreements like the hotly debated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) effectively block the progress made through negotiations such as COP and other local and national initiatives, using its fierce, legally binding power to enforce trade sanctions that benefit very few over the health and wellbeing of people and planet.

Mary Lou shared the example of Ontario, Canada, where a tariff program to encourage local renewables was shut down by a WTO dispute claiming they were unfairly favoring local workers and processes – both vital to just climate solutions.

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Mary Louise Malig (Global Forest Coalition)

“It has to be the system that is changed. We cannot win a battle where we just fight inside this arena. We have to connect our struggles – we have to connect the struggles against deforestation, the struggle against free trade, the struggle for real solutions to climate change. We have to connect them all together and really fight to change the system and bring peoples solutions up to the front.”

Mary Lou passed the floor to Jacqueline Patterson, Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental & Climate Justice Program, who shared a presentation called ‘Resistance, Resilience, Reclamation and Revolution’.

Jacqui spoke to the effects of environmental discrimination and industrial pollution on communities in the US, and called out false solutions such as natural gas, which are only deepening the climate crisis and violating rights, particularly those of frontline communities, low-income families, and peoples of color.

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Jaqcui Patterson (NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Program)

“We must address the disparity between who is making decisions and who is most impacted,” Jacqui explained, simultaneously referencing her experience with the post Hurricane Katrina reconstruction and the concurrent COP21 climate negotiations.

She shared stories of successful, tragic and ongoing struggles of women and community leaders documenting pollution related health impacts in their communities and taking direct action to shut down toxic industries and build alternatives – and expanded Mary Lou’s insights on the intersectionality of our people’s movements.

“Not only are we pushing for clean energy, but we are also working to insure that there are economic justice measures in these policies,” Jacqui explained, emphasizing that things like women in renewable energy, accessible and sovereign food systems, immigrant rights and justice, and racial justice are all connected and essential elements of the just transition we so desperately need.

Angelina Galiteva, Founder of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute in the USA closed the second panel with compelling comments on energy policy derived from years of work inside the industry and outside as an advocate, activist and mother.

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Angelina Galiteva (Renewables 100 Policy Institute)

“We are moving forward and we are going to transition the system to 100% renewable energy. Why? Because we have the technology, because it is possible,”

She shared poignant reflections on the role of women in the coming clean energy revolutions, “climate change is a man-made problem, women are the solution.”

Neema Namadamu, Director of SAFECO and Coordinator of the WECAN Democratic Republic of Congo program opened the third and final panel.

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Neema Namadamu (SAFECO & WECAN DR Congo)

Neema framed her work in the context of the Congo rainforest, the second largest rainforest in the world and cradle of more than 60% of Africa’s forest area. She expressed solidarity with the global Indigenous women who had already shared their stories, and urged collective global action to care for the vital ecosystems of the Congo.

“Open your eyes, look to Africa…we must invest in Africa planting trees again, so you can have oxygen – after that we can negotiate everything else we need to negotiate.”

Aleta Baun, conservationist and activist of West Timor, Indonesia took the mike next, speaking on her communities successful resistance to mining, and the ways in which they took positive direct action to conserve the forest and build sustainable local economies around textile weaving in the aftermath of the mobilization against mining.

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Aleta Baun (activist of West Timor, Indonesia)

“In our worldwide land is flesh, water is blood, forest are hair and stone is like our bones… We plant trees to heal the water that was once destroyed by mining companies. We discuss how to build women’s strength, especially though weaving so that we can have economic strength and this will protect us from being uprooted again.”

Aleta passed the floor to Natalie Isaacs, CEO and co-Founder of 1 Million Women, Australia, who addressed themes of overconsumption and lifestyle choice amongst women in wealthy nations.

“Individual action, action of households, action of communities and all of us acting together actually makes a big difference,” Natalie began, reflecting on her personal transformation from an unengaged corporate leader, to a catalyst of women and girls for healthy lives and climate justice.

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Natalie Isaacs (1 Million Women)

“In all our discussions, inside the COP21 climate negotiations – behavior change and how we live our lives is actually the elephant in the room, it is not being talked about…1 Million Women has a big task, we are trying to change the way people in a developed country like Australia live – but luckily we all know that women and girls are incredible change agents,”

Nino Gamisonia, Projects Coordinator with the Rural Communities Development Agency of Abkhazia, Georgia spoke next, providing insights on renewable energy and solar water heater programs in her country, and their benefits for the environment and rural communities.

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Nino Gamisonia (Rural Communities Development Agency)

She highlighted how women are disproportionately impacted by dirty energy and the burning of wood as fuel, and detailed how women’s engagement in solar water programs has generated a profound and critical sense of empowerment amongst those involved.

Naomi Ages, Climate Liability Project Lead with Greenpeace USA closed the third and panel of the day with thoughts on risk, bravery and action on climate change. Drawing on stories of activists who put their bodies on the line for climate justice, Naomi asked each person in the room to reflect on the level of commitment and action that they are willing and able to make in order to contribute to critical climate solutions.

“This is a call to action – choose your version of courage and do the thing for you that really contributes and combats climate change.”

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, current UNFCCC Climate Change Envoy and former President of Ireland, took the stage to present her thoughts on the climate negotiations and women’s leadership in climate change solutions at COP21 and beyond.

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Mary Robinson (Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice)

Mary acknowledged great strides by COP21 government representatives to address the needs of most vulnerable nations and recognize the imperative of human rights and gender equality – however also spoke to a sense of stagnation and repetition within climate negotiations and the struggles to retain gender responsive, just and concrete language within the accord.

“But we’re back again with a real sense that this will be a very important agreement. It wont be a great agreement, but it will hopefully be ambitious enough to help us to realize that on the 1st of January of 2016, we are in a new era,”

“We really need the power and knowledge of women leaders at all levels, it is so important for the future. Indeed, if we had more women’s leadership, I do not think we would be where we are now…women’s participation is an enabler of climate justice,” Mary attested, discussing her foundation’s new report, ‘Women’s Participation – An Enabler of Climate Justice’.

“There really is no longer a divide between the sustainable development goals and the France climate agreement, we bring them together in January. And I really do think that women are at the forefront of what happens after that. Why? Because it’s women that change behavior, its women who influence change – starting in the family, starting in the community, starting by assisting in the schools and having young people encouraged to think about their futures in a way that is sustainable. And it is every little step in all of that…we are going to need transformative change throughout the world, and women in every community would be on the frontlines … in the beginning of next year comes a new surge of energy and commitment to start implementing what this year has brought us at the global level, but we know that it is at the local level that things will really make a difference,”

“In a way, we are privileged to be at this moment when we can in fact bend the curve and get back on track towards a safe world. We are not there, and we will not be there the day after Paris, but we will be heading in the right direction. And we will put gender equality issues on the frontlines, because we know we are sacrificing our children, in my case my grandchildren, to a much more dangerous and catastrophic world, and we cannot have that. … We are ready to take the leadership, to give the changes to make sure that there is no going back and that we have a world of sustainability with our Mother Earth, our beautiful Mother Earth, who we must cherish more, who we must reinvigorate in the degraded areas. Take back the deforested areas and have Mother Earth breathe freely as she has for centuries upon centuries until we started to interfere with her. And it is women who have to be at the forefront of that.”

Following Mary Robinson’s keynote, members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature provided a brief recap and analysis of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, held over two days in Paris the previous week.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network and Co-Chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance provided an introduction,

“What we’re really seeing, and as we heard from so many of our speakers, is that the way that we are interacting with Mother Earth is not working and part of that is also based upon our legal system that treats Nature as property.… we have to change this system, so the Rights of Nature movement is really looking at the DNA of our legal frameworks and saying NO, Mother Earth has rights, rivers have the right to flow, all the systems of life have the right to grow and thrive and be healthy, and we as human being have to have new laws that allow us to live in good harmony with Mother Earth,”

Osprey continued, “What we are saying through these Tribunals is that we have the right to create laws that work for the people and for the plant, we are not asking for permission. Humans invented our governance structures, humans invented our economies, that means that we can reinvent them again and take back our power as people,”

Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights in the USA shared her insights;

“As long as we continue the story of separation, that Nature is owned by humans, that we are separate from Nature – we are never going to be able to move forward. So the Rights of Nature Tribunal has been a very powerful place, especially when put head to head with the COP, to ask, ‘what would it look like in a world where we recognized the inherent rights of ecosystems to live, to thrive, to regenerate…Imagine if we acted like rights matter, as if our human rights came and were derived from the rights of ecosystems, from nature, from creation – what would it look like to be in that world?”

“We heard not just from experts, but from people who are living this everyday on the ground, defenders of the Earth, people who are living under these conditions. We are really showcasing the world as it could be, because the one thing that I think was critical for the Tribunal was to see that the way the COP process is operating isn’t the way it has to be,” Shannon continued, “We are looking at two very different power structures –we are looking at the power of corporations running the world one way, and we are looking at the power of people taking ownership and responsibility and connection for their communities and saying ‘we can work together, there is a way forward’ – we can together actually commit to our relationship and break the cycle of separation from Nature, we can live as one. We can put forward new laws and really showcase how to make this shift.”

Natalia Greene of CEDENMA (Coordinadora Ecuatoriana para la Defensa de la Naturaleza y del Ambiente) and Fundacion Pachamama in Ecuador provided more background on the Tribunal and on implementation of Rights of Nature in her country.

“People are thirsty to have these places to voice new ideas, to voice their suffering and the hurt to Mother Earth,” Natalia explained, “Rights of Nature is not theoretical, it is happening in Ecuador, it is happening in the US and in more communities and more places if people start to understand that we cannot work without Mother Earth…. If we want to have peace on the Earth, we must have peace with the Earth.”

Closing the Rights of Nature report back, Osprey called to the stage a group of outstanding Indigenous women leaders from across North and South America to share their stories, struggles and solutions for climate justice as part of a presentation of the Indigenous Women of the America’s: Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact.

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Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation)

Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation elder and representative of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Turtle Island, USA opened and guided the subsequent series of thought-provoking, hard-hitting and heartfelt presentations.

“There is much we want to share, but we want to share first and foremost is our love of you and Mother Earth….it is very simple my relatives, if our [Indigenous] rights are upheld, we know how to save you. So together we have a path to walk.”

Casey spoke on the connections between the conditions experiences by her family– relocation, persecution, boarding schools, and labor camps – and the modern environmental genocide and crisis with which we are all faced, and which Indigenous peoples feel directly and disproportionately.

“The struggle for us is not one issue, it is a totality of all the issues – it is whether or not humanity will continue on this Earth, do we get that honor? Do we deserve that honor? My mother, my relatives felt that we do, they felt that we simply need to align ourselves with the natural laws.”

Faith Gemmill, Pit River/Wintu and Neets’aii Gwich’in Athabascan woman from above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, USA addressed the room next, speaking first in her traditional language. For over 30 years Faith and her community have been protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refugee, one of the last stretches of Arctic Alaskan coast still free from oil extraction.

The land that Faith and her community defend is the land of the threatened polar bear, hundreds of species of nesting birds, fish and caribou, an animal deeply sacred to her people.

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Faith Gemmill (Pit River/Wintu and Neets’aii Gwich’in Athabasca)

“Our elders knew about climate change, they prophesized it. And they said, ‘tell them that we are not standing here for ourselves, we are standing for them [the animals], for their children’. And it is our belief that if this place is ever accessed, it will begins a cycle of destruction of humanity…All of our prophecies are all connected, in the South, in the North and across the world, Indigenous prophecies all say the same thing – there is a path destruction, but there is also a path of life, and we have a choice as humanity – and right now we are at that place where we make that choice.”

“We have to think about our children – what are we going to leave them? We have to change the consciousness of the leaders of the world, that’s what we have to do, that is our responsibility. And I have hope because my people said, if we do it in a good way, we are going to be successful – I believe in us and that is why I am standing here today…I think if we all keep holding our ground, if we all keep defending our territories, protecting these spaces – if we keep it in the ground, we can make it, we are going to win.”

Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Canada and Kandi Mossett, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara woman of North Dakota, USA spoke again briefly, sharing messages of solidarity and encouraging everyone in the room to stay engaged with the issues and stories presented, including through donations to the women and organization putting their all into speaking out and driving forward momentum for a just world for all.

“We have to take back the power in our communities because no one else is going to do it for us,” Kandi concluded.

Ena Santi, women’s leader of the Kichwa community of Sarayakyu, Ecuador spoke next on behalf of the women of the South.

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Ena Santi (Sarayaku, Ecuador)

“I am feeling so much emotion to be here and hear the voices of all my sisters gathered here today….we as women are treated so badly so much of the time insulted, violated, treated poorly – physically and physiologically,” Ena began.

“But even with all of these obstacles that we are experiencing in our Indigenous communities, us women are fighting, we are continuing ahead. To save our Mother Earth we have confronted the military, the police – and when this happened I carried on my back my baby of just 2 months,”

“In this way we can save our Mother Earth, because within Mother Earth exists all of humanity… Us women fight for our grandchildren, for our children, for the children that will come in the future – it is for them that we fight. Human beings are not eternal, in whatever moment we will go to rest.”

“So us together, sisters that are here now, united, we women must together put forth a strong effort to save our Mother Earth, because pure air still exists in the Amazon of Ecuador. We must keep this in our hearts…. As women on our Earth, in my land where I live in Sarayaku in Ecuador, we will fight until the very end. We will not allow oil, mining, wood companies to enter. We will fight, not with guns, but with thought, in a peaceful way,”

Mirian Cisneros of Sarayaku also shared words,

“We have flown from very far away, like the eagles… we have a prophecy that Sarayaku is called the ‘pueblo de medio dia’ – the people of the noon time. That when all our neighbors had been contaminated, that we would be that community that would be there until the end defending the Earth. We take on this great responsibility as mothers, as wives, as givers of health, food and the security of future generations…. And so we are here, to ask for solidarity, for an alliance between all sisters and brothers of the world to defend our only Earth, the one that has been left to us by our ancestors, by our grandparents,”

Mirian then called on the whole room to join hands and speak together with her, ‘Pachamama estamos contigo’ – ‘Mother Earth, we are with you’.

Monique Verdin, a Houma woman of the Mississippi river delta in South Louisiana, USA spoke next,

“We have lost our land, they cut down our forest, we have waste pits in our back yard and we are loosing land at one of the fastest rates on the planet next to the Maldives,” Monique began,

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Monique Verdin (Houma)

“I came to Paris not knowing what I’d find, and I found these amazing women who are standing up, and I am going home with inspiration…. we cannot be silenced any longer…even though our men are afraid to say anything, even though they are the ones witnessing the land going and know why, they are also being paid by the oil and gas companies and that’s how they feed their babies. They’ve told us that we don’t have any other economic source, but they are wrong.”

Pennie Opal Plant (Yaqui, Mexican, English, Choctaw, Cherokee and European) of Movement Rights, USA took the floor next, providing a beautiful and vital overview, and reading sections of the ‘Indigenous Women of the Americas: Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact’, which can be read in full here.

“By this time next year I imagine that there will be millions of women around the world shutting it down…so I want to ask you, whose with us?” Pennie asked, the whole room rising and raising their fists alongside her.

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Pennie Opal Plant (Movement Rights)

Casey Camp Horinek took the floor to close the presentation,

“I want to take this moment to remind us, what is real power? Is it what is in COP’s? Is it Obama? Or, or, realign your thinking, realign your thoughts so that we all go forward with the seventh generation philosophy, each and everyone of us. To think about the seven generations that came before us, and what they went though to arrive at this point, to bring us into life. What about the seven generations to come? If every step you make is thinking about those coming in the seventh generation, then thank you. If not, then switch it up, right now… Realign your thoughts, what is real power?”

Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN closed the event with brief words before an end of event group action.

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“We need to reconnect with our original instructions, we need to reconnect with Mother Earth. We have these incredible women and Indigenous peoples who are generously, kindly offering knowledge and information to us, so lets have really big hearts and respect and dedication to what they are offering us. The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network is first and foremost dedicated to frontline communities in countries all over the world … we the people have power, we the people are making change, this, right here, is where real change is coming from.”

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From right to left: Patricia Gualinga, Neema Namadamu, Mirian Cisneros and Ena Santi – women of Ecuador and DR Congo united

The event will be commemorated and continued through the planting of a French olive tree near Paris – a symbol of hope, peace, growth and resistance into the future.

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Women for Climate Justice Respond to COP21 Paris Climate Agreement

SONY DSCAfter two weeks on the ground in Paris working inside and outside of COP21 climate negotiations – the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network has released the following statement in response to the adoption of the final Paris climate accord:

“The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network delegation has just returned from an intense, inspiring and moving two weeks on the ground in Paris during COP21 climate negotiations. We come home with hope derived from the epic efforts of the climate justice movement, and with a deepened sense of the great work ahead.

In Paris, world governments from 195 nations signed onto an unprecedented global climate agreement. WECAN acknowledges the groundbreaking effort, which sends critical signals around the end of the fossil fuel era – however we must be very real about what the agreement is not.

Countries have agreed to aim for a temperature rise below the 2 degree level and included 1.5 degrees as an aspirational target, however thus far there are not nearly sufficient carbon emission reduction commitments, legal and financial mechanisms and resources needed to achieve this. Due to the level of urgency for the most vulnerable communities, we find this type of vague commitment simply unacceptable – we are talking about life and death circumstances for frontline communities.

Our goal during COP21, alongside many allies, was to advocate for climate justice and systemic change. Important strides were made – however it is clear that the Paris accord fails to address the root causes of the climate crisis and the structures of injustice that perpetuate it.

The operative text of the Agreement fails to uphold Indigenous rights and human rights – and allows major polluters to continue to skirt around their historic responsibilities. Gender equality is upheld in some sections of the Agreement, but not nearly enough considering the impacts of climate change that are already being experienced by women worldwide and the leadership role and solutions that women are already implementing. Governments are not held to leaving 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground, despite clear messages from scientists that this is what must happen.

We cannot continue business as usual, nor promote and implement the false solutions (carbon offsets, carbon-trading, geo-engineering, nuclear) that the agreement perpetuates. Instead, we must put people and planet first and now demand that our governments really rise to their claimed 1.5 goal with genuine and just solutions.

The good news coming out of Paris is that people around the world are standing up boldly and calling forth the healthy, just future that we are envisioning together. The climate justice movement made an impact in pushing governments to act more ambitiously then they would have and has been vibrantly displayed in Paris, with major actions on the streets with tens of thousands of people, hundreds of events, assemblies, concerts and educational workshops all focused on just climate solutions. People’s movements are where power and hope lies as we move forward. And move forward we will!

We return home more dedicated than ever to care for our Mother Earth, all generations and all species.” – Osprey Orielle Lake, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Executive Director

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The Women and Gender Constituency, with whom WECAN stands in solidarity, has also released a powerful reaction, copied below. Click here to view the original text on the Women and Gender Constituency webpage.

A Reality Check on the Paris Agreement from the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC)

12 December 2015

As the Women and Gender Constituency we came to this process asking one question: what is the purpose of a global climate agreement if not to save people and the planet?

We see that the world wants hope, that we want to congratulate ourselves for moving forward with this process, but leaders, we are here for a reality check. This agreement fundamentally does not address the needs of the most vulnerable countries, communities and people of the world. It fails to address the structures of injustice and inequality which have caused the climate crisis and hold the historical polluters sufficiently to account.

We know that climate change is the greatest threat to rights in our time, and we know that women often bear the brunt of these impacts. We have made progress under this Convention in understanding and responding to the gendered impacts of climate change in the last few years. We believe that operational language on gender equality, alongside other fundamental rights, in Article 2, defining the purpose of the agreement, would have gone far to ensure that all forthcoming climate actions take into account the rights, needs and perspectives of women and men and encourage women’s full and equal participation in decision-making. This was the moment to set the right path, the just path for climate action.

Critical issues like clear emission reductions without offsetting and misleading market approaches; ensuring the quality of technologies which should be safe and socially and environmentally sound; the quality of and a goal for scaling up adequate and predictable, largely public finance; the responsibilities of developed countries to take the lead, the responsibility to protect people’s rights and our ecosystems, have been either surgically removed throughout the text or lack specificity. That we are not protecting food security but instead are protecting food production – and the business interests that have lobbied hard in our home countries – is a clear indication that only certain segments of our population are meant to be served by this agreement.

Governments maintained their commitment to corporations over people and signaled opportunities for profit to be made from crisis.

We know we need to stay below 1.5 degrees for a chance at survival, and we recognize the importance of seeing this goal in the final Paris Agreement. But seeing this goal on paper is not enough. We demand it in actions as the proof of the full commitment to that goal, not a vague aspiration. If not significantly ramped up, countries’ collective emissions plans lead us to the prospect of a 3.2 – 3.7 degree rise.

Furthermore, the Paris Agreement served to undermine the concept of international solidarity – a founding principle of the UN that requires differentiation amongst states in a way that should lead to redistribution and shared prosperity.

It is clear that in Paris we have not found the political will to make the Paris Agreement the platform the world truly needs to tackle this urgent challenge.

We will not be silenced from telling the truth to power, to highlight the lack of ambition and injustice in this agreement.

We will never give up on our beautiful planet. We will never give up on our demand for climate justice.

This agreement has failed to embrace and respond to this moment for urgent and just transitions, but we have not. We have used this space of international policy-making to raise our voices and embolden our movements.

Together, we will continue to challenge injustice for the protection of the people and the planet: Another world is possible!