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

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June 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog & photos by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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

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

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

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

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to explore the full event photo album

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

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

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to explore the full event photo album

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

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

Solidarity With Our Allies

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

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

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women for Forests Democratic Republic of Congo – Winter 2017 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional photos by Stany Nzabas

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WECAN and Climate Women Rising at the Women’s March on Washington

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Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

The Women’s March on Washington was a historic moment, as over 5 million women and allies stood in defense of all we hold dear in hundreds of cities across the United States and around the world.

In Washington D.C. the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), a formal partner to the Women’s March on Washington, co-organized and marched with the Women for Climate Justice contingent – and in solidarity with our allies of Indigenous Women Rising.

We marched to make clear that women of the world refuse to allow the new U.S. administration to further endanger the lives of future generations, and the very web of life itself. We marched to declare our intent to forge ahead for women’s rights, racial justice, immigration rights and environmental justice, because we know they are inextricably linked.

We marched with resolute strength, and in solidarity with our frontline communities, women of color and Indigenous allies, who are simultaneously experiencing the worst impacts of climate change and social injustices, while also leading the way towards the healthy world we seek. In the face of a Trump presidency, we renew and strengthen our calls for urgent action to stop the exploitation of the Earth and its diverse peoples. Today and everyday into the future until just solutions to the social and ecological crises we face are implemented – women will continue to rise to protect and heal the Earth and our communities. We will not be silenced, and we will never stand down – and we know we have much work to do.  

Click here to read a powerful call to action and analysis, published  in the Guardian about the march from the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network’s Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake.

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Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation Council Woman & WECAN Advisory Council Member) and Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International Executive Director) prepare for the Women’s March 

WECAN was honored to co-host our Advisory Board member and Ponca Nation Tribal Councilwoman, Casey Camp Horinek to participate in the march and key interviews and meetings in Washington D.C.

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Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation Council Woman & WECAN Advisory Council Member) marching with the Indigenous Women Rise Contingent at the Women’s March on Washington D.C – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN

Along with many allies WECAN also co-created a toolkit for women standing for Climate Justice to organize themselves with common messaging and actions in sister marches nationwide and globally. Many thanks to WEDO, MADRE, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, Sierra Club and all others involved!

Explore selected coverage of Women for Climate Justice at the Women’s March below:

Click here to view a full WECAN photo album from the Women’s March on Washington D.C.

WECAN was honored to collaborate with many Women for Climate Justice leaders nationwide – read and share statements from diverse leaders in the press release here

More Photos: (full album also here)

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Allies from the Women’s Earth and Development Organization prepare for action with the Women for Climate Justice Contingent

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Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

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With the Indigenous Women Rise Contingent – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

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Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Women Stand Strong at Standing Rock

Blog and photos Osprey Orielle Lake

Permission to share the information here via Ursula Young Bear, Oglala Lakota

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Women can and are making a significant difference in changing our current destructive socio-ecologic trajectory—and thus we need to accelerate the power, leadership and visibility of women at every level of decision-making. At this critical juncture, it is paramount to recognize that there will be no effective action on a multitude of dire issues until women’s struggles, solutions and leadership are at the forefront. From the grassroots to all levels of political decision-making, women must continue to gain voice and power. In particular, we must acknowledge the leadership of Indigenous women and the struggles of women on the frontline of our dangerous extractive economy and dominator worldviews.

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On the frontline – White Buffalo Calf Women action to honor the women

Over the past four months,there have been several WECAN Delegations to Standing Rock to bring supplies, support and to record interviews with incredible Indigenous women at the vanguard of the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance effort. The women’s voices and actions shine boldly with dignity, wisdom, love and strength in the midst of horrifying and unlawful violence by state and corporate actors – including attacks by dogs, mace, sound cannons, water cannons and strip searching those arrested during peaceful actions to protect water from a pipeline, which would transport 470,000 barrels of oil every day.

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The women are rising to say colonization must end, sacrifice zones and environmental racism must end, violence against women’s bodies by extractive industries must end, the desecration of Indigenous sacred sites and violations against Indigenous land rights must end, the destruction of the earth and water must end. Can you hear their powerful voices calling out ‘“Mni Wiconi” Water is Life’?

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During my most recent time at Standing Rock in the days before and through Thanksgiving weekend (late November 2016), women’s direct actions were held on the Backwater Bridge just north of the Oceti Sakowin camp. Emotions ran high as these actions occurred just one week after one of the most violent and repressive attacks on Water Protectors in this same barricaded location when they were trying to remove roadblocks.

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Ursula Young Bear and Osprey Orielle Lake during the action in honor of White Buffalo Calf Woman

The Indigenous women who lead the first action asked all the women to wear white in honor of White Buffalo Calf Woman. The white was worn to remind us that all things are born from women and that women’s voices and leadership are to be highly respected. Ursula Young Bear, Oglala Lakota from South Dakota, stated that the “White Skirt” action was held to bring everyone’s attention to women as life-givers and that, “Women have power, we have a voice!”.

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Women in Silent Prayer action walking together to the police barricade

The second action later in the afternoon was held in silent prayer. The women walked together in formation, encircling the sacred fires and then went to the frontline like a streaming river over the land. We prayed peacefully on the bridge facing the militarized police and barbed wire fencing. After some time and careful words with law enforcement, several of the elders were able to walk undisturbed directly down to the water to pray. The men stood behind the women to guard and hold space.

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During the Silent Prayer action women elders pray at the water

Lyla June Johnston, one of the organizers and Dine’ poet, singer and songwriter, spoke afterward saying the silent prayers were bringing much needed healing – that in the powerful silence, fears were calmed in everyone and that in the silence we can welcome the presence of the Ancestors who are with us in this prayer. This is part of the solution.

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Then came the rain, then the snow. It is beyond words to describe the strength, resilience and courage of Water Protectors at Standing Rock navigating so many challenges to be expected in a multi-faceted, historic resistance effort such as this – including now the weather. The Indigenous leadership is guiding the way and it is deeply humbling and magnificent to experience. There is a great deal to traverse through historic traumas, environmental racism, patriarchy, colonization, oppression and capitalism that bare down on Indigenous and frontline communities first and worst.

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It also must be recognized that 80% of the bio-diversity left on Earth is in Indigenous lands and territories. Indigenous peoples worldwide are putting their bodies on the line every day to protect their lands, forests and waterways.

First and foremost we all need to 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. It is our Indigenous sisters and brothers who have been fighting for us all. It is paramount that we stand in solidarity together. Everyone must respect Indigenous rights and sovereignty, and within this context, the Dakota Access pipeline must be stopped.

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And now, as the political landscape changes and the deep, biting cold of winter sets in, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network reasserts our ongoing commitment to the Water Protectors and all the challenges yet to come. Please see our recent newsletter with updates and ways to directly support the resistance effort. And, please read this important coalition statement with current directives from Indigenous allies on the ground.

Thank you to so many including Sacred Stone Camp, Indigenous Peoples Project, Indigenous Environmental Network, International Indigenous Youth Council, Honor the Earth, Ruckus Society and Climate Justice Alliance.

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Medicinal herb supplies requested by Camp medics and healers

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:

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.

Supporting Mediterranean Youth in the Fight Against Climate Change: The Role of WECAN MENA at the Mediterranean Youth Climate Forum (MYCF)

Blog by: Soumeya Lerari, WECAN MENA Network Member

On Sunday 17th, July 2016, the Youth Mediterranean Climate  Forum  began as a pre-event to the MEDCOP (The Convention of Climate Stakeholders in the Mediteranian Region), in the city of Tangier, Morocco. The aim of this forum was to bring young people from the 22 Mediterranean countries to voice the position of Mediterranean youth in the fight against climate change.

Around 200 participants attended the event representing a wide range of environmental associations and NGOs from across the region. The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International was represented by its regional WECAN MENA team at two levels.

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Fadoua Brour presenting the objectives of the Forum

Along with representatives of 5 associations (CliMates, Arab Youth Climate Movement, Italian Climate Network, Leaders Club and the Moroccan Youth Climate Movement, recently joined by 350.org), WECAN MENA leaders Imene Bouchair and Fadoua Brour (also representing the Moroccan Youth Climate Movemen) served as co-Founder and organizers of the forum. This group of young women and men worked all together voluntarily and remotely  for three months with relentless and passionate commitment to make this event a success.

In addition to the deep organizing role, WECAN MENA members: Mouna Loubna Djeghri and Soumeya Lerari, provided a highly appreciated input during the forum.

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Fadoua Brour (left) and Imene Bouchair (right) discussing the outcomes of MYCF

The Mediterranean Youth Climate Forum had three main objectives for the forum and action moving forward.

  • Creation of the the Mediterranean Youth Climate Network in order to syncronize efforts and echo the voice of the Mediterranean youth during climate youth events and climate summits and conferences.
  • Allow participants to meet and discuss the challenges that climate change presents to the Mediterranean region ; discuss and create synergies through the projects that are currently carried out by the youth in the different countries; share experiences and present at initiatives such as the COY12 (Conference of the Youth 12, in Marrakesh next November.)
  • Train the participants to undertake efficient climate actions, through several workshops organized into the future
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Soumeya Lerari (right), participating to the Panel discussion on the creation of the  MYCN and the conclusions of the working groups on the topic.

At the end of the Forum, the founding associations and 350.org presented a Charter instituting the Mediterranean Youth Climate Network, strategic debates sessions on the Charter, long-term and short-term objectives of the Network and other aspects regarding this important project.

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Soumeya Lerari, during an interview with a Moroccan news channel

The MYCF and the creation of the Mediterranean Youth Climate Network (MYCN) will serve as an exciting doorway for WECAN MENA to expand on the ground and online climate solutions trainings, and to learn, strategize and collaborate into the future with Mediterranean region youth and women.

Most importantly, the establishment of the Mediterranean Youth Climate Network will serve as a platform to echo the voices of women of the region in the fight against climate change, working towards WECAN International’s mission to unite women worldwide as powerful stakeholders in sustainability solutions, policy advocacy, and worldwide movement building for social and ecologic justice.

Learn more about the Youth Mediterranean Climate  Forum here.

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Bringing Power to the People: Women for 100% Renewable Energy, 2016 WECAN Training Recap

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

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Wahleah Johns (Black Mesa Water Coalition), Diane Moss (Renewables 100 Policy Institute) and Lynn Benander (Co-op Power) – ‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy: From Installation to Advocacy’ 2016 speakers

In early May 2016, allies from across the US and the world united for ‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy: From Installation to Advocacy’, an open online training presented by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network U.S. Women’s Climate Justice Initiative.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, opened the training with an overview of topics including women’s leadership in movements to end fossil fuel extraction and grow renewable energy, renewable energy within a climate justice framework, and the vital the concept of ‘just transition’.

According to Osprey, climate justice in the context of renewable energy means clean energy solutions that are safe and accessible to all people; that respect natures needs and diversity; that do not involve the pursuit of false solutions such as fracking and large scale hydro-dams; that do not involve the displacement of Indigenous people or local communities; and which give attention and resources first and foremost to frontline communities and those who have been historically sacrificed to dirty energy industries.

She explained that the ‘Just Transition’ to renewables must at its heart incorporate care for workers, families and communities currently involved in fossil fuel production, and be based upon models of decentralization and genuine democracy, with renewable systems planned, owned and benefiting local residents. For WECAN International, a Just Transition also means those with women at the forefront at all stages of planning and implementation.

Focusing in on the U.S., Osprey explained that women direct over 80% of all purchases – one of many potential sources of power to move the country, and the world as a whole, towards clean energy and democratic local economies.

“Power to the people is a very literal phrase,” Osprey explained, “we, and the incredible women you will hear from today, are challenging the status quo, taking back power in our communities, and providing for ourselves the clean power that will allow us to sustain present and future generations, and Earth herself.”

She also reminded all on the call that as less than 5% of the world population, the U.S. is responsible for over 27% of global climate change causing emissions. As women with immense power to effect change, Osprey explained, it is thus the collective and individual responsibility of U.S. women to take action for a just transition to renewable energy, and also pursue systemic change and deep solutions which address overconsumption and deeply unequal distribution – working together to “live better not more”. We must simultaneously transition to clean energy while seriously decreasing over-consumption and unsustainable lifestyles.

Diane Moss took the floor as the first guest speaker. 

Diane is a co-founder of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and founder of Dima-Media, which specializes in sustainability-related projects, companies and campaigns. Diane is also an independent energy strategies consultant, and has worked with several non-profit organizations, including Friends of the Earth and Heinrich Boell Foundation, as well as various clean tech companies. She has served as US policy advisor to World Future Council, as environmental deputy to United States Congress-member Jane Harman, and as an intern to the Costa Rican Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris. Diane studied at Harvard and New York University, and completed a thesis program in political science in Paris.

Diane began with a bold statement, whose truth is becoming more apparent everyday: It is not a question of if we transition to renewable energy, but of when, how, and with whom leading the way and profiting?

She highlighted 2014/2015 as a “watershed” year for action and ambition for renewable energy, bringing the topic “from pipe-dream to main stream”, with groups as varied as large corporations, neighborhood groups, state governments, and international institutions such as the G7, UNESCO and United Nations beginning to discuss encourage and move towards implementation of 100% renewable energy targets.

According to recent reports, resources and maps by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and allies, more than 8 countries, 55 cities, 61 regions, 9 utilities, and 10 nonprofits/educational/public representing over 54.9 million people have committed to going 100% renewable in at least one sector in coming years and decades.

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Image from Diane Moss 2016 PowerPoint

Diane discussed Vermont and Hawaii as two powerful examples of citizens ability to effect change and push for a just transitions in the U.S., and highlighted the vital fact that it is rarely political representatives that introduce renewable energy, but rather it is by the will and drive of strong local leaders that renewable energy gets on the table and is actualized.

Diane shared six basic tools available to advance renewable energy, including:

  • 100% renewable energy targets with implementation plans, procurement requirements, milestones (to be set within schools, neighborhoods, cities, place of worship and at other scales, big and small)
  • Renewable portfolio standards (state policies that set targets for how much renewable energy the local or regional utilities must have in their procurement – ex. Hawaii with the goal of a 100% renewable portfolio standard by 2045)
  • Community local choice programs
  • Net zero energy building targets and codes
  • Net metering (get credits for the renewable power you generate; major driver for rooftop solar but under attack by utility companies in some states)
  • Federal tax credits (great tool, but with problems in current form, which gives greatest benefit to those with high incomes)

She ended by stressing the importance of an integrated and holistic view as we seek to change policies, making clear that energy cannot be separated from other critical issues including food, water, consumption and daily decisions to pollute or protect the planet. 

Wahleah Johns, Solar Project Manager with the Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC), spoke next. Wahleah comes from the Dine (Navajo) Nation and the community of Forest Lake, one of many atop Black Mesa in what is now north-east Arizona, USA, Turtle Island. She is a founding member of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, and it’s longest standing staff member. In her several years at BMWC she has taken on various roles, helping lead groundbreaking legislative victories for groundwater protection, green jobs, and environmental justice across the Dine Nation, Arizona and the U.S. Southwest. Wahleah is also a member of the Navajo Green Economy Coalition, working to educate the local community and lobby at the federal, state and tribal levels on behalf of maintaining balance with nature and building self-sustaining Indigenous communities.

In her current role as BMWC’s Black Mesa Solar Project Coordinator, Wahleah is working out of the Bay Area, California to gain organizational expertise and support for transitioning Black Mesa’s reclaimed mining lands into solar farms.

Wahleah began her presentation with a background on the Dine (Navajo) Nation and it’s dark history with uranium, coal and other toxic mining.

There are more than 300,000 people living across the Dine Nation, which stretches some 27,000 square miles across what are now the U.S. states of New Mexico and Arizona. Wahleahs community of Forest Lake sits next to one of the largest coal mine strips in the country, touted for providing “affordable power” for the region. However, as Wahleah’s powerful presentation highlighted, the devastation wrought on the Earth and Dine communities like Forest Lake make clear that this power is not “affordable”, nor excusable.

Most of the energy created through exploitation of Dine lands is sent to power nearby cities in Arizona and California – while over 32% of Dine homes lack access to electricity and 38% go without running water. The Navajo Generating Station (not owned by the Dine people, despite the name) processes toxic coal to power the Central Arizona Project (CAP) water canals, which carry water across the dry state to booming cities, luxury residences and unsustainable agricultural areas.

Mining companies are adding insult to injury by sucking up billions of gallons of water from the pristine ice age Navajo Aquifer, the lifeline of the parched desert region. Wahleah reported that over 3.3 million gallons of water are used everyday by Peabody coal for operations on Dine lands, drying up sacred water springs, wells and rivers vital to cultural, spiritual, economic and physical survival.

The environmental racism and disregard for Indigenous rights and wellbeing is brutally apparent.

In 2006, Black Mesa Water Coalition and regional allies pressured tribal leaders to demand the end of the use of Peabody Coal’s slurry lines, citing dire threats and impacts on fresh water sources. Since initial struggles and victories, Wahleah and her colleagues have been spearheading growing discussions and action groups to figure out what it really means to shut down coal and uranium mines, generating stations and pipelines in communities that have been polluted and made dependent on extraction for decades.

BMWC, under the leadership of Wahleah and the outstanding climate woman, Jihan Gearon, is resisting new mining and infrastructure, and researching ways to repurpose brown and leach fields, with the goal of reclaiming a sizable portion of the 14 thousand acres of mined land for use in new solar projects. Arizona has 300+ days of sunshine a year, with seemingly endless renewable potential.

Among many goals, the Black Mesa Solar Project aims to replace the dirty Navajo Generating Station coal used to power the CAP with solar energy, owned by and benefiting Dine communities.

Wahleah and colleagues are learning how to deal with old infrastructure, roads and toxic dumping, and moving forward with an off grid solar install (like the amazing Lubicon Solar project in the middle of the Canadian Tar Sands), thus forging a path for the Dine people to have access to and lead the just next system that climate activists around the world are calling forth.

Groups and individuals across the Navajo nation are beginning to collaborate, collect recommendations and build action plans of how to move forward collectively and as a tribal nation, shedding a toxic legacy and seeking out a new path based on sustainable living and Indigenous sovereignty.

In starting solar power projects on reclaimed lands, held in community hands – Wahleah and other Dine leaders and community members are building hope and directly challenging the unsustainable status quo that has exploited their people for generations

As they build the transition on Dine lands, Wahleah and colleagues are drawing upon their rich culture and the knowledge and vision of their ancestors, building solar and passive energy homes in the style of traditional Dine hogans, and translating renewable energy resources and technical information into the Dine language.

Wahleah discussed renewable energy and the Just Transition as a way to enliven spiritual and cultural connection, touching on work to reach out to children, youth, adults and elders by connecting renewable energy information with traditional knowledge and storytelling about the sun and Dine thought on relationship to light and the sacred directions. According to Wahleah, Dine stories recount that the sun has always helped their people overcome challenges.

Wahleah ended by explaining that a Just Transition remands reciprocity and justice for those, such as the Dine (Navajo) Nation, who have had their lives, water, health and cultural and spiritual connection to their homelands denigrated by decades of fossil fuel extraction. She reminded participants that while much attention is given to exploitation and horror abroad, within the wealthy Northern Nation, Indigenous communities have also been and continue to be sacrificed to bring luxury, comfort, and energy those with institutionalized power and privilege.

Within this context, it is clear that the movement for renewables and just climate change solutions must be diverse and open, and shaped by Indigenous peoples, low-income communities and marginalized people of all forms.

“100% renewable energy really resonates with Indigenous communities – it means the ability to control our own destiny, to build self reliance and sovereignty – this is what clean energy can provide is it is done right,” Wahleah explained.

She emphasized that the team working on Black Mesa is still finding their way everyday, learning lessons for themselves and all communities on the frontlines struggling against extraction and the legacy of colonialism. She reflected on the many invaluable allies who have helped her and Black Mesa make model business plans, and grow their understanding of markets and potential for creating an effective renewable system.

“We do this work for future generations, for the health of our communities, and because of our deep understanding of our connection to everything, “ Wahleah reflected in her closing comments.

Her work, and that of Black Mesa Water Coalition as a whole, is part of a long line of Indigenous rights, environmental racism and anti-extraction work led by courageous Dine leaders over the decades.

Lynn Benander took the floor as the final presenter of the day.

Lynn Benander, CEO and President of Co-op Power, works tirelessly to build community ownership of renewable energy resources in New England and New York, USA. She has worked for many years to support the development of consumer, producer, worker-owned and other locally-controlled businesses that meet basic needs for energy, food, and shelter. Ms. Benander has raised more than $25 million in development grants, renewable energy grants, and financing for business development. She lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts and serves on numerous cooperative and community boards and on her town’s energy and finance committees.

Lynn shared the story of Co-op Power as a powerful example of what is possible when a “multi-race, multi-class movement” unites to build locally owned and operated renewable energy systems.

Co-op Power is a consumer-owned sustainable energy cooperative, which operated within a network of co-ops that together support 22 ‘Green Enterprises’, 200 ‘Good Green Jobs’ and a growing group of over 7,000 people across Massachusetts and Vermont.

Using the locally owned co-op model, every community involved with Co-op Power decides what approach and type of renewables they wish to use, and then works collectively to ensure that energy is created and distributed in a just and inclusive way. According to Lynn, women are playing a key role on every level of community renewable energy development, as project catalysts, investors, activists, policymakers, supporters, organizers, and builders.

Through their diverse network, Co-op Power members are learning how to reclaim their power and take back the commons through green job and installation training, environmentally sustainable renewable choices, just and open renewable financing options, and local planning, installation and benefit.

The transition to renewables is about the “power of the people to build local, living economies,” Lynn explained, stressing that truly effective systems must be firmly grounded and supportive of local resilience and sovereignty.

During her presentation, Lynn decried the current U.S. renewables tax incentive structure, which supports wealthy investors more than local communities, families and small scale projects, and stressed the need for new enabling legislation to make renewable energy accessible to all.

Despite the gap in policy support in much of the U.S., grassroots urban and rural solar projects are popping up in inspired communities across the country, from the rooftops of low-income housing units in New York City, to the tops of greenhouses in California and beyond.

In closing, Lynn drew attention to the Energy Democracy Movement and one of its key leaders, Denise Fairchild, and shared the Co-op Power ‘5 Years to Energy Freedom’ plan, which asks people to pledge to reduce energy consumption by 50%, and then work towards using renewables to supply the other half of their energy needs.

‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy: From Installation to Advocacy’ concluded with a Question and Answer session exploring topics including the sourcing of renewable, fairly traded materials for clean energy technology; the developing US solar market; energy efficiency; what reciprocity for frontline community looks like in action; and questions about the effectiveness of working inside the system versus outside the system (using tools such as non-violent civil disobedience) in pursuit of timely action to #KeepItInTheGround and transition to renewables.

Learn more about past and upcoming US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Trainings here.

Training Resources