First Solar Engineer Grandmother Moseten

FIRST SOLAR ENGINEER GRANDMOTHER FOR MOSETEN NATION IN BOLIVIA

 By: Kiyomi Nagumo and Carmen Capriles

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 Solar panel installations provides electricity to indigenous families in the Mosetén Nation.

On March 18, Maria Vani from the Mosetén nation, 53-year-old, grandmother, returned to Bolivia as the first indigenous Solar Engineer.  She was welcomed by local authorities, family and neighbors in the community of Villa Concepcion located in the north of the region of La Paz, Bolivia.

After five months at Barefoot College in India, our solar grandmother was trained in the installation and maintenance of solar panels. Maria said the assembling of components of panel parts is what she enjoyed the most.

The purpose of this program is to support sustainable development and access to renewable energy sources, such as solar, to families in rural and indigenous communities, as an alternative source of energy friendlier with the environment and at the same time less expensive.

Mrs. Maria expressed, “I never thought in my life, at my age 53, being a woman, and indigenous, that I could not do something worthwhile. But now I’m proud of myself and I know I can do everything, and I can help my community, and my people. ”

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The Solar Grandmother is proud to contribute with the development of Mosetén Nation, and specifically within her community. She is excited as she waits for the arrival of solar panels. They will provide alternative energy to those who need it most in her community.

This initiative was coordinated through the efforts of volunteers from the city of La Paz committed to climate change and sustainable development of the country and Reaction Climate, Peace Network Integration and Development (PAZINDE) in collaboration with the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN-LAC).

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PRIMERA ABUELA SOLAR POR LA NACION MOSETEN EN BOLIVIA

Por: Kiyomi Nagumo y Carmen Capriles

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 La instalación de paneles solares, brindará electricidad a familias de la Nación Indígena Mosetén  

El pasado 18 de Marzo MARIA VANI indígena de la Nación Mosetén, de 53 años de edad, abuela, retorna como la primera Ingeniera Solar Indígena de Bolivia, fue recibida por autoridades locales, familiares y vecinos en la comunidad de Villa Concepción, ubicada en el Norte del Departamento de La Paz, Bolivia.

Tras cinco meses en el Instituto de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot College) en la India, la abuela solar fue capacitada para la instalación y mantenimiento de paneles solares, lo que más le gusto a María fue el armado de componentes, como así lo asegura.

La finalidad de este programa es apoyar en el desarrollo sostenible de familias en comunidades indígenas, con el acceso a fuentes de energías renovables como es la solar como una alternativa energética más amigable con el medio ambiente.

María expresa “Yo pensaba que nunca en mi vida, menos a mis 53 años, siendo mujer e indígena podía hacer algo y que no valía nada. Pero ahora estoy orgullosa y sé que soy capaz de hacer todo y puedo ayudar a mi pueblo y mi gente”.

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La abuela Solar orgullosa de aportar en el desarrollo de la Nación Moseten y en especial a su comunidad, está ansiosa por la llegada de los paneles solares, para poder brindar energía alternativa a los más necesitados de su comunidad.

La iniciativa fue coordinada gracias a la gestión de voluntarios de la ciudad de La Paz  de Reacción Climática y la Red Paz Integración y Desarrollo (PAZINDE) con la colaboración de la Red de Acción de Mujeres por el Clima y el Ambiente (WECAN-LAC), todos comprometidos con el cambio climático y el desarrollo del país.

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In Photos: Amazon Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change Impacts and Solutions

Women around the world are experiencing the impacts of a changing climate on a daily basis. While they remain disproportionately impacted by interwoven environmental degradation and social injustice, these women are increasingly taking the lead in the movement for climate change solutions that address the root causes of this crisis and move towards a just and healthy world.

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Photo by Caroline Bennett

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, groups of women are rising with fierce determination, taking direct action to protect their communities and families, diverse cultural and ecologic heritage, and Pachamama, Mother Earth. After decades of fossil fuel and mineral extraction in their homeland, these women have made a bold call to end the destruction; keep the oil in the soil.

Amazon Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change is a photo series seeking to provide a lens into the lives and stories of some of these women leaders. Workshops held with Kichwa, Shiwiar, Sápara, and Waorani women in the Ecuadorian Amazon helped produce these “speaking” images, which combine portraiture with written testimonies, hand-painted by the woman in the border around her photograph. In these self-reflections, the women speak on their culture, history, traditions, struggles, and reasons for fighting oil extraction in their ancestral lands.

Amazon Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change was created by Ecuadorian photographer, Felipe Jácome, and Amazon Watch Editorial Director and Chief Storyteller, Caroline Bennett, as part of a project jointly sponsored by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International), Amazon Watch, and Acción Ecológica.

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Photo by Caroline Bennett

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Portrait series by Felipe Jacome. View more of his incredible work at http://www.felipejacome.com

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Photo by Caroline Bennett

Select prints will continue to be shown as part of a traveling photography exhibit, bringing the stories and solutions of these indigenous women to audiences within the Amazonian region and across the world. On December 8, 2014, photos will be featured at WECAN International’s ‘Women Leading Solutions of the Frontlines of Climate Change-Lima’ event in Peru, with more information available here.

photo exhibit in Coca

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Blog by Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International Executive Director) and Emily Arasim (Special Projects & Communications Coordinator)

Guardians of the Forest: Collaborating to Protect the Rainforests of the Congo

Every year more than 40 million acres of forest are lost. A sports field-sized area is deforested every minute of everyday, generating in the process more than fifteen percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, a single tree left standing has the potential to sequester roughly 48 pounds of carbon dioxide each year and provide unquantifiable gift of food, medicine, water purification, climate stabilization, mental health, and more. Despite international attention, global deforestation driven by industrial agriculture, cattle ranching, mining, and fossil fuel extraction continues at an alarming rate, amplifying the climate crisis and imperiling the Earth and all its residence.

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Map of Global Tree Cover Loss, 2000-2012. Photo via World Resources Institute.

Hope remains however, held in the hands of the thousands of Indigenous communities who live and thrive in the great forests of the world. Across the globe they are fighting to protect the forests and their diverse cultures, implementing place-based solutions that are socially and ecologically appropriate. In the process, these communities provide daily proof of the power of, and need for, another way of relating to the Earth.

Photo by Emily Arasim.

The Congo Basin of Central Africa holds one of the largest rainforests in the world, second only to the mighty Amazon. It represents more than 60% of all of the rainforests in Africa, functioning as the source of life for a vast swath of the continent, and as a center of balance and health for the Earth’s climate as a whole.

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Photo via Neema Namadamu.

For the last year, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) has had the honor of collaborating with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the ‘Women for Forests and Fossil Fuel/Mega Dam/Mining Resistance’ program. Organizing focuses on the protection of the Itombwe forest and the support of the communities living within it, whose cultural and ecologic heritage is severely threatened by exploitative logging, mining, and agricultural practices. Work is based in South Kivu Province in the eastern part of the country, home to two very important forest sites of unquantifiable diversity, the Itombwe Nature Reserve (RNI) and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (PNKB), both of which are critically threatened by extractive industries.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Kivu Province outlined in red.Via Google Maps

Neema Namadamu, Founder of the Synergy of Congolese Women’s Associations (SAFECO), spearheads the collaboration through her work as the WECAN DR Congo Coordinator. Trainings and communication efforts designed by Neema and WECAN Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, are the core of WECAN International’s work to support Indigenous women in the region, who, as the longtime stewards of the land, have begun working to oppose the destruction of the forest and their culture.

Neema Namadamu speaks at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. Photo by Lori Waselchuk.

In June 2014, WECAN International worked with Neema to prepare and actualize the first WECAN- DR Congo Regional Climate Solution Training. The program began with an intensive five-week online course, engaging local leaders in a range of topics, from why women are central to climate and environmental solutions, to action plans for climate justice, forest conservation, Rights of Nature and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and on the grounds solutions.

Following the online intensive, Neema and her team of leaders conducted a series of hands-on workshops with women and men from eight villages in and around the Itombwe forest. The training included an overview of threats to the Itombwe, regional ethnobotanical knowledge, solar oven construction, holistic forest conservation methods, women and climate change, and local leadership in forest protection.

Local Leader Teaching About Medicinal Properties of Trees. Photo via Neema Namadamu.

Using the analysis and tools created during WECAN’s online sessions, participants created a place-based climate action plan to addresses regional socio-ecologic need, move forest protection forward, and empower women in their role as key environmental stakeholders and transformative leaders.

The series of meetings and workshops culminated in the composition and distribution of a declaration calling for a nationwide movement to protect the Itombwe and other rainforest in the country.

“A secret treasure is lying quietly hidden in the bosom of the Indigenous women of the Itombwe forest. We now have a plan of protection and action for the forest and the people who live there in great wisdom and humility,” explained Neema.

Photo via Neema Namadamu

WECAN International is very excited that this is just the beginning of the work in the Itombwe rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with plans underway for follow up trainings and projects ranging from tree planting and clean stoves construction, to trainings on community organizing and influencing policies at the local, national, regional and international levels.

Neema Namadamu (SAFECO Founder & WECAN DRC Coordinator) and Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Founder & Executive Director) together during a meeting this month.

Explore More

  • Learn more about Neema Namadamu and her work: namadamu.com
  • Help us keep up this work for climate justice and solutions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and across the world, donate here: wecaninternational.org/donate

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Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN Special Projects & Communications Coordinator

We Can Act Now, We Must Act Now: Analyzing the IPCC AR5 Climate Report

Five years, 2,000 scientists, and 30,000 research papers later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the final section of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) this week. Widely regarded as the most comprehensive and authoritative body of scientific research on climate change to date, the AR5 is irrefutable evidence to back climate action movements across the globe, and is the foundation from which world leaders meeting at upcoming UNFCCC climate negotiations will draft the policies that will shape our future, and that of the Earth and coming generations, in a profound way.

The AR5 climate report is at once terrifying and hopeful. It tells us that that climate change is unequivocally the result of human action, that it is accelerating rapidly and unpredictably, and that it is not a future apocalypse, but rather a daily reality already felt by hundreds of thousands worldwide. Impacts are being experienced on every continent and in the farthest depths of the oceans. Everyone and everything is affected.

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AR5 data on change in Earth’s surface temperature, 1986-2005 and 2081-2100. Source: The Guardian

The report confirms that we have already seen 0.85 degrees Celsius warming above pre-industrial levels. If ‘business as usual’ continues we can expect 4 degrees warming by 2100, bringing severely crippled food and water security, economic collapse, deadly weather, mass species extinction, sea level rise, exacerbated social inequalities, and other massive disruptions (Source: Climate Nexus). As we stand, carbon emissions are actually still rising and we find ourselves vastly unprepared, socially, economically, and politically, to face the instability ahead.

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AR5 data on global sea level rise. Source: The Guardian

The “severe, pervasive, and irreversible,” climate impacts forecasted in the AR5 are not, however, set in stone. The IPCC models affirm that we may be able to stay below the 2 degree Celsius warming threshold, and possibly even the 1.5 degree cap supported by many island states, acutely vulnerable nations, and our Women’s Climate Action Agenda, if, and only if, we act immediately.

The report is thus yet another and important jarring call to action. It tells us that we cannot shrug this off as a problem for future generations- this is in fact the most important issue of our time. Only action and sweeping change now will have any chance of averting irreversible tipping points.

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Petroleum extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Photo by Emily Arasim.

For the team at the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International), one of the most striking aspects of the report is the way in which it parallels the bold calls which have been emanating for years from communities from the far reaches of the Amazon jungle, to the Alberta tar sands, to the streets of New York City: keep the oil in the ground. As the report makes clear, we stand no chance of a livable world below the 2 or 1.5-degree threshold unless we do exactly this.

The IPCC data draws a clear red line: 2,900 gigatons of carbon is the all time maximum amount that can be emitted into the atmosphere if the Earth is to have a fair chance of staying below catastrophic levels of warming (Source: Tree Alerts). We have already devoured more than two thirds of this budget, and oil and gas companies have made plans to burn fossil fuel reserves more than four times greater than what can be released if we wish to avoid unleashing climate chaos. It’s clear then, that to stop ourselves from locking in catastrophic levels of extraction and emissions, we must create strict policies and aggressively begin divesting from fossil fuels and transitioning to a 100% renewable energy future.

WECAN International leaders & allies at the People's Climate March.

WECAN International leaders & allies at the People’s Climate March.

To be precise, the report calculates that starting now and for decades into the future we will need to divest at minimum $30 billion USD annually from the fossil fuel industry, while investing at least $147 billion USD per year in clear energy alternatives (Source: EcoWatch). According to report targets, we must triple our use of zero and low carbon energy by 2025 and move towards 100% renewables quickly thereafter (Source: Tree Alerts).

As climate activist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben explained,

“Breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy, especially since it has to happen fast. It has to happen, in fact, before the carbon we’ve unleashed into the atmosphere breaks the planet. I’m not certain we’ll win this fight – but, thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.” (Source: The Guardian)

There are of course, limitations to the report, most stemming from the fact that the majority underwent line-by-line approval and editing by representatives from over 100 nations. There is, for example, great emphasis on how little climate action will affect the economy. This is falsely comforting given the deep ways in which we must challenge the economic system if we wish to build a livable future founded on respect for the Earth and all of its creatures. A system that works within the Earth’s finite limits simply cannot look anything like the endless economic growth models that we know now. That said, the underlying economic message of the AR5 is crucial; those who say addressing climate change is too difficult or too costly are simply wrong.

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Women leaders share their solutions at a WECAN International Event in NYC. Photo by Emily Arasim.

Many of the most difficult questions, of course, remain unanswered: how will we address injustices and imbalances between those who have contributed most to climate change, and those who have contributed little but are suffering first? How will we make sure our policies respect the Earth and Rights of Nature? How will we insure that the wisdom and solutions of Indigenous and frontline communities guide our frameworks? How will we insure that women’s voices shape the agenda, and that policies are gender sensitive?

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network’s (WECAN International) newly released Women’s Climate Action Agenda is our contribution to answering these pressing questions. The Action Agenda founds it’s scientific assessment in the same truths set forth in the AR5, but also goes on to analyze the root causes of the crisis and lay out an action plan which aims to not only to lessen climate impacts, but to help develop and actualize a transformation towards climate justice.

Next month as world leaders gather at the UNFCCC COP20 in Lima, Peru to begin drafting a comprehensive international agreement on climate change, WECAN International will be on the ground with the Women’s Climate Action Agenda in hand, ready to advocate and push for genuine solutions that mirror the severity of the crisis as outlined in the AR5, and as experienced by women across the world.

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WECAN Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, advocating at the UNFCCC COP19 negotiations.

We need to tip the scales. The Earth has spoken, the people have spoken, and the scientists have spoken, our leaders have a clear choice to make: surefire climate chaos or an immediate change of direction for a healthy future. One piece of good news is that the IPCC report has generated a real conversation about completely phasing out fossil fuels and creating a zero carbon future, with serious discussion now being had at the U.N. and in the international media.

What we need now then, is the people power and leadership to insure that international action to confront the climate crisis is truly transformational and founded in principles of justice. The analysis and solutions put forth in the Women’s Climate Action Agenda are inspired by the work of hundreds of women on the frontlines of climate change worldwide, and we will work ceaselessly to insure that these voices are heard.

Click here to download the Women’s Climate Action Agenda and join us in our work for climate justice and solutions.

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Blog by: Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International Co-Founder & Executive Director) and Emily Arasim (Special Projects & Communications Coordinator)

Global Women Leaders Raise their Voices at ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

“As governments meet tomorrow at the UN Climate Summit, women worldwide are joining in solidarity to speak out against policies and activities that not only threaten the climate and their communities but the very future of all life as we know it,” began WECAN International Co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, welcoming the tightly packed crowd to ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’, held at the U.N. Church Center in New York City this past Monday, September 22nd 2014.

“We need system change,” she continued, “Women are standing for our Mother Earth, women are standing for future generations, women are standing to protect the web of life and front line communities.”

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

The event, held as part of the mobilization surrounding the People’s Climate March, Climate Week NYC and the U.N. Climate Leadership Summit, served as a forum for global women to share why and how they are standing and leading the movement for climate justice and equitable solutions to the climate crisis.

First Nations acapella group Ulali opened the event with their song ‘Idle No More’, so powerful in its words and rhythms that goosebumps and tears overcame many of those gathered. Blending poignant lyrics on taking action and the coming “human awakening” with traditional drumming and singing techniques, the song set the stage for a compelling event.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Sally Ranney, co-Founder of WECAN International, introduced the organization further and congratulated everyone present for participation in the People’s Climate March the previous day, urging that, “we have to move now with a lot of solidarity, a united voice”. Her speech highlighted biodiversity protection and unity with frontline communities, two themes which reverberated throughout the panel discussion.

Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty 6 Alberta Canada, and Sierra Club Canada opened the panel with an impassioned speech reflecting her experiences living in “ground-zero” of the tar sands.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Crystal spoke of dire levels of soil, water, and air pollution engulfing her home, explaining that more than 84% of her people traditional land has been leased to oil companies without community consent, making them “economic hostages” on their own homelands. However Crystal also spoke of hope, “this is an everyone movement. If you are living, breathing, walking, this fight belongs to you too… we are here, and we are not going anywhere.”

Taking the audience on a journey from the tar sands of Alberta to the oil fields tearing at the Amazon rainforest, Patricia Gualinga, Kichwa leader of Sarayaku, Ecuador spoke next. Her speech focused on her communities fight to protect their cultural and ecologic heritage from the expansive fossil fuel and mining projects being pushed under a false development paradigm. Clean air and water, organic foods, and the ability to walk barefoot without fear of contamination is true wealth, Patricia explained, with poverty emerging only from destruction of the Earth.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

In reaction to the exploitation of nature and indigenous communities the women of her region marched hundreds of miles in October 2013 from the Amazon basin to the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, denouncing continuing violations and demonstrating an unwavering resolve to stop the destruction.

Highlighting the simultaneous diversity and unity of the voices of the global climate justice movement, Dr. Fatimata Diop took the floor next to discuss climate vulnerability and solutions in her West African home of Senegal.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Fatimata discussed her work leading the UNDESERT program in its efforts to combat desertification and biodiversity loss through reforestation and agroforestry initiatives. Dr. Diop also spoke on issues of deep social inequity;

“In Africa people did not have lunch because of the climate change issue. Some of them will not have dinner because of the climate change issue. African people are not responsible. We need climate justice, we need more solidarity… let us work together to inspire real change, change that empowers women and gives them a central role in decision making,”

Angelina Galiveta, founder of 100% Renewables Policy Institute presented next on the reality of the transition to a zero carbon future. Speaking from years of first hand experience working within the energy industry, Mrs. Galiveta made it clear that we already have the tools and solutions needed to transform our system, if only we move forward boldly now.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Nobel Laureate Jody Williams spoke next, demonstrating first hand the power and importance of the solidarity work discussed by her fellow presenters. She focused much of her speech on issues of leadership that have consistently resulted in policymakers putting profit over the planet, at the expense of life itself.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

“Perhaps we take them [our leaders] out to the middle of a field and have them negotiate there, or perhaps, where we should really put them is in the middle of the tar sands… let them see the realities of their policies,” stated Mrs. Williams, reflecting on the U.N Climate Leadership Summit to be held the following day.

Closing the panel was Ponca Nation elder Casey Camp-Horinek of the Indigenous Environmental Network, speaking on reconceiving and reviving our relationship with the Earth and each other. Casey described how true power resides not in any economic system or governement, but in the water, air, soil, and biodiversity that sustain us every single day.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

The event also served as part of WECAN International’s launch of the Women’s Climate Action Agenda. Lake held up the 80 plus page document and explained, “The Women’s Climate Action Agenda analyzes the root causes of environmental degradation and social injustice, ultimately presenting powerful recommendations and alternative solutions to the climate crisis. We can act now and we must act now, this is what the Action Agenda declares on every page.”

Following the panel discussion, WECAN International women from across the globe delivered updates on climate issues and solutions in their regions. Thilmeeza Hussain, founder of Voice of Women Maldives, spoke on the dire political, social, and environmental conditions in her country and on the imperative for concrete action now. She was followed by Carmen Capriles, WECAN Regional Coordinator for Latin America and Founder of Reacción Climática in Bolivia; Neha Misra, Chief Collaboration Officer of Solar Sister; and Claire Greensfelder, long time activist and media aficionado who has served as a consultant to WECAN International.

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The event closed with a Wall of Women Action, bringing presenters and audience members together in physical demonstration to highlight women’s roles as guardians of the Earth, their communities, and generations to come. Looking out over the group of men and women of all ages and heritages, shoulder to shoulder with their hands over their hearts, the words spoken minutes before by presenters echoed in my head. “Our struggle is united”, “WECAN, we are women of action”.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

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Blog by: Emily Arasim, WECAN International Special Projects & Communication Coordinator