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

 Text and photos by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Statement of the Meeting of Women on Climate Change and Extractive Industry Issues/ Declaracion del Encuentro de Mujeres Frente Al Extractivismo y al Cambio Climatico

On October 14, 2014, a group of women leaders gathered for ‘the Meeting of Women on Climate Change and Extractive Industry Issues’ in Quito, Ecuador. During powerful presentations and discussions, these Indigenous women and their allies spoke out against the fossil fuel and mineral extraction which is poisoning the Earth and the mental, spiritual, and physical health of their communities. Denouncing false development paradigms and territorial dispossession, the women ultimately gave voice to their concerns and solutions in the ‘Statement of the Meeting of Women on Climate Change and Extractive Industry Issues’ (Declaración del Encuentro de Mujeres Frente al Extractivismo y al Cambio Climático).

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) stands in solidarity with these women, and is working to help distribute and increase the visibility of their statement during the mobilization surrounding the UNFCCC COP20 climate negotiations happening in Lima, Peru this week. On December 8, WECAN International will collaborate with members of the delegation of Ecuadorian women who have brought the statement to Peru, reading and discussing the document as part of the ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change-Lima’ event.

The full declaration is presented below in Spanish and English.

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Photo by Felipe Jacome


Statement of the Meeting of Women on Climate Change & Extractive Industry Issues

Quito, Ecuador. October 14, 2014

“It is when there are great threats to life, when life itself is at stake, this is when women who seemed marginal rise with all their might, it is with all their commitment, all their resistance, all their energy, this is what is now happening with the daughters of corn, with the daughters of the earth.” -Vandana Shiva

One way to exploit nature is through the extraction of oil and minerals, which uses huge amounts of water while it contaminates and produces toxic waste; these chemicals also sicken the soil and people. When oil and mining companies reach the territories, they cause big problems- they break the community ties and replace them with conflicts within the families, the division of communities, and leave confrontations between them. The damage caused by these extractive activities are for the long term, and last much longer than the economic profit they say to generate.

Women in the areas considered oil zones, suffer the impacts of extractive activities in our bodies; we have reported the increase of gastrointestinal, respiratory and dermic, diseases, the growing cancer in our bodies and in our families. Women are wise when we say that “we do not want alcoholism, we do not want prostitution and we do not want men beating us. We do not want a life in which even though we can be offered schools, latrines or zinc houses, we do not feel worthy”, as pointed out by Patricia Gualinga, leader of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, in reference to the consequences that Oil Round XI would bring to their lives. With oil and mining activities agricultural products also decrease due to pollution, animals die, there is loss of growing crop areas, affecting the livelihoods of families and the community.

With oil and mining expansion, the dispossession of lands and territories of peasant and indigenous communities has intensified. Throughout this process of dispossession there has not only been violated and ignored social, economic and collective rights of peoples, but also, there has also been a physical and cultural wiped out of entire villages in order to take away their lands and exploit oil and minerals. An example of this, is the disappearance of the Tetete and Sansaguari people. And, women are one of the groups who suffer the most with the stripping of their rights and territories.

Our presence as women in socio-environmental struggles has gained prominence, allowing to denounce the exploitation of oil, minerals, and the exploitation of women. All these forms of exploitation have a common origin: the subjection to a development model that subordinates life to the accumulation of capital expressed in extractivism, that devalues, in practice, the conservation work and the care for life and natural heritage that, for centuries, women have done in these rural communities. Besides defending life, water and land, we ensure the health of families, food sovereignty, the rights and defense of Mother Earth by facing the capitalist system that is expressed in the predatory extractivism, that is inequitable, unjust, and that ignores women and prioritizes the reproduction of capital above the reproduction of life.

While it is true that the degradation and pollution processes affect the community as a whole, there exists greater vulnerability in women, children and the elderly due to direct exposure to pollutants and for not knowing the risk factors associated with them. The impacts of extractive activities alter the reproductive life cycle, whose regeneration rests on the shoulders of women. This is why we have the challenge to build the true “good living” recovering the memory of our peoples, where women play an important role to rebuild the future.

Today, women affected by oil and mining gather together. We are the women who fight tirelessly against the threat of mining expansion with the Mirador Project in Zamora Chinchipe; the San Carlos Panantza project in Morona Santiago; We, as women of different communities, are threatened with evictions from our territory in Intag by the Llurimagua project; We are women who face the violence of militarization of our territories as much as of our children, cousins, parents; we are women who are criminalized for resisting the mining project in Quimsacocha because we defend our water and life; We are Amazon women who walked from the jungle to the Ecuadorian capital to demand the government to stop oil exploitation in Shiwiar, Kichwa and Sapara territories and the exploitation of Yasuni; The women who gather today, represent the peoples who confront the evident disregard of the rights of indigenous peoples, peasants and the Pachamama.

THIS IS WHY WOMEN IN QUITO, GATHER AT THE MEETING OF WOMEN AND EXTRACTIVISM TO DEMAND REAL SOLUTIONS:

We do not want development alternatives that have meant the extinction of cultures and people; This is a development of death, of destruction, focused on exploitation, mainly of oil and minerals. This development has no future, we know it because we have already lived it for over 500 years. We have the alternative to development.

Therefore, we propose:

  • To recover food sovereignty
  • To recover water sovereignty
  • To recover energy sovereignty, which means the recovering of Mother Earth as a nutrient of our bodies, of our people
  • To produce to generate healthy food for the Good Living

So we are fighting for minerals to remain in the subsoil and for the oil from the Amazon to remain unexploded. These are the real solutions to climate change and a way to preserve our biodiversity, which is our true wealth.

And, this is also a way to demand reciprocity from urban areas, from which we have traditionally been victim of racism, from which we have been denied our rights, our cultures; now we propose and recognize that, mutually, it is necessary a common look of the different territories including urban ones to generate greater ties of integrated work.

WE HAVE THE REAL SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE.

WE DO NOT WANT DEVELOPMENT, WE HAVE OUR WEALTH AND LIFESTYLE THAT ARE RESPECTFUL OF LIFE AND NATURE.

Testimonies collected in “Life in the center and the oil underground: The Yasuní in feminist key” from Collective Critical Perspectives of the Territory from Feminism. 2014.


Declaración del Encuentro de Mujeres Frente al Extractivismo y al Cambio Climático

Quito, Ecuador. 14 de octubre de 2014

 “Es cuando hay grandes amenazas a la vida, cuando la vida misma está en juego, que las mujeres que parecían marginadas se levantan con todas sus fuerzas, con todo su compromiso, toda su resistencia, con toda su energía, es lo que ahora esta ocurriendo con las hijas del maíz, con las hijas de la tierra.” -Vandana Shiva

Una forma de explotar a la naturaleza es la extracción de petróleo y minerales que utiliza enormes cantidades de agua y la contamina pues produce desechos tóxicos; estos químicos enferman también a los suelos y a la gente. Las empresas petroleras y mineras cuando llegan a los territorios causan grandes problemas, rompen el tejido comunitario y lo reemplazan con conflictos en las familias, la división de comunidades, la confrontación entre unos y otros. Los daños producidos por estas actividades extractivas son a largo plazo, y duran mucho más que las utilidades económicas que dicen generar.

Las mujeres de las zonas petroleras sufrimos los impactos de las actividades extractivas en nuestros cuerpos; hemos denunciado el aumento de enfermedades gastrointestinales, respiratorias, dérmicas, el cáncer que crece en nuestros cuerpos y en nuestras familias. Las mujeres somos sabias cuando decimos que “no queremos alcoholismo, no queremos que haya prostitución, no queremos que los hombres nos golpeen. No queremos esta vida que, por más que nos ofrezcan escuelas, letrinas o casas de zinc, no nos haga sentir dignas”, como bien señala Patricia Gualinga lideresa del pueblo kichwa de Sarayaku haciendo referencia a las consecuencias que la XI Ronda Petrolera traería a sus vidas. Con las actividades petroleras y mineras también disminuyen los productos agrícolas debido a la contaminación, hay muerte de los animales, pérdida de zonas de cultivo, afectándose las fuentes de sustento de las familias y de la comunidad.

Con la ampliación petrolera y minera se ha intensificado el despojo de tierras y de los territorios de las comunidades campesinas e indígenas. Con este proceso de despojo no sólo se han vulnerado y desconocido los derechos sociales, económicos y colectivos de los pueblos sino que se ha exterminado pueblos enteros física y culturalmente para arrebatarles su tierras y explotar petróleo y minerales Un ejemplo es la desaparición de los pueblos Tetete y Sansaguari. Las mujeres sufren más con el despojo de los derechos y de sus territorios.

Nuestra presencia como mujeres en las luchas socio-ambientales ha cobrado protagonismo, esto ha permitido denunciar que la explotación de minerales, del petróleo, así como la explotación de las mujeres. Todas estas formas de explotación tienen un origen común: el sometimiento a un modelo de desarrollo que subordina la vida a la acumulación del capital expresado en el extractivismo que desvaloriza, en la práctica, el trabajo de conservación y cuidado de la vida y del patrimonio natural que durante siglos hemos realizado las mujeres en estas comunidades rurales. Nosotras además de defender la vida, el agua, el territorio, velamos por la salud de la familias, por la soberanía alimentaria, por los derechos y la defensa de la madre Tierra haciéndole frente al sistema capitalista que se expresa en el extractivismo depredador y que es inequitativo, injusto, ignora a las mujeres, prioriza la reproducción del capital por encima de la reproducción de la vida.

Si bien es cierto que los procesos de degradación y contaminación afectan a la comunidad en su conjunto, existe mayor vulnerabilidad en mujeres, niños y niñas y personas de la tercera edad, debido a la exposición directa a los contaminantes y al desconocimiento de los principales factores de riesgo asociados a ellos. Los impactos de las actividades extractivas alteran el ciclo de reproducción de la vida, cuya regeneración recae sobre las espaldas de las mujeres. Por eso Tenemos el desafío de construir el verdadero “buen vivir” recuperando la memoria de nuestros pueblos, ahí las mujeres jugamos un rol importante para reconstruir el futuro.

Hoy nos juntamos mujeres afectadas por petróleo y minería. Mujeres que luchan incansablemente contra la amenaza de la expansión minera con el Proyecto Mirador en Zamora Chinchipe, el proyecto Panantza San Carlos en Morona Santiago; estamos mujeres de comunidades amenazadas de ser expulsadas de su territorio en Intag por el proyecto Llurimagua; mujeres que nos enfrentamos a la violencia de la militarización tanto sobre nuestros territorios como sobre nuestro hijos, primos hermanos, padres; mujeres que somos criminalizadas por resistir a la minería en Quimsacocha, porque defendemos el agua y la vida; mujeres amazónicas que caminaron desde la selva a la capital ecuatoriana para demandar al gobierno la no explotación petrolera en los territorios Shiwiar, Kichwa, Sápara y por la No explotación del Yasuní; nos juntamos hoy mujeres de pueblos que dan la cara ante la evidente vulneración de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, campesinos y de la Pachamama.

POR ESO LAS MUJERES REUNIDAS EN QUITO EN EL ENCUENTRO DE MUJERES Y EXTRACTIVISMO DEMANDAMOS VERDADERAS SOLUCIONES:

No queremos alternativas de desarrollo que han significado extinción de las culturas y los pueblos; este es un desarrollo de muerte, de destrucción, centrado en la explotación, principalmente de petróleo y minerales. Este desarrollo no tiene futuro, lo sabemos porque ya lo hemos vivido desde hace más de 500 años. Nosotras tenemos la alternativa al desarrollo.

Por eso PLANTEAMOS:

  • recuperar la soberanía alimentaria
  • recuperar a soberanía hídrírca
  • recuperar la soberanía energética , es decir
  • recuperar a la madre tierra como nutriente de nuestros cuerpos, de nuestra gente
  • producir para generar alimentos sanos para el Buen Vivir

Por eso estamos luchando para que los minerales se queden en el subsuelo, y que el petróleo de la amazonía se quede si explotar. Estas son las verdaderas soluciones al cambio climático y una forma de conservar nuestra biodiversidad que es nuestra verdadera riqueza.

Así también demandamos la reciprocidad de los pueblos urbanos, de los que tradicionalmente hemos recibido racismo, negación hacia nuestros derechos, nuestras culturas; ahora planteamos reconocernos mutuamente para generar mayores lazos de trabajo conjunto, un mirada común de los distintos territorios incluido el urbano.

NOSOTRAS TENEMOS LAS VERDADERAS SOLUCIONES AL CAMBIO CLIMÁTICO

NOSOTRAS NO QUEREMOS DESARROLLO, YA TENEMOS NUESTRA RIQUEZA Y FORMAS DE VIDA QUE SON RESPETUOSAS DE LA VIDA Y LA NATURALEZA

Testimonios recogidos en “La vida en el centro y el crudo bajo tierra: El Yasuní en clave feminista” del Colectivo Miradas Críticas del Territorio desde el Feminismo. 2014.