‘Rights of Nature: Protecting & Defending the Places We Live’ Training Resources

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On July 28, 2015 the U.S Women’s Climate Justice Initiative presented the final session in a series of free, online advocacy and education trainings. ‘Rights of Nature & Community Rights: Protecting & Defending the Places We Live’ featured climate women leaders Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights and Osprey Orielle Lake of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network.

During the training Shannon and Osprey provided a background on Rights of Nature and the importance of a legal framework that honors Earths living systems rather than treating them as property. They described how Rights of Nature can be used to take immediate, concrete steps to protect our communities and the planet– and also as a tool for furthering deep, long-term shifts in culture, law, policy, and our relationship with the Earth. They shared techniques for asserting community rights and Rights of Nature over supposed corporate ‘rights’, power, and profit, and told stories about communities across the US and the world who are already using local Rights of Nature ordinances to take back their ability to protect the Earth and make decisions about the places they call home.

A collection of resources presented during the training is provided below.

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WECAN International at the Coalition Climat 21 Gathering in Paris

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For the past three days the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) has been on-the-ground in Paris, France participating in a Coalition Climat 21 organizing session with a diverse group of leaders, united for collective action before and during the United Nations COP21 climate negotiations happening in Paris this December.

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Coalition Climat 21 is composed of over one hundred associations, networks, social and environmental NGO’s, trade unions, youth groups, and grass roots organizers, joined together with the goal of creating a strong civil society voice and popular movement pushing for climate justice and ambitious action during the COP21 negotiations and beyond.

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Payal Parekh, 350.org Global Director & Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director.

The June strategy session served as a platform for groups from around the world to share their movements, network with allies, and strengthen plans for events, demonstrations, and other calls to action happening worldwide over the next few months and in Paris during COP21.

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Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP leader & honored WECAN US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Steering Committee member with Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director.

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While on-the-ground, WECAN International participated in a Women and Gender mobilizing session and had the opportunity to lead a workshop on Rights of Nature and the International Rights of Nature Tribunal which will be happening in Paris in December.

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Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network speaking about Indigenous rights and climate change.

“This year is one of the most critical years for addressing global climate change. If we do not act now, we risk catastrophic impacts that will effect all we hold dear,” explained Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International co-Founder and Executive Director, “COP21 will thus likely be the most important UN climate negotiation of our time. The decisions and actions to protect the Earth and next generations laid out by COP21 international agreements will have a profound impact on our global trajectory. The peoples movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground and bring real change is dynamic and strong, and we must demand and work ceaselessly to insure that world governments step up and answer their citizens calls. We all need to look upward to the sun and wind for a just transition, with frontline communities leading the way.”


Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

‘Women, an Unstoppable Force’ – WECAN at the Regional Bay Area Its Time 2015 Network Convening

On May 2nd, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) Co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, spoke at the local ‘It’s Time 2015 – A Partnership Summit to Elevate Women’s Leadership’ in San Francisco, California.

Osprey’s speech is presented below in its entirely, in the hope that its powerful message and insights will inspire more women to discover the agency they hold, and to begin applying their diverse skills and interests towards the fight for climate justice and solutions worldwide.

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Hello dear friends and allies,

I would like to talk with you about two main points today. The first, that the climate crisis is urgent and that we have only a very small window of time to take bold action. The second, that women can and are making a significant difference in changing our current trajectory concerning global warming.

Last September, I was asked to present at a forum in New York about climate change and health impacts. At the forum a panel of scientists were reporting on their research concerning the harmful effects of increasing CO2 emissions on pregnant women and their growing babies.

It was almost too difficult for me to comprehend the fact that as a species, we are literally weighing the very health of our babies against a destructive system that values money above the well-being of the lives of our children and the planet as a whole.

In this moment it became poignantly clear to me, once again, that we have really gone off the cliff, and that we absolutely must stand up to stop this insanity and build a healthy world for our children and all the species of this magnificent Earth.

Right now we are on a trajectory that has made 2015 the hottest year on record, with extreme weather events already leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. We have been experiencing a massive drought in California where I live, and water and food shortages are intensifying globally.

If we continue with business as usual, the climate disruptions that we are creating will continue to lead, quite literally, to fatal changes in the very web of life itself.

Meanwhile, as citizens of the United States, we live in country where climate denial still prevails despite the fact that we are looking at the greatest existential crisis that humanity has ever faced. Just yesterday Congress passed a bill to decrease funds for NASA at a time when we need science more than ever.

It is from this landscape that the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network was born, and what we are seeing across our international network is the power of women rising up to face this challenge in truly remarkable ways.

While women are the most negatively impacted by climate change and environmental degradation, they are also key to solutions. Women are central stakeholders in re-visioning a new way of living with the earth.

WECAN International is working with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Middle East/North African Region, across Latin America, and beyond and the things we are seeing are incredible. Women saving seeds, women developing small-scale solar businesses, women planting trees to heal destroyed lands, women building resistance movements to keep fossil fuels in the ground, protect their territories, and so much more.

This year WECAN is launching a Women’s Climate Justice Initiative here in the United States, and I invite all of you to unite with us. We have started this initiative in recognition of the fact that the US represents approximately 4% of the world’s population, yet we are producing upwards of 25% of the world’s carbon emissions–this tells me we have a real responsibility to act.

There is so much good work we can do together, so here is a sample of what the U.S. initiative includes:

  • A Women for 100% Renewable Energy campaign.
  • Calls to action to advocate with frontline and Indigenous women such as those living in the Bakken oil fields where a huge amount of devastating fracking is happening.
  • Strategizing to ensure we vote in climate leaders in the 2016 election.
  • Wide scale education and advocacy about environmental injustice and frontline communities.

No matter what issues you are involved with, we invite your collaboration because we firmly believe that the root cause of the climate crisis is the unjust nature of current social and economic systems. All of our issues are unequivocally linked.

The old, dominating structures of inequality must go, as exemplified by the fight to end the fossil fuel era.

As some of you may know, this year is a pivotal time, with international U.N. Climate Negotiations happening in Paris in December. There has never been a more crucial moment to send a powerful message to leaders from U.S women, and from women around the world: Enough is enough, it is time to move to immediately begin leaving fossil fuels in the ground and to transition to a clean, just, decentralized, democratized, and sustainable energy future.

We, as women, must continue to stand up to fight for the rights of our communities and nature. As we say at WECAN International: WE CAN act now, WE MUST act now. And we must demand this from our leaders.

Certainly Nature, our Mother Earth, is not waiting for politicians to negotiate. And there is no way that we can argue or buy our way out of the climate crisis or the laws of the natural world.

It is time for us to respect these natural laws, to respect the rights of Mother Earth, and this is something I feel we women understand deep in our bones.

What continues to inspire me is that we have many successful women’s movements to draw upon: the power of the Chipko Movement in India where women saved entire forests, the Suffrage Movement, the Rural Women’s Movement, and the Liberian Women’s Peace Movement to name a few.

When women are united, we have a profound ability to create an unstoppable force, and that is just what we need to face the climate crisis.

As a global network, women are calling for system change, not climate change. We are asking, ‘does it make any sense to try to protect the Earth and heal damaged ecosystems by further subjecting Nature to the very systems, like our current economic structure, that caused the damage in the first place?’

We need climate justice and we need to have the courage to change everything about how we are living with each other and the Earth, and I am certain women can and will lead the way.

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Osprey Orielle Lake speaking at the local ‘It’s Time 2015 – A Partnership Summit to Elevate Women’s Leadership’ in San Francisco, California.

Democratic Republic of Congo Climate Women Take On Deforestation & Clean Energy Needs

The second largest rainforest in the world lies cradled in the Congo Basin of Central Africa. It represents more than 60% of the African continents total rainforest area, and holds within it an almost unfathomable diversity of life. However, like many of the Earths most precious places, this center of immense cultural and ecologic importance faces escalating deforestation and threats from pressures including fuel wood collection, timber and coal production, unsustainable agricultural practices, and social and political unrest.

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For more than a year, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network International (WECAN International) has been collaborating with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) South Kivu Province as part of the ‘Women for Forests and Fossil Fuel/Mega Dam/Mining Resistance’ program. Through a series of online trainings and on-the-ground strategy and action sessions, WECAN International and local partner SAFECO are providing an arena to address regional socio-economic need, support women in their role as community leaders, and confront critical environmental issues by building local solutions with a global vision.

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WECAN International and SAFECO led the most recent three-day training in February 2015, bringing together twenty women and seven men from ten different villages around the Itombwe rainforest. The DRC Climate Solutions Training is part of an ongoing program held in the area with the aim of growing the knowledge and capacities of the local, indigenous women to create and enact place-based climate action plans. Building on previous sessions, the February training covered topics including deforestation in the Itombwe forest, forest protection and restoration techniques, and the use of Improved Cooking Stoves as means of reducing pressures on the forest and improving family health and wellbeing.

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During the first session, participants engaged in conversations about the importance of trees and their relationship to climate change, focusing specifically on the immense value of native species and why exploitative practices such as logging are so detrimental to the health of the rainforest, the livelihood of their communities, and the global environment. Crucially, the group discussed and observed how they can work as guardians of the forest and as climate leaders without sacrificing their livelihoods or access to the diverse gifts provided by the land.

In connecting the lives, stories, and experiences of the local women to a larger climate change narrative, the facilitators hoped to help the women see the great power and agency they hold.

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Day two was spent visiting a small nursery where women learned techniques for starting and maintaining a tree nursery to contribute to reforestation efforts. Participants planted over 100 trees and discussed how these trees contribute to water purification, soil fertility, carbon sequestration, biodiversity protection, sustainable food production, medicinal plant access, and so much more.

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“From these trees we expect to fight climate change by protecting wild ecosystems, as well as satisfy our needs of fuel wood, medicine, and timber production,” explained training participate Yena Nasoka.

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The third and final day was dedicated to discussions and practicums surrounding the use of Improved Cooking Stoves. Participants learned about the characteristics of the stoves, which facilitate more energy efficient, rapid cooking and reduce the amount of smoke polluting living spaces, lungs, and the surrounding air. Because of their improved efficiency, the stoves require less fuel wood, which can help reduce deforestation rates in a region where the collection of wood for cooking and light pressures the local environment.

During discussions, women expressed excitement about the use the Improved Cooking Stoves for cooking and to contribute to forest conservation, but explained their concerns about not having a substitute for open fires used for light at night. WECAN International and SAFECO have begun the next phase of the program, which includes arranging for small hand-held solar lights to be brought into the region for light at night and for the women to develop their own small businesses selling and maintaining the solar lights.

“I’m excited by WECAN’s holistic approach to bring solar light so we can have light at night and Improved Cooking Stoves. This will work in our region,” reflected one woman, Butunga Nalisa, on the final day.

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Participants in this and previous WECAN trainings have formed a local conservation committee to insure that the progress made during training sessions will continue to grow and take root in their region. Through the committee they aim to share what they have learned with other community members, work to document and denounce deforestation, and create a collective voice to speak out when fellow citizens or local authorities facilitate unauthorized timber and charcoal production.

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Following the February session, the committee of training participants held a meeting with local chiefs, government officials, and the WECAN DRC coordinator to present their suggestions and requests.

Their recommendations for the protection and restoration of community wellbeing and the precious Itombwe rainforest are the following:

  • Implement laws and regulations to prevent forest fires and deforestation by holding guilty groups and individuals accountable for their actions.
  • Provide diverse tree seeds to local people and organizations involved in the process of planting trees.
  • Support and create campaigns to make others aware of the importance of forest protection and tree planting, and to promote the use of Improved Cooking Stoves in all villages.
  • Extend environmental education to community members of all ages.
  • Uplift and implement Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
  • Support local villages in getting cheaper solar panels and solar lamps to charge phones and provide light at night.

The WECAN/SAFECO partnership will work to help the communities surrounding Itombwe bring these recommendations to fruition, and will continue to strive to support, encourage, and strengthen the women leaders forging the way.

For an inside look into the recent Climate Solutions Training in the DRC, check out this short video created by the participants: 

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By Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

San Francisco Bay Area Refinery Corridor Healing Walks

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In the San Francisco Bay Area of California, the Chevron refinery in Richmond is a familiar sight and one that is a constant reminder of the negative health effects that has plagued the community as a result of its presence.  Residents living near refineries experience a myriad of health issues ranging from asthma, cancer and various auto immune and respiratory diseases.   Unfortunately, this refinery is only one of five in the Bay Area and there is a proposal for a WesPac oil terminal in Pittsburg.  In addition to the health risks associated with living near a refinery the people living there are also in close proximity to rail lines that carry crude oil through their communities.  These trains travel past schools, community centers, shopping areas and playgrounds.  The trains carry potentially explosive crude oil and have a blast radius of one mile, meaning they are continuously threatening the health and livelihoods of the community.

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A serious fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond on August 8, 2012 hospitalized 15,000 people, then a little over two years later a train derailment occurred on December 3, 2014 near an elementary school in the same town.  Although the train had not been carrying any crude oil, it is an example of the grave outcomes that could occur as a result of careless planning and an example of how some communities are turned into sacrifice zones.  In response, the community has risen with many successful resistance efforts including in January of 2014, a series of healing walks along the San Francisco Bay Area refinery corridor, which were inspired by the many healing walks and runs which included the Tar Sands Healing Walks in Alberta, Canada, the Longest Walks, and the Peace & Dignity Journeys.  The walks were held to bring attention and awareness to the health and environmental impacts of the fossil fuel industry.  These walks are rooted in old resistance tactics that Indigenous people have used over the years to protest the taking and polluting of their lands.  The main organizer of the walks is long time activist, Pennie Opal Plant of Idle No More San Francisco and Movement Rights.

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Idle No More began in Saskatchewan as a small series of teach-ins that would help people protest bills that would strip away at native cultures and has now become one of the largest indigenous mass movements in Canadian history.  This movement spread around the world from the Americas to Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa as groups in solidarity began to conduct their own Idle No More type actions in December 2012.  A group of Native America grandmothers, mothers, fathers and grandfathers formally created Idle No More San Francisco Bay.  They are one of the most active groups in the movement and are comprised of allies from many different backgrounds. Movement Rights is an organization that works to help local communities exercise their legal rights’ over corporations that threaten the future of the residents’ ability to live in the community in a sustainable and healthy manner.

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The two organizations inspired people to fight and protect their land while also empowering communities to exercise their legal rights’ over corporate entities.  Last year, front-line activists living along the corridor joined them and created the Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition (BARCC) and together they are working to host their second annual Connect the Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks.   The 2015 walks are held in a four part series, once a month from April through July, they are as follows:

Saturday, April 18th – Pittsburg to Martinez

Sunday, May 17th – Martinez to Benicia

Saturday, June 20th – Benicia to Rodeo

Sunday, July 19th – Rodeo to Richmond

WECAN was thrilled to participate in the 2014 Healing Walks and will be walking again this year

WECAN was thrilled to participate in the 2014 Healing Walks and will be walking again this year

The Walks begin and end with prayers for the water which are conducted by Native American women, and are led by Native American elders and others in prayer following a sacred staff. Walkers stop at the refineries and toxic sites along the way to pray for the land, water and air, as well as creatures living near the refineries and those yet to be born. Support vehicles follow the walkers with water and medics. Participants are asked to sign an agreement to be nonviolent and walkers are encouraged to envision a just transition to a clean and safe energy future and an economy that supports everyone. They are then invited to write or draw these ideas on muslin squares which are sewn together to create a quilt.

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To learn more about the Healing Walks and participate in them,  please see http://www.refineryhealingwalks.com/walk1.html

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action International’s (WECAN) is honored to have Pennie Opal Plant on our USA Initiative Steering Committee as we continue to support frontline communities.  To read more about WECAN’s work to mobilize efforts in the USA please see http://wecaninternational.org/north-american-regional-convening

Women Are Half Of The Population, Policies Must Reflect This!

WECAN Latin American Coordinator Statement for the 5th meeting, Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations 

(Declaration Session) – U.N. General Assembly

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2015 is a historical year, first because the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) agenda comes to an end with its ups and downs, achievements and lessons learned. On the other hand, new agendas are being drafted to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and to finalize a global climate agreement in Paris. New finance for a development agenda is on the table and while the process is surely flawed, we want to do all that we can within the process to help the least developed countries, and in that sense, it is important to highlight the need to include a women’s rights perspective. In order to do so it is necessary to understand that women’s rights, women’s empowerment and participation are key to achieve positive development that can become a game-changer in the complex social, economic and environmental panorama that we are facing.

Therefore is important to make the voices of all women especially those in forgotten places, like small and indigenous communities or small towns in rural areas included in this new agenda. The needs of women and their solutions must be taken into account in order to really draft an agenda that leaves no one behind. Many of the women we represent live in poverty conditions , have low access to education, produce their own food, are left on their own to face the drastic impacts of climate change, face pollution from mining and oil industries and are witnesses to the loss of their lands and forests. They experience all of this without having any benefit for themselves or their children and while sadly earning a legacy of poverty as they lose their ways of life.

Kiyomi Nagumo as Coordinator of WECAN Latin America Region participated in a session for the drafting of the declaration for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) calling on Governments and States to take into account that women are half of all populations and therefore half of the world and they should not be ignored or forgotten but should be instead at the core of the new POST2015 – Sustainable Development Agenda.  In order to really shift the catastrophic path our society is aiming toward , which includes the ongoing oppression of women and building a cruel economic structure based on their bodies and perpetuating their poverty, we must have women’s empowerment and full representation at the forefront.

The following statement calls for a strong reflection upon the needs of a system change and to realize that it is time to stop profiting from women’s poverty and to create a new environment where women can truly realize themselves as persons and not take them for granted as objects,  property or mere commodities. Women are life-givers not only in the sense of motherhood but also the ones that protect and nourish the seeds and the animals. Many women are already leading their communities against all odds and with further education and access to resources and the true benefits of their work they can became even stronger leaders that can help create better societies based on solidarity and understanding of nature and natural laws.


February 20, 2015 Session of the SDGs

Speaker: Kiyomi Nagumo (WECAN-WECF)

Thank you Mr. Chair (Mr. Facilitator), authorities, and colleges

Good morning, my name is Kiyomi Nagumo, speaking on behalf of the Women`s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) and Women of Europe for a Common Future (WECF)

Although many countries have tried to generate policies to eradicate structural violence against women, we must acknowledge that the structures of abuse cannot be eliminated if we do not recognize that we live in a patriarchal system where we, women, are assumed as an object and that the regulatory, social, legal and economic structures are based on our bodies. Therefore part of the global economy is the result of the unpaid work we do.

However, we have seen a failure to include women in spaces (seats) of power, wrongly thinking that empowerment will come with only a name or percentage within decision making spaces. Talking about the empowerment of women has a great responsibility because it becomes necessary to work with legal recognition and social recognition.

If we really want a change and impact the political landscape effectively , we must acknowledge that women are half of the world, therefore half the planet.

Establishing specifically equitable access to land tenure and natural resource policies is essential, since the policy or established standards are not sufficient and the necessary control mechanisms to carrying them out do not exist. Because without equitable access, women cannot access spaces of local, regional, national and  international decision-making.

We are aware that the least developed countries, indigenous peoples, intercultural communities and rural communities and women suffer from droughts, floods, hail, pests, so it is necessary to establish mechanisms to adapt to the changing weather conditions.

We are convinced that there is no person, organization, community, province, region or nation who can solve the problem of climate change and sustainable development alone, so it is vital that international commitments do not remain neglected and that governments respond to the same level of urgency.

Sustainable development goes hand in hand with the empowerment of women and of women’s movement. Women can contribute to, and influence local and international governance in order to generate policies, raise climate measures and sustainable solutions,  ensure respect and sovereignty of our people. In this way women and indigenous communities can design and determine their own future, drafting a new course ensuring coexistence and living well in relationship with the environment.

States should take into account that it is time to achieve global cooperation, coordination and an understanding of a diversity of peoples and cultures by taking into account that there are intercultural regulatory, economic and social plural systems.

Therefore, the Declaration of the post-2015 agenda needs countries to commit to the rights of half the planet, women,  and ensure women’s rights are guaranteed and implemented,  and are consistent with climate justice agreements.

Thank you very much!

Kiyomi Nagumo, WECAN Coordinator for Latin American Region , with  Carmen Capriles, Reacción Climática Bolivia


Spanish Statement:

Muy buenos Días, Mi nombre es Kiyomi Nagumo, hablo en nombre de la Red por la tierra y el Clima (WECAN) y WECF

A pesar de que muchos países han tratado de generar políticas para erradicar la violencia estructural contra la mujer. Tenemos que tener en cuenta que las estructuras de maltrato no pueden ser eliminadas si no estamos consientes de que vivimos en un sistema patriarcal, que las mujeres somos asumidas como un objeto y que las construcciones normativas, sociales, jurídicas y económicas se basan en nuestros cuerpos. Por lo tanto parte de la economía mundial es fruto del trabajo impago que realizamos.

Sin embargo, existe una falla al incluir a las mujeres en estrados de poder. las mujeres somos la mitad de cada pueblo, por ende la mitad del planeta. Si queremos realmente ser tomadas en cuenta, no únicamente necesitamos políticas para el empoderamiento denominativo o porcentual, se debe impulsar el par político de manera efectiva.

Establecer políticas equitativa sobre el acceso a la tenencia de tierras y los recursos naturales, no son suficientes es necesario q existan mecanismos de control, y ejecución de las mismas. Ya que sin ellos, nosotras no podemos acceder a espacios de tomas de decisión locales, regionales, nacionales y hasta internacionales.

Estamos conscientes de el impacto de cambio climatico es mas severo en comunidades campesinas, y sobre todo a las indígenas, por lo tanto es necesario establecer mecanismos para poder adaptarnos a situaciones de clima cambiantes. “Si el planeta está mal, nosotras nos llevamos la peor parte”

Estamos convencidas que ninguna persona, organización, comunidad, provincia, región o nación es capaz de resolver el problema del cambio climático y lograr un desarrollo sostenible por sí solo, por eso es trascendental que los compromisos internacionales no sigan siendo postergados y que los gobiernos respondan a la escala de urgencia.

El desarrollo sostenible va de la mano con el empoderamiento del movimiento de mujeres, nosotras podemos aportar e incidir en la gobernanza local e internacional con el fin de generar políticas, plantear medidas climáticas y soluciones sostenibles. Para garantizar el respeto y la soberanía de nuestras poblaciones, para que estas puedan diseñar y determinar su propio futuro, trazar un nuevo rumbo garantizando el vivir bien en coexistencia y relación con el medio ambiente.

Por eso, la Declaración de la agenda post-2015 necesita q los países se comprometan que los derechos de la mitad de la planeta estén garantizadas e implementadas, a demás, que estén en concordancia con el acuerdo del clima.

Muchas gracias

Kiyomi Nagumo, WECAN Coordinator for Latin American Region and Carmen Capriles, Reacción Climática Bolivia

Stories & Solutions from the Frontlines: Climate Women Unite At WECAN Event in Lima

Photo Via Leo Sacha

International women leaders at WECAN event. Photo via Leo Sacha.

On December 8, 2014, a group of extraordinary women leaders gathered in Lima, Peru to speak out against issues of social and ecologic injustice, and to share stories and plans of action for building a livable, equitable world.

‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change-Lima’ was hosted by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) as part of the mobilization surrounding the UNFCCC COP20 climate negotiations, held in Lima that same week. Crucially, the event created a platform to bring to the forefront some of the voices that have been historically excluded, particularly those of Indigenous women.

The event opened with a powerful welcome ceremony, led by Eda Zavala, an Indigenous leader from Tarapoto, Peru.

Eda Zavala of Tarapoto, Peru. Photo via Amazon Watch.

WECAN International Co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, introduced the event,

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Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director.

“We are here today to explore what we, as women from different parts of the world, can do to accelerate our collective efforts to stop extractivism and protect our lands and children’s future. How can we as women connect more deeply in our defense and protection of the web of life and the Earth in the face of climate change and dangerous economic and legal frameworks? How can women of the Global South and North work in deeper collaboration, and how can we recognize and act upon the historic responsibilities of industrialized countries and so-called wealthier communities? Indigenous and frontline communities are where we must focus our efforts, and we acknowledge with deep respect and fierce outrage the threats and crimes against defenders of the land.”

“Foundationally, how we treat the Earth is how we treat women. Violence against the Earth, begets violence against women…Women comprise about 20 million of the 26 million people estimated to have been displaced by climate change, and yet, while women continue to suffer disproportionately, they also stand on the frontlines of global efforts to revision our world and build real solutions,” Lake explained.

Bianca Jagger, social and human rights advocate, and Founder and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, presented further opening remarks focusing on the importance of women’s leadership and solidarity with frontline communities worldwide. Please see Ms. Jagger’s important analysis of COP20 and her participation in the WECAN event here.

Bianca Jagger of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and Sonia Guajajara, National Coordinator of Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples, Maranhão. Brazil. Photo via Amazon Watch.

Following opening remarks, panel sessions moderated by Leila Salazar-Lopez, Program Director at Amazon Watch, and Lake of WECAN International began, featuring women land-defenders sharing their experiences and solutions.

Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women in Ecuador denounced the destruction caused by the oil industry’s steady encroachment on her people’s territory. Poignantly, Gloria explained the devastation of the Earth and the health, security, and wellbeing of Amazonian communities as a direct result of misconceived notions of development and progress.

Hueiya Alicia Cahuiya Iteca, Vice President of the Huaorani nationality of Ecuador, detailed her fight for an immediate end to all oil exploration and drilling in Yasuni National Park, one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, and home to an incredible array of cultures and communities. Yasuni is one of the few places in the region that thrived during the last ice age, and, quite extraordinarily, is one of the few expected to withstand extreme future climate changes. Despite this, the Ecuadorian government and foreign and national companies are pushing into this previously ‘intangible’ zone, compromising the very survival of the land and its people.

Photo via Atossa Soltani

Hueiya Alicia Cahuiya Iteca, Vice-President of the Huaorani nationality of Ecuador. Photo via Atossa Soltani

Hueiya elucidated how the rivers that once flourished and sustained life of breathtaking diversity are now poisoning the fish and causing unheard of cancers and skin diseases, particularly in children.

We must fight to protect the Earth and our territories for these children and future generations, Hueiya explained, reminding all present that if our ancestors had not taken action, we would not be here today.

Tantoo Cardinal, Native Canadian actress and activist addressed the audience next, taking them from the heart of the Amazon rainforest, to the devastated tar sands region in Canada. Tantoo explained the ways in which the poisoning of the Earth and Indigenous communities in North America, unleashed through extractive industries, is but an extension of a colonial mindset,

“For generations, our language was outlawed. Our songs were outlawed. Our way of relationship with creator, with creative force, was outlawed. Our names were taken away.”

Tantoo and hundreds of other men and women from across Canada and the US have been working ceaselessly to insure that exploitation is stopped, and that the root causes of these injustices are addressed.

Nina Gualinga, Kichwa youth leader from Sarayaku, in the Ecuadorian Amazon opened the second panel discussion, reflecting on how she was compelled to become an Earth defender,

“I grew up in a beautiful place in the rainforest of Ecuador, in Sarayaku. I don’t have words to describe my childhood, but it was beautiful. I cannot ask for anything else. When I was about seven years old, maybe eight, this representative of an oil company called CGC came to Sarayaku. It was an Argentinian oil company. And I did not speak Spanish, but I saw that my elders, my mother and all the people in Sarayaku were worried…That was the first time I feared that my land and the life that I knew was going to be destroyed.”

Hailing from Nepal, and representing communities in India and Thailand, Mrinalini (Tina) Rai, Indigenous advisor and gender expert from the Global Forest Coalition, shared her experiences of the challenges women face in forest communities.

Pictured left to right: Nina Gualinga, Mrinalini (Tina) Rai, Casey Camp Horinek, Atossa Soltani, & Osprey Orielle Lake. Photo via Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

Ponca Nation elder, actress, long-time activist, and Indigenous Environmental Network representative, Casey Camp-Horinek, reflected on experiences at the frontline of the fight against extractive industries in Oklahoma, USA.

“We’re living in a very destructive area, where I am. We have ConocoPhillips. We have fracking. We have earthquakes as a result of that fracking. We have fish kills. We have cancer rates that are astronomical at this time. We have literal killings. They may not be coming after us with their bayonets and their rifles, but they’re coming at us with nuclear waste, they’re coming at us with fracking, they’re coming at us with pipelines that are carrying that filth from the tar sands, where they’re killing my relatives up there. And they’re bringing it to you.”

Casey’s presentation echoed earlier speakers, highlighting the fact that while not everyone present at the event directly experiences the impacts of extractivism and exploitation at this time, it is imperative that we act in solidarity with the communities who suffer, working to heal past harms and prevent the spreading of this devastation.

Atossa Soltani, Founder and Executive Director of Amazon Watch also spoke, concluding her comments with a fierce testimony and analysis of why fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we are to avert catastrophic levels of climate disruption.

“Looking for more oil and gas is insane. We need to keep the oil in the ground.” Atossa explained.

During the final panel session, presenters shared strategies for implementing a living forest worldview and developing renewable energy alternatives, just economic structures, resistance movements, and systemic change.

Pictured left to right: Patricia Gualinga, Sonia Guajajara, and Nino Gamisonia. Photo via Atossa Soltani.

Traveling from Maranhão, Brazil, Sonia Guajajara serves as the National Coordinator of Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples, and has been working to expose violations of Indigenous Rights happening across her home country. Specifically, Sonia is campaigning against the industrial agribusiness interests responsible for deforesting and polluting great swaths of land in Brazil, as well as against the construction of several mega-dam projects expected to displace thousands and flood irreplaceable ecosystems.

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Patricia Gualinga, Kichwa leader from Sarayaku, Ecuador.

Nino Gamisonia of the Rural Communities Development Agency in Abkhazia, Georgia gave fresh insight on a region whose story is seldom told. Nino outlined detailed women-led solar energy projects that are leap-frogging rural communities towards clean energy alternatives in her region.

Speaking from experience leading her communities’ fight to protect diverse cultural and ecologic heritage from oil extraction, Patricia Gualinga, Indigenous Kichwa leader of Sarayaku, Ecuador spoke last:

“The destruction of nature is the destruction of our own energy and of our own existence here on Earth,” Patricia explained, “the destruction of our spaces is the destruction of indigenous populations. And even though you might not believe this, this is your destruction, as well.”

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Strategy circle led by allies at the Indigenous Environmental Network.

After the panels, several breakout sessions were organized, including ‘Indigenous Women North and South: Defenders of the Mother Earth Treaty’, presented by the Indigenous Environmental Network, and an initial strategy session for distributing and gaining visibility for the ‘Declaration of the Meeting of Women Against Extractivism and Climate Change’, or Declaración del Encuentro de Mujeres Frente al Extractivismo y al Cambio Climático.

This powerful statement, written at a gathering of Indigenous women and allies in Quito, Ecuador in October 2014, denounces false development paradigms, territorial dispossession, and the poisoning of communities and nature. A group of women, including panelist Hueiya Alicia Cahuiya Iteca, worked throughout COP20 to gain recognition and support for their demands. Click here to read the full declaration in Spanish and English.

Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador, and Hueiya Alicia Cahuiya Iteca, Vice-President of Huaorani nationality of Ecuador. Photo via Amazon Watch.

Lake closed the event with a clear directive from all participants that the deliberations, new partnerships, and strategic plans that arose from the gathering would be carried out in 2015. Special thanks to Amazon Watch and the Indigenous Environmental Network for participation in this and other events in Lima.

WECAN International is deeply honored that the team from Democracy Now! attended ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change-Lima’. Their coverage is presented below, allowing you to hear directly from some of the courageous and inspiring women who spoke at the event.

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

International Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal Climate Change Case Statement

On December 5 and 6, 2014, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature convened the second ‘International Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal’ in Lima, Peru, using the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth to examine and make formal observations on cases of exploitation of the Earth that have remained outside the consideration of formal institutions.

Cases on trail included the BP Deep Horizon oil spill, the Belo Monte mega-dam in Brazil, threats to the Great Barrier Reef, fracking projects in North America and Bolivia, REDD initiatives, the persecution of defenders of the Earth, and unmitigated fossil fuel and mineral extraction in sites such as Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park and El Mirador gold mine, and Peru’s Four Rivers Basin.

WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, served as a judge during the Tribunal, focusing specifically on the case analyzing the ways in which Earths inherent rights have been violated by the impacts of climate change and false climate solutions. Her final statement is presented below, alongside photos from the event.


Honorable President of the Tribunal and Ladies and Gentleman,

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Blanca Chancoso, Kichwa leader, Ecuador.

I want to express my deepest appreciation for all the witnesses for Mother Earth who have spoken so powerfully in the defense of Pachamama and their communities these past two days. Particularly, I want to honor the voices of the Indigenous women who have spoken here.

Thank you to the presenters of the climate change case for such a compelling and critical testimony about global warming and false solutions.

The presentation reminded me of a forum I participated in during the Peoples Climate March in New York City this past September. Scientists were reporting on their research concerning the harmful effects of increasing CO2 emissions on pregnant women and their growing babies. What was almost too difficult to grasp at this forum was that we, as a species, we are literally weighing the very health of our babies against a destructive system that has gone completely mad.

Today the climate change presenters have made well-founded arguments illustrating the ways in which the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth have been fundamentally violated by global temperature rise, and by a myriad of false solutions being proposed for mitigation.

If the global mean temperature warms by more than 2 °Celsius (and likely less than that given the dangerous change we have already witnessed), risks to ecosystems and livelihoods will surpass tolerable levels. Your arguments have made it clear that the consequences of climate change are leading to irreversible and fatal changes to the very web of life.

President of the Huni Kui people of Acre, Brazil, Ninawa Kaxinawá (Hunikui)

Because of a world view based on domination of Nature, and a destructive capitalist framework based on endless material growth and extractivism, grave violations of Mother Earth’s rights are taking place, destroying not only animals, plants, rivers, oceans and the atmosphere, but bringing into question the very existence of the human species.

The fossil fuel industry, our governance structures, and corporate institutions must be held accountable for these violations against Nature. While many world leaders hold on to the notion that we can postpone serious reductions in fossil fuels, nature is clearly demonstrating that Earth’s natural laws cannot be manipulated, compromised, or ignored.

From the arguments of the presenters, we can see that false solutions, such as geo-engineering, carbon capture and storage, nuclear energy, and ‘climate smart’ industrial agriculture are only furthering violations of Mother Earth’s rights. These are a techno fixes that interfere with the natural laws of our planet and further promote the commodification and financialization of living systems.

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Mary Louise Malig.

Geo-engineering is doubly dangerous and destructive because it not only interferes with the Earth’s natural ability to balance herself, but it also does nothing to address the root causes of climate change.

As Naomi Klein stated in her book This Changes Everything, “The appeal of geo-engineering is that it doesn’t threaten our worldview. It leaves us in a dominant position. It says that there is an escape hatch.” In other words, it allows us to just keep doing what are doing, despite the fact that it is clearly not working.

Likewise, you have shown us that market mechanisms are a violation of the Earth’s rights, allowing for escalating destruction through the buying and selling of the right to pollute through schemes like carbon trading.

It is not a surprise that in these schemes Nature is assumed to be an object of the marketplace, as the commodification and financialization of nature is inherent in the capitalist system.

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Osprey Orielle Lake.

We must ask ourselves: Does it make any sense to try to protect the Earth and heal our damaged ecosystems by further subjecting nature to the very logics and systems that caused the damage in the first place?

Our Mother Earth is calling out to us and our hearts are breaking. She is letting us know that we are on a path of great devastation. Today, our hearts also break for our fallen sisters and brother, defenders of the land, whose stories we have heard throughout the Tribunal.

And while it is true the Earth will live on and survive even we do not, it is tragic to think that our mark as species on this beautiful, luminous planet will be one of destruction and violence, instead of beauty, dignity and harmony with Nature.

Your presentation makes it clear that our legal and economic frameworks are at war with the sacred web of life. We need an entirely different legal configuration that recognizes that living systems are not enslaved human property for our exploitation. In order to live in harmony with the Earth and safeguard a healthy world for present and future generations, we need to reform the destructive aspects of our modern life.

The testimony of the climate change presenters highlights this urgent need to address climate change with solutions based on climate justice and respect for the natural laws of the planet.

I will name here just 9 of a myriad of actions we need to take in concert given the scale of this crisis.

  1. We need to advance a new society, based on social justice and environmental sustainability that recognizes human rights and Rights of Nature.
  2.  We must limit global warming to below 2.0 °Celsius, but we should and can aim for the 1.5° limit proposed by acutely vulnerable nations.
  3.  All CO2-emissions must fall to net zero by mid-century, at the very latest.
  4.  We must divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy.
  5. We need to respect all governmental treaties with Indigenous peoples and defend their right to continue to inhabit traditional lands, undisturbed by industrial projects and extractive industries.
  6.  We must reject greenhouse gas emissions reductions schemes that come from high-risk technologies, like geo-engineering and nuclear power.
  7. We must address unsustainable consumption and production in the Global North, and governments must recognize the historic responsibilities of industrialized countries.
  8. We must leave at least 80% of the remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground and stop further fossil fuel exploration and development
  9. We must transition to 100% renewable energy sources and decentralize and democratize ownership of this new energy economy.
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Domingo Ankuash, Shuar leader from Ecuador led the case against the El Mirador gold mine. He is calling for an investigation of the tragic death of Shuar leader J. Tendentza, killed a few days ago as he prepared to travel to Lima to testify at the Tribunal & other events.

We need to support movements and governance and economic structures that are not based on endless material growth, and instead envision a new way of living that is based on care for each other and Pachamama, Mother Earth. A society with a new understanding of ourselves, progress, and well-being.

Sumak Kawsy, or ‘living well’, a concept coming from the great wisdom of our Indigenous sisters and brothers, offers us an important direction forward to help us overcome current misconceptions of ‘development’ and well being. As we think about reparation, mitigation, restoration and prevention of further harm to each other and the Earth, we need to embrace these ideas of Sumak Kawsy.

In this way, uplifting the Rights of Nature can help us address our dysfunctional systems and support the transition we need by reconnecting us with the world around us. This is essential because underlying so many of the root causes of our destructive relationship with the Earth is a belief that we are somehow separate from nature.

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Casey Camp Horinek of the Ponca First Nation.

This sense of disconnect from our living Earth has proven to be not only spiritually heartbreaking and ecologically devastating, but a disaster in the human experiment. My hope is that in uncovering how our current legal and economic systems violate Natures rights, and in confronting the false climate change solutions being put forward by policymakers, we will have a deeply needed societal transformation. That we will come home, back to Mother Earth with respect and care, and rather quickly given the small window of time we have before we pass ecological tipping points.

As case presenters and Mr.Pablo Salon stated, climate change is very complex and far-reaching, consequently, the judges affirm that this case will remain open for further evidence to be collected and prepared for a Tribunal during the UN climate negotiations in Paris next year.

Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal members held a press briefing to present Tribunal findings at UNFCCC COP20 climate negotiations. Pictured from left to right: Nnimmo Bassey, Atossa Soltani, Tom Goldtooth, Pablo Salon, and Osprey Orielle Lake . Photo via Andrew Miller.

You can watch the press conference on the Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal here: http://unfccc6.meta-fusion.com/cop20/events/2014-12-09-14-00-amazon-watch

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)

WECAN Women Mobilizing for Climate Justice at COP20 in Lima, Peru

This December 2014, policymakers representing 195 countries will meet in Lima, Peru for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP20. Building on the September 2014 U.N. Climate Summit in New York City and talks held in Bonn, Germany last month, COP20 is the first round of negotiations as policy makers work to finalize a new global climate agreement in Paris in 2015.

At this critical time, social movement leaders and climate activists will also be gathering in Lima to further push for an agenda which is founded in climate justice, and which matches the scale and severity of the crisis we face.

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WECAN International advocating with other women’s groups at COP19

As scientists have made perfectly clear, if we do not move forward boldly within the next decade, we will pass irreversible climate tipping points with catastrophic impacts. And, until we act in the name of climate justice, diverse ecosystems and communities will continue to be polluted and destroyed, defenders of the Earth will continue to be persecuted, species will continue to be lost at an unfathomable rate, and we will continue to bet on the lives of our children.

Ignited by these facts, and deeply concerned that the voices of women and Indigenous and frontline communities have not been heeded in previous discussions, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) is headed to Lima. WECAN International will advocate inside the U.N. negotiations, and will lead and join in the diverse grassroots mobilization efforts happening in parallel.

On December 9th, WECAN International will host a formal side event inside the UNFCCC COP20, with allies from Amazon Watch and TakingItGlobal. We will showcase examples of youth and women as agents of local and global change, with particular focus on Indigenous women at the forefront of climate change impacts and solution building.

As part of the event, WECAN International will present the newly released ‘Women’s Climate Action Agenda’ as a blueprint for our path forward. The UNFCCC does not have an overarching mandate on gender to guide policies, so, with the Action Agenda in hand, WECAN will be advocating for gender sensitive policy-making, in collaboration with expert leaders from the Women and Gender Constituency.

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Indigenous Leader, Patricia Gualinga of Ecuador, speaks at a recent WECAN event.

Outside of formal U.N. proceedings, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network will host and take part in a series of public events and actions addressing issues of women and climate, climate justice, and rights of Nature and Indigenous peoples.

On December 8th, WECAN International will present ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change-Lima’, bringing together a diverse group of women leaders from across the world to speak out against activities and policies threatening the Earth and their communities, and to share the visions with which they are working to shape a more equitable and healthy world.

Panel discussions and strategy circles will focus on extractive industries and mega-dams, forest protection and territory rights, renewable energy alternatives, new economic frameworks, rights of nature, systemic change, and how relationships between women of the Global South and North can further grow the climate justice movement. WECAN International’s ‘Women’s Climate Action Agenda’ will be explored as a tool for creating systemic change and implementing on-the-ground solutions. The event is free and open to the public, with more details available at wecaninternational.org/pages/unfccc-cop20-2014

While in Peru, WECAN International will also take part in the ‘International Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal ’, hosted by theGlobal Alliance for the Rights of Nature, on whose Steering Committee WECAN serves.

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The Tribunal model uses the ‘Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth’ as a foundation for adjudicating and disseminating judgments on violations of Nature happening across the globe. The Tribunal shows us what a legal framework that works within the planets limits really looks like, and provides a potent tool for communities working to defend the Earth and their health and heritage.

At the Lima Tribunal, a diverse panel of international experts will hold trials on 12 different cases linked to COP20 proceedings, including the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, threats to the Great Barrier Reef, hydraulic fracturing in the US, mineral and petroleum extraction in Latin America, mega-dam construction in Brazil, and the violent persecution of individuals and communities working to defend the Earth. In adjudicating these critical cases, Tribunal organizers hope to compile the information and compelling analysis needed to catalyze real international action on these cases.

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Panel members at the first International Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal in Ecuador.

The Tribunal, to be held on December 5th and 6th, is free & open to the public. To register and get further information, visit therightsofnature.org/events/ron-ethics-tribunal-lima

Continuing the week of mobilization in Peru, WECAN International and Indigenous allies will take to the streets as part of the People’s March Lima on December 10th.

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“We are rising,” explained Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Co-Founder and Executive Director, “We are rising in the streets, in the court house, in the forests, in the fields, and in the conference rooms of COP20. We know there will be no climate justice until the voices of women, Indigenous peoples, Nature, and future generations are the voices that guide policies and global action. We have a long way to go and a short time to get there. WECAN will mobilize ceaselessly in pursuit of this goal.”

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Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Special Projects & Communications Coordinator