Women for Forests and Fossil Fuel/Mining/Mega-Dam Resistance
Patricia Gualinga and women allies of the Ecuadorian Amazon take action to protect the forest
The WECAN ‘Women for Forests and Fossil Fuel/Mining/Mega-Dam Resistance’ program aims to support a diverse constituency of international women as they rise up to protect forests, and prevent and shut down extractive industries threatening the Earth’s critical living systems and our global communities.
The ‘Women for Forests’ program currently has three primary regions of focus: the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, the Congo rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo,and the Tongass Rainforest of Alaska and California, USA Redwoods, as well as supportive efforts in the Canadian boreal forest. In these regions and beyond - WECAN stands in solidarity, partners and collaborates with local organizations and Indigenous women working on the ground to defend and protect the forests and resist threats from fossil fuel leasing and development, mining, and mega dams, and create reforestation programs to regenerate damaged lands, thereby protecting the web of life, our global climate, and the lives and rights of Indigenous peoples and all future generations.
The entireworld depends on these front-line women defenders of the forests.
- Every year, roughly 46-58 thousand square miles of forest are cut down—equivalent to 48 football fields every minute.
- Upwards of 15% of annual greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation.
- When left standing, a single tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, sequestering one ton of carbon dioxide over 40 years. This same single tree can provide a lifetime of oxygen for two people.
- Living forests create and maintain the cycles of air, water and soil that sustain the Earth and our communities. The medicines found within forest ecosystems, many yet undiscovered, are vital to human health.
- Forests are home to more than 80% of the world’s plant, animal, bacteria and fungi diversity.
- More than 1.6 billion people rely directly on forests for food, fresh water, clothing, traditional medicine and shelter.
- 80-85% of the Earth’s remaining biodiversity is located in Indigenous Territories. Standing with, learning from and honoring Indigenous peoples who act as the natural custodians of the forests must be a top priority – there will be no climate justice without respect for Indigenous rights, knowledge and leadership.
- Given dominant gender-ascribed responsibility for meeting household food, water, medicine and energy needs, forest degradation increases burdens on women especially. At the same time, women’s intimate knowledge of the forests provides hope for genuine and just solutions and forest protection.
Women of seven Indigenous nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon take action against oil drilling in Puyo, Ecuador on International Women’s Day 2016 – Photo by Emily Arasim
Through independent initiatives and collective work with organizational ally Amazon Watch, WECAN works to build local capacity, support Indigenous women leaders and advance the long-term protection of the Amazon forest and it’s peoples through advocacy, education, media relations, participation in international forums, and direct action.
WECAN’s work in the Amazon region grew out of collaboration with 2012 WECAN Summit Delegate, Patricia Gualinga Montalvo, International Representative of the Kichwa peoples of Sarayaku, Ecuador and one of the key protagonists in her community’s historic victory at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Click here to explore the Living Forest Proposal that has been developed by the Sarayaku to demonstrate their own plans for their territories. WECAN stands in solidarity with this significant proposal from our Indigenous allies.
Nina Gualinga (Pueblo of Sarayaku), Isis Karinna Alvarez Ortiz (Global Forest Coalition), Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation), Atossa Soltani (Amazon Watch) and Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International) during a 2015 WECAN event in Lima, Peru during the UN COP20
One key component of WECAN’s Amazon work centers on supporting Indigenous women leaders in their outreach to international forums and leaders ‘in the hallsof power’ in the United Nations and other organizations and institutions, in order to create further international pressure and visibility to protect the Amazon rainforest and it’s diverse communities.
To this end, WECAN has supported Indigenous woman leaders of Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia in raising their voices both inside and in parallel events during United Nations General Assemblies, UN Climate Conferences, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
WECAN has also hosted and co-hosted various events in Ecuador, Peru, France, and the US in order to bring the voices of Indigenous women of the Amazon to the forefront of conversations on climate, Indigenous rights and protection of Mother Earth. Click here to watch ‘Indigenous Women: Earth Defenders Speak Out from the Front Lines of Climate Change’ on Democracy Now!.
Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women, speaks on threats to the forest and her community during a 2016 WECAN/Terra Mater event at FLASCO University, Quito, Ecuador
In addition to collaboration with the Kichwa of Sarayaku, much of WECAN’s work in the Amazon has focused on support and solidarity with the Sápara people, an Ecuadorian Indigenous nationality of just 500 members, whose language and culture has been recognized as a UNESCO Cultural Patrimony.
The Sápara have long organized to protect their territory, which encompasses over 300,000 hectares of the some of the most biodiverse and best-conserved rainforest in the world, from oil drilling by national and foreign entities. They have released declarations, taken powerful direct action, participated in press conferences, and were crucial in the March of the Women in which 100 Amazonian women marched 300 miles to denounce the government’s plans to auction off their ancestral homes in 2013.
WECAN and Amazon Watch stand with Huaorani women of the Ecuadorian Amazon during the No Extraction In the Amazon/International Women’s Day Action in Puyo, Ecuador, March 2016
Most recently, a WECAN delegation, in collaboration with Amazon Watch, traveled to Ecuador in response to the signing of a new contract between the Ecuadorian government and Chinese corporation Andes Petroleum, which hands over rights for oil exploration and extraction in two controversial Amazonian blocksoverlapping the traditional territory of the Sápara and Kichwa peoples.
As part of an ongoing effort to bring attention to the dire threats facing the living systems of the Amazon and it’s Indigenous communities as a result of the new oil contract, women of seven distinct Ecuadorian Amazonian nationalities rose to hold a critical march and forum on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016.
WECAN was honored to have been in Ecuador to support and help amplify these efforts of the Indigenous women leaders. To support the actions of the Amazonian women, a critical solidarity petition put forth by the WECAN team was circulated widely and signed by allies in more than 60 countries.
Portrait of Ena Santi, Women’s Leader of the Kichwa pueblo of Sarayaku – Photo by Felipe Jacome
Other past ‘WECAN Women for Forests: Amazon’ initiatives include support of a global signature campaign to stop the drilling of oil in Yasuni National Park and sponsorship and media outreach for an educational art exhibit in Quito, Ecuador.
‘Amazonas: Guardians of Life’ by photographer Felipe Jacome documentsthe struggle of the indigenous women who are defending the Ecuadorian Amazon from oil exploitation through a series of images combining portraiture with written and drawn self-reflections of the women´s lives, of their culture, history, traditions, and their reasons for fighting oil extraction in their ancestral lands. The traces around the portraits use the same natural dies with which they decorate their faces to draw the symbols and patterns that reflect their personalities and their struggle. Click here to explore and share this stunning multimedia series.
- EcoWatch – Women of the Amazon Defend Their Home Against New Oil Contract on International Women’s Day
- EcoWatch - Recognizing Rights of Nature and the Living Forest by Osprey Orielle Lake
- Feministing – Over 500 Indigenous Women Protest Ecuador’s Contract With Chinese Oil Company
- DemocracyNow - Indigenous Women: Earth Defenders Speak Out from the Front Lines of Climate Change
Democratic Republic of Congo Rainforests
Women of the DR Congo WECAN/SAFECO program walk between the savannah and their tree nursery
Since 2012, WECAN has partnered with Neema Namadamu and her organizations, Hero Women and The Synergy of Congolese Women's Associations (SAFECO) to build a coalition of women to protect the rainforests of the Itombwe region, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Stretching across central Africa, the rainforest of the Congo basin is the second largest on Earth (only the Amazon is larger), with approximately two-thirds of the region's intact forest found in the DRC.
Collaborative work centers in South Kivu Province, which hosts two very important forest sites: the Itombwe Nature Reserve and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (PNKB), one of five World Heritage sites in DR Congo, all of which have been listed as in danger since 1994 due to extractive industries.
Co-facilitated trainings and strategy/action sessions, run under the auspices of the WECAN Regional Climate Solutions Training Program, focus on the protection of the Itombwe Rainforest and the support of the regions Indigenous Pygmy peoples, whose cultural and ecologic heritage is severely threatened by unsustainable and exploitative logging, mining and agricultural practices.
Women of the DR Congo WECAN/SAFECO program walk between the savannah and their tree nursery
Through online trainings, on-the-ground workshops and an ongoing re-forestation program, WECAN and SAFECO, are providing a platform for local women to learn, strategize, build and implement a plan for protection of the Itombwe Rainforest, their rich Traditional Ecologic Knowledge, and the Indigenous women and communities living in and around the rainforest.
Through program sessions, the women have formed a local conservation committee, drafted a declaration, and met with government officials, military members, and local NGO’s to share their work and action plans while calling for accountability and support from state actors.
In addition to education and advocacy work to stop illegal timber harvesting and promote forest conservation, the women of WECAN/SAFECO have successfully started tree nurseries holding over 25 local tree varieties. Seven thousand trees have been planted thus far, and in late 2016, the women of the WECAN/SAFECO program plan to reforest 35 hectares with over 20,000 trees.
Neema Namadamu, WECAN DR Congo Coordinator and Director of SAFECOspeaks during the UN COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, France – Photo by Emily Arasim
Call of the Forests: Tongass Alaska and Pacific Northwest US Redwoods
In 2016 WECAN International launched the Call of the Forests Program, a collaborative effort with emerging California organization 'For the Wild’. The program aims to (1) bring visibility, protect and stop the expansion of logging of old growth forests in the Tongass Rainforest of Alaska, and (2) begin a reforestation project for California redwoods through seed collection and the building of nurseries on land in Branscomb, California.
Program focus on the Tongass Rainforest and Californian redwoods stems from important research identifying the Tongass as "America's Climate Forest" due to it unsurpassed ability to absorb and hold carbon, and protect against the effects of a changing climate. Likewise, studies show that coast redwoods capture more carbon dioxide (CO2) than any other tree on Earth. In order to fulfill the commitments made by world governments through the Paris Climate Agreement, these vial regions must be protected for generations to come.
In late July 2016, an initial delegation from WECAN and For the Wild will travel to Prince of Wales Island, Alaska to meet with Indigenous women of the region to listen and learn from them about their traditional way of life in the Tongass National Forest and their struggles, campaigns and solutions in protecting the largest remaining temperate rainforest on the planet. Then, together we will explore a collaborative strategy for next steps to address the recently approved and destructive Tongass Land Management Plan and the current Big Thorne timber sale and the imminent Wrangell Island timber sale, including documentary film making, media campaigns, and political and legal analysis.
Work in Tongass builds off of decades of research and advocacy by Earthjustice environmental law firm and other organizations, with whom WECAN has reached out to for guidance and campaign coordination.
Check back soon to learn more about the unfolding Tongass delegation and future efforts in the Californian Redwoods.
Canadian Boreal Forests
Crystal Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree Nation Treaty Coordinator and Communications Manager, speaks during the during the Forward on Climate rally in Washington D.C
WECAN became involved in protection of the Canadian Boreal Forests through collective work to stop the Tar Sands Keystone XL pipeline, with women leaders including Melina Laboucan-Massimo (Lubicon Cree), Crystal Lameman (Beaver Lake Cree), Eriel Deranger (Athabasca Chipewyan), Eleanor Fairchild (78 year old farmer from Texas defending her land against the Keystone XL pipeline), and Julia Trigg (Crawford Texas family farmer protecting property rights and the environment).
Initial advocacy work focused on increasing connections and mobilization efforts between the women on the front lines of the tar sands in Canada and those located along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S.
2013 Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta, Canada - Photo by Anna Gerrard
In 2013, WECAN participated in the Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta, Canada, and facilitated a 'Women of the Land Delegation' to Washington D.C, USA to participate in the 'Forward on Climate' rally. WECAN organized several parallel events for the women leaders including a meeting with the US EPA and other agencies regarding opposition to tar sands development and infrastructure.
Due to advocacy work by many environmental groups, the EPA issued a strong critique of the U.S. State Department’s evaluation and defense of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The EPA’s report helped stall advancements of the Keystone decision – which was ultimately halted in November of 2015.
WECAN and Indigenous allies across Canada continue to work diligently to address issues of extraction, colonization, Indigenous rights, Earth Rights, violence against women, and women as critical defenders of the living Earth.
WECAN Women of the Land delegation meets with the U.S EPA in Washington D.C
Special thanks to Janet MacGillivray Wallace and Claire Greensfelder
our growing network of women for climate justice and solutions.