Amazonian Indigenous Women Mobilize for Life
- October 25, 2013
- Leila Salazar-López
¡La selva se defiende! ¡La selva no se vende!
Defend the rainforest! Don't sell the rainforest!
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For the last two weeks, these chants have echoed throughout Ecuador and are now echoing out around the globe. On October 10th, women from seven different indigenous nationalities (Kichwa, Waorani, Shiwiar, Shuar, Achuar, Andoa and Sápara) began gathering in the Amazon-port city of Puyo to embark upon a new journey, a journey for life. Two days later, over 100 women began a "Women's Mobilization for Life." They walked, marched, danced and caravanned from Puyo to the capital city of Quito in resistance to the Ecuadorian government's oil drilling plans in Yasuni-ITT and the southern-central Amazon. They traveled 250 kilometers from the Amazon to the Andes stopping in cities along the way including Baños, Latacunga and Ambato to call attention to their concerns and demands across the nation.
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"From the depths of our bellies Amazon women feel the negative impacts of extraction that have been imposed on us in the greatest force in the last few years. They've divided our Mother Earth into concessions, they've divided her into blocks, as if she were a piece of cloth ripped into pieces and then offered piece by piece in the market. This is not the destiny we want for our Mother. As mothers, daughters, grandmothers, givers of life connected to the natural feminine, we maintain our commitment to defend our territory from the different onslaughts of plunder throughout the centuries, with different slogans pretending to dominate the natural resources of the Earth creating misery for all of us who live in the forest."Amazonian women mobilizing in defense of life
"Our mother gave birth to us and that is why Mother Earth is sacred to us, the indigenous women," said Rosa Dahua, who marched with the group. "We are here to defend the air, the water, the animals, the forests, all of that. That is why we are marching."
Women of all ages – elders, youth and babies – and their supporters, husbands, brothers, spiritual and political leaders marched to raise national awareness of the need to defend life and indigenous territories. Specifically, they mobilized to:
- Demand respect for the autonomy of the community and territorial governing structures of the distinct nationalities in the Ecuadorian Amazon
- Show the evidence of exploitation of natural resources through the extraction that takes places within the capitalist system of accumulation
- Share the community model of life and development as a viable economic alternative to the extraction model proposed by the government
- Deliver resolutions from the GONOAE (formerly CONFENIAE) Congress and the Indigenous Women's Assembly in Defense of Life, Territory and "Living Well" concept
Not only did the women manage to do this, but they also raised visibility of the Kawsak Sacha – "Selva Viviente" or "Forest Living" – concept, which respects all of nature and its guardians in a peaceful coexistence with human life in the rainforest. This influenced national public opinion and garnered press, which has recently been focused on President Correa's announcement to cancel the Yasuni-ITT initiative in mid-August.
Upon arrival in Quito on October 16th, the group demanded to meet with President Correa. When he would not receive them last week, they decided to stay over the weekend in attempt to get a meeting this week. During that time, they gained more and more support as they held meetings, press conferences and marches. Photos and articles of their demands spread rapidly across social media channels in Ecuador and around the world, stemming from the group's La Huangana Colectiva online base.
Finally, last Tuesday, the women were welcomed into the National Assembly of Ecuador. Patricia Gualinga, a courageous Kichwa woman warrior from Sarayaku and dear Amazon Watch friend and ally who was recently in NY for the International Women's Earth and Climate Summit, addressed the assembly with conviction and grace:
In summary, here's what she said:
We've mobilized to Quito because we're worried about the government's oil exploration plans, the 11th Round in particular, which affects all of the Amazon... We, as women, are disproportionately affected by these oil exploration. We don't want oil expansion. We want our country to develop alternative energy plans. We want a post-petroleum economy. We want the Amazon to be valued for what it is, not just economic resources... We have an alternative proposal called "Selva Viviente" or "Living Forest." The Amazon is not an area of national interest, but a zone of life that should exclude oil activity. We want to work together so that this is known around the world. If we are willing, this proposal can come from the communities and the National Assembly... We are for life, not only resources. We are here for our lives, yours, the entire world's lives and for those of our future generations.
The Amazonian women mobilizing for life have now left Quito and are returning to their communities. While they are disappointed that they haven't yet met with President Correa, they return to the Amazon energized by the mobilization and the great support they received, determined and ready to continue their struggle. They remain vigilant for a response to their demands by the government. And, Amazon Watch will remain vigilant in our continued support of their efforts. One thing has become crystal clear: it is women all over the world who will take the lead to defend this planet and future generations. As women and mothers, it is our duty to take the lead in defending Mother Earth. And as women, men and children of Mother Earth, it is all our duty to follow that lead. As Patricia says, "We can't feed our children oil."
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