Eye on the Amazon

Standing Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Indigenous Women at Risk in Ecuador

A call for international solidarity to protect the rights and lives of Earth Defenders

UPDATE

Great news! President Moreno of Ecuador has agreed to meet with the brave indigenous women who marched from their homes in the Amazon to the capital city and demonstrated for five days for the opportunity to present him with their list of demands to defend their rights, homes, families and the Amazon itself from destructive extractive practices! The meeting is now scheduled for next week in Quito. Stay tuned for more information!

If you are able, please make a donation to Amazon Watch today so that we can continue to provide these courageous women with emergency funds to continue this historic mobilization. Thank you!

On International Women's Day last Thursday, hundreds of Indigenous Women Defenders of the Amazon and their allies marched on the streets of the Amazonian city of Puyo to demand respect for their lives, rights, and rainforests threatened by industrial extraction including oil, mining, and logging. It was an honor to march and sing with them in solidarity.

"We are marching for our lives! Our sisters are being threatened, our rights are being trampled, and our territories are being destroyed. We are here as women to defend the Amazon against extraction. Enough is Enough!" said Zoila Castillo, Kichwa leader and Vice President of the Parliament of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE).

The women decided to march in the wake of the attack against Patricia Gualinga, a Kichwa indigenous leader from Sarayaku, who was threatened with death if she continues to stand against oil extraction in the Amazon. This produced an immediate outpouring of solidarity by indigenous women leaders, many of whom have also faced death threats. Then, just a week before the march, the Ecuadorian government unexpectedly announced a new oil round on indigenous territories, sparking indignation from the women. In the face of these threats to themselves and their territories, the women decided they had to meet, march, and take their demands directly to President Lenin Moreno in the capital, Quito.

After demonstrating in Puyo, the women gathered at the CONFENIAE headquarters for three days, where they discussed and debated their concerns and developed a set of demands to guarantee their own security and to reinforce their communities' rejection of natural resource extraction from their territories, despite the government's continued attempts to force it upon them.

The women then traveled to Quito where, for the last four days, several dozen of these women Amazon defenders and their children have occupied the central plaza in front of the presidential palace to demand a meeting with President Moreno. So far, the government's only response has been an offer to meet with ministers and other lower-level officials, but not with the president. The women insist on a meeting with President Moreno and have pledged to stay in Quito until they can do so. Having spent the last week with them, I know that they mean what they say. They are firm in their resolve, but they need strong support from local and international allies.

This is not the first time these women have come together to defend their cultures and territories. In 2013, the women marched for two weeks from Puyo to Quito in a "Women's Mobilization for Life" to deliver a set of demands to then-President Correa. While the women were given a space to speak before the National Congress, the president never met with them. I was also there two years ago as hundreds of them marched again, following the announcement of new oil concessions in the ancestral territories of the Sápara, Shiwiar, and Kichwa of Sarayaku.

Yet despite these many years of women demanding respect for their lives and their rights, today they face even more threats. Instead of a real response they have been met with silence. This is unacceptable and extremely worrying because threats and attacks against Earth Defenders who challenge business interests continue to rise as this report from the Business and Human Rights Center demonstrates. The international community must respond.

You can support these courageous women! Help us ramp up international pressure so President Moreno agrees to meet with the indigenous women and agree to their demands.

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