WOMEN FOR FORESTS
Through independent initiatives and collective work, WECAN International works to support Indigenous women leaders, build local capacity, and advance the long-term protection of the Amazon Rainforest and its peoples through advocacy, education, media relations, participation in international forums, and direct action.
Over the years, WECAN International has supported frontline, rural, and Indigenous women leaders of Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia in advocating for their communities and rights in various activities, including advocacy inside and in parallel to events during United Nations General Assemblies, UN Climate Conferences, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, IUCN conferences, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Learn more about our delegations to international forums here.
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network has also hosted and co-hosted various events and actions in Ecuador, Peru, France, the US, and other countries, 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.
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network’s ongoing work in the Amazon region grew out of initial collaboration with 2013 WECAN Summit Delegate, Patricia Gualinga Montalvo, a woman leader from the Kichwa Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador, and one of the key protagonists in her community’s historic victory at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to protect their homelands, the forest, and the global climate from fossil fuel extraction. [Learn more about the work of the Pueblo of Sarayaku below.]
Patricia Gualinga of Sarayaku, Ecuador, following a march of Amazonian Indigenous women against extraction - Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International
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
Escazú Agreement Campaign
In April 2021, the The Escazú Agreement was formally implemented across Latin American and the Caribbean. ratified. for the past four years, WECAN has been advocating for the Escazú Agreement, and we are expanding our campaign into 2021. We are organizing women leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to ensure that the solutions, experiences, and leadership of women land defenders are centered in the process of implementation.
Our work is guided by the Escazú Agreement Campaign Steering Committee. Committee members include: Patricia Gualinga, Kichwa leader from Sarayaku, Spokeswoman for Mujeres Amazónicas Defensoras de la Selva (Ecuador); Ruth Spencer, Deputy Chair of the Marine Ecosystems Protected Areas (MEPA) Trust (Antigua and Barbuda); Carmen Capriles, Founder of Reacción Climática, WECAN Coordinator for Latin America (Bolivia); and Paloma Costa, youth climate leader (Brazil).
In 2021, as part of the campaign, WECAN started a collaboration with The Vance Center to research and evaluate how the Escazú Agreement can be best implemented in specific countries where Indigenous and local land defenders in the LAC region are most at risk in defense of highly important biodiverse areas and forests in their territories. The Vance Center, with the assistance of five partner law firms, is researching the domestic legal frameworks in Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru to determine the extent to which existing laws comply with the treaty and are being enforced. WECAN plans to use the country reports to support our advocacy and on-the-ground projects to implement the Escazú Agreement, trainings and workshops, and further efforts for the protection of women land defenders.
In 2018, countries of Latin America and the Caribbean adopted the Regional Agreement for Access to Information, to Public Participation an Access to Justice on Environmental issues in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as Escazú Agreement. The Escazú Agreement is an historic multilateral accord guaranteeing access rights on environmental matters, and the protection of human rights and environmental defenders.
Latin America is one of the deadliest regions for environmental land defenders. In 2019, of those officially recorded, 212 land and environmental defenders were killed – with over two-thirds of killings taking place in Latin America. Combined with entrenched colonial and patriarchal policies, individuals threatened are oftentimes Indigenous peoples and Women Environmental and Human Rights Defenders (WEHRD) fighting for the protection of their communities and territories. Frontline and Indigenous women are often the backbones of their communities, knowledge keepers of their forests and waterways, and lead resistance efforts to defend their lands.
WECAN has hosted two online dialogues uplifting the important of the Escazú Agreement, please watch down below!
“Indigenous Women Land Defenders, Protection of Nature
& Human Rights, and the Escazú Agreement", April 2021
“Ratifying the Escazú Agreement: Women for Human Rights
& the Defense of Nature”, September 2020
Numerous studies have shown that the most effective ways to protect biodiverse regions, such as the Amazon rainforest, is to protect the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples. With Indigenous Peoples maintaining and stewarding 80% of the biodiversity left on the planet, it is imperative to implement policies and frameworks, such as those included in the Escazú Agreement, that ensure Human Rights and the protection of Environmental Defenders, including their access to decision making, public information, and justice mechanisms. In doing so, the Escazú Agreement is ensuring the rights of Indigenous land defenders and communities, as well as protecting the planet from further climate collapse and ecological degradation. Additionally, we know that when women are at the forefront of decision making —the Earth and our communities are prioritized.
Selected Action Highlights
Speaking Out for the Amazon at COP25 in Madrid, Spain
Speakers at the WECAN "Indigenous Women Leaders Send an Urgent Call to Action for the Amazon in Crisis” COP26 press conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo Credit: Katherine Quaid/WECAN International
The Amazon is at a critical tipping point and Indigenous communities and scientists are ringing the alarm bells!
At COP26, WECAN was honored to have several Indigenous women leaders on our COP26 delegate and to organize the "Indigenous Women Leaders Send an Urgent Call to Action for the Amazon in Crisis” COP26 press conference, where Indigenous women from the Amazon presented and shared their struggles and experiences of fighting to protect their forest territories, and literally risking their lives to do so. Watch the press conference recording here.
Speaking Out for the Amazon at COP25 in Madrid, Spain
WECAN delegates and partners celebrate frontline women’s leadership and solutions at WECAN’s public event, “Frontline Women Protecting and Defending Rights, Land, Communities and Climate” held during the Cumbre Social por el Clima/People’s Climate Summit. Photo via WECAN International - Katherine Quaid
WECAN International was very honored to facilitate the presence of several incredible frontline Amazonian women leaders at COP25. Indigenous women leaders of the Amazon united to advocate for Indigenous rights, protection of forests, water, communities, and the global climate, and to address the fires in the Amazon and the recent murders of Indigenous forest defenders in Brazil.
We held several events and press conferences highlighting the unique experiences and leadership of Indigenous women land defenders in Brazil and Ecuador. We also participated in direct actions in response to the escalating violence toward land defenders throughout the Amazon rainforest.
Indigenous organizations and communities, led by women, are mobilizing locally and globally to protect and defend their communities, the Amazon rainforest, and the global climate. In different regions of the Americas, women are standing up to governments that are committing gross violations of human rights, Indigenous sovereignty, and harms to ecosystems and our climate. We know that as extractive industry and agro-business power increases, human and nature rights are violated, and Indigenous women land defenders are under increased attack. Furthermore, in order to implement the Paris Climate Agreement, we need to protect forests and there is no protecting forests without protecting Indigenous people and Indigenous rights.
Sônia Guajajara speaks out about the murders of Indigenous forest defenders in her community in Brazil during an action outside the COP25 venue in Madrid Spain, 2019. Photo by Katherine Quaid - WECAN International
Solidarity with the Indigenous People of Brazil
Stand with Indigenous People's of Brazil, the Amazon, and the Climate - Sônia Bone Guajajara traveled to New York to denounce Bolsonaro’s attacks on Indigenous Peoples in Brazil and the Amazon and to speak out for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the climate, and the protection of the Amazon rainforest – the lungs of the planet.
Brazil’s Indigenous peoples are under increasing attack with newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro and his regime’s devastating assaults on social and environmental protections. At this pivotal moment in time, WECAN International stands in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of Brazil who are working to defend Indigenous Rights and protect their homelands in the Amazon from further destruction.
In 2019, WECAN International was honored to host and facilitate the participation of Sônia Bone Guajajara. National Coordinator for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) on our delegation to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Eighteenth Session.
Sônia Bone Guajajara spoke at a high-level session at the United Nations, participated in various events and actions, and gave interviews to multiple media outlets. WECAN International also co-organized a rally and petition delivery at the Permanent Mission of Brazil. This action, led by Indigenous peoples, featured Sônia, who denounced Brazilian President Bolsonaro's egregious attacks on Indigenous rights and territories, particularly in the Amazon. You can find a Livestream of the event here.
Stopping The Tropical Forests Standard - Offsets Pollute
Recently, The California Air Resources Board (CARB) in the U.S. convened to vote on an effort to advance forest carbon offsets, called the Tropical Forest Standard. A global Indigenous delegation and allies, including The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network, submit testimony, advocating in firm opposition to forest offsets and to the Tropical Forest Standard.
The forests of the world are facing unprecedented disaster due to long-term trends like rising global temperatures and attacks on Indigenous rights, as well as the rush for short-term profits from agricultural commodities such as beef, soy, palm oil, timber, and paper. International forest offsets are a false solution to curb catastrophic climate change and deforestation. Offsets allow big polluters to continue to poison communities at sites of extraction, by buying up pollution permits from forests around the world - a process which simultaneously allows for unabated exploitation of frontline communities in California, and increases threats to the lives and sovereignty of Indigenous people's living in forest regions around the world. This is also a critical forest issue because with California being a major world economy, the decision can have an international impact.
For more details please read our international letter to CARB advocating for the end of corporate carbon offsets.
Solidarity with the Kichwa People of Sarayaku
and the Living Forest Proposal
In July 2018, Leaders of the Kichwa Pueblo of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon launched their historic 'Kawsak Sacha' 'Living Forest' Declaration, over five days of ceremony, events, and activities in the capital city of Quito, Ecuador.
Portrait of Narcisa Gualinga - via Sophie Pinchetti/WECAN International
The ultimate goal of the Kawsak Sacha Declaration is to attain national and international recognition for a new legal category for the permanent protection of Indigenous lands, which recognizes the inseparable physical and spiritual relationship between the Peoples of the Living Forest, and all of the beings that inhabit and compose it.
Kawsak Sacha is a vision, worldview, and strategy, which presents all at once an ecological, political, cultural, spiritual and economic analysis - and an ancient and new way forward.
Already over recent years, Sarayaku's powerful efforts against oil extraction have kept millions of barrels of oil in the ground - and the Kawsak Sacha Declaration is poised to continue and strengthen this legacy of protection of Indigenous rights, irreplaceable social and biological diversity, and the health and future of all people worldwide.
The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network was thankful to be present at and participate in the Kawsak Sacha launch, as part of an important demonstration of international support for the vision and demands set forth by Sarayaku leaders, many of whom are brilliant and courageous women.
Click here to visit the Kawsak Sacha website, and read the historic Living Forest Proposal that has been developed by the Pueblo of Sarayaku to demonstrate their own plans for their territories.
Explore our feature article and portrait series, ‘The Voices of Amazon Women and a Visionary Declaration to Protect Indigenous Lands’ - via Common Dreams.
Support of the 2018 Kawsak Sacha Declaration launch is the latest step in our work in solidarity with the Pueblo of Sarayaku. For many years, WECAN International has supported women leaders of Sarayaku in attending and raising their voices and demands inside United Nations COP climate negotiations, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, IUCN Conferences, and at various public events and actions around the world, amongst other efforts.
International Women's Day Solidarity Delegation to Ecuador
In 2016, a WECAN International 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 blocks overlapping the traditional territory of the Sápara and Kichwa peoples.
As part of their ongoing effort to bring attention to the dire threats facing the living systems of the Amazon and their communities as a result of the new oil contract, Indigenous women of seven distinct Ecuadorian Amazonian Nations held a critical march and forum on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016.
WECAN International was honored to travel to Quito and Puyo, Ecuador to support and help amplify these Indigenous-women led efforts. We circulated a petition, and published a feature article on Ecowatch to help amplify the women’s stories and demands - ‘Women of the Amazon Defend Their Home Against New Oil Contract on International Women’s Day’.
Click here for more photos from the 2016 International Women’s Day March of Indigenous women defenders!
Women leaders marched again on International Women’s Day in 2018! Learn more via this livestream video, featuring ally Maria Belen Paez, who reported for WECAN from on-the-ground in Puyo, Ecuador!
Solidarity with the Sápara People
WECAN International’s work in the Amazon has also focused on support and solidarity with the Sápara People, an Ecuadorian Indigenous nationality of just 500 members - whose language and culture are both recognized for their vital importance as 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, as well as all subsequent women’s marches and actions in recent years.
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
WECAN International has been honored to work with Sápara leader, Gloria Ushigua, to help raise awareness about her community’s continuing struggles against extraction, as well as the danger and threats she has faced as an Indigenous woman land defender.
Additional Resources for Amazon Rainforest Work
Ms. Magazine - Ratifying the Escazú Agreement Will Support Women Land Defenders and Protect Nature
Democracy Now! - Daiara Tukano - climate activist from Brazil
Democracy Now! - Amazonian Forest Protectors Rally Outside COP25 Amid Death of Two Indigenous Chiefs
Fair Planet - WE MUST ALL JOIN INDIGENOUS WOMEN FOR CLIMATE ACTION!
WBUR - Fighting Climate Change Is 'About My Home' For Indigenous Teen Activist Helena Gualinga
Common Dreams - The Voices of Amazon Women and a Visionary Declaration to Protect Indigenous Lands
The Ecologist - Living Forests: Kichwa People of Sarayaku Launch Defence of Indigenous Territories Worldwide
The Guardian - Keep Off Our Land, Indigenous Women Tell Ecuador's President
Intercontinental Cry - Ecuadors Indigenous Womens Restless Defense Of The Amazon Living Forest
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
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
[Photo series supported by WECAN] - Amazonas: Guardians Of Life
[VIDEO] Democracy Now! report from WECAN International’s event at the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru