On October 14, 2014, a group of women leaders gathered for ‘the Meeting of Women on Climate Change and Extractive Industry Issues’ in Quito, Ecuador. During powerful presentations and discussions, these Indigenous women and their allies spoke out against the fossil fuel and mineral extraction which is poisoning the Earth and the mental, spiritual, and physical health of their communities. Denouncing false development paradigms and territorial dispossession, the women ultimately gave voice to their concerns and solutions in the ‘Statement of the Meeting of Women on Climate Change and Extractive Industry Issues’ (Declaración del Encuentro de Mujeres Frente al Extractivismo y al Cambio Climático).
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) stands in solidarity with these women, and is working to help distribute and increase the visibility of their statement during the mobilization surrounding the UNFCCC COP20 climate negotiations happening in Lima, Peru this week. On December 8, WECAN International will collaborate with members of the delegation of Ecuadorian women who have brought the statement to Peru, reading and discussing the document as part of the ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change-Lima’ event.
The full declaration is presented below in Spanish and English.
Statement of the Meeting of Women on Climate Change & Extractive Industry Issues
Quito, Ecuador. October 14, 2014
“It is when there are great threats to life, when life itself is at stake, this is when women who seemed marginal rise with all their might, it is with all their commitment, all their resistance, all their energy, this is what is now happening with the daughters of corn, with the daughters of the earth.” -Vandana Shiva
One way to exploit nature is through the extraction of oil and minerals, which uses huge amounts of water while it contaminates and produces toxic waste; these chemicals also sicken the soil and people. When oil and mining companies reach the territories, they cause big problems- they break the community ties and replace them with conflicts within the families, the division of communities, and leave confrontations between them. The damage caused by these extractive activities are for the long term, and last much longer than the economic profit they say to generate.
Women in the areas considered oil zones, suffer the impacts of extractive activities in our bodies; we have reported the increase of gastrointestinal, respiratory and dermic, diseases, the growing cancer in our bodies and in our families. Women are wise when we say that “we do not want alcoholism, we do not want prostitution and we do not want men beating us. We do not want a life in which even though we can be offered schools, latrines or zinc houses, we do not feel worthy”, as pointed out by Patricia Gualinga, leader of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, in reference to the consequences that Oil Round XI would bring to their lives. With oil and mining activities agricultural products also decrease due to pollution, animals die, there is loss of growing crop areas, affecting the livelihoods of families and the community.
With oil and mining expansion, the dispossession of lands and territories of peasant and indigenous communities has intensified. Throughout this process of dispossession there has not only been violated and ignored social, economic and collective rights of peoples, but also, there has also been a physical and cultural wiped out of entire villages in order to take away their lands and exploit oil and minerals. An example of this, is the disappearance of the Tetete and Sansaguari people. And, women are one of the groups who suffer the most with the stripping of their rights and territories.
Our presence as women in socio-environmental struggles has gained prominence, allowing to denounce the exploitation of oil, minerals, and the exploitation of women. All these forms of exploitation have a common origin: the subjection to a development model that subordinates life to the accumulation of capital expressed in extractivism, that devalues, in practice, the conservation work and the care for life and natural heritage that, for centuries, women have done in these rural communities. Besides defending life, water and land, we ensure the health of families, food sovereignty, the rights and defense of Mother Earth by facing the capitalist system that is expressed in the predatory extractivism, that is inequitable, unjust, and that ignores women and prioritizes the reproduction of capital above the reproduction of life.
While it is true that the degradation and pollution processes affect the community as a whole, there exists greater vulnerability in women, children and the elderly due to direct exposure to pollutants and for not knowing the risk factors associated with them. The impacts of extractive activities alter the reproductive life cycle, whose regeneration rests on the shoulders of women. This is why we have the challenge to build the true “good living” recovering the memory of our peoples, where women play an important role to rebuild the future.
Today, women affected by oil and mining gather together. We are the women who fight tirelessly against the threat of mining expansion with the Mirador Project in Zamora Chinchipe; the San Carlos Panantza project in Morona Santiago; We, as women of different communities, are threatened with evictions from our territory in Intag by the Llurimagua project; We are women who face the violence of militarization of our territories as much as of our children, cousins, parents; we are women who are criminalized for resisting the mining project in Quimsacocha because we defend our water and life; We are Amazon women who walked from the jungle to the Ecuadorian capital to demand the government to stop oil exploitation in Shiwiar, Kichwa and Sapara territories and the exploitation of Yasuni; The women who gather today, represent the peoples who confront the evident disregard of the rights of indigenous peoples, peasants and the Pachamama.
THIS IS WHY WOMEN IN QUITO, GATHER AT THE MEETING OF WOMEN AND EXTRACTIVISM TO DEMAND REAL SOLUTIONS:
We do not want development alternatives that have meant the extinction of cultures and people; This is a development of death, of destruction, focused on exploitation, mainly of oil and minerals. This development has no future, we know it because we have already lived it for over 500 years. We have the alternative to development.
Therefore, we propose:
To recover food sovereignty
To recover water sovereignty
To recover energy sovereignty, which means the recovering of Mother Earth as a nutrient of our bodies, of our people
To produce to generate healthy food for the Good Living
So we are fighting for minerals to remain in the subsoil and for the oil from the Amazon to remain unexploded. These are the real solutions to climate change and a way to preserve our biodiversity, which is our true wealth.