WOMEN FOR FORESTS
AND FOSSIL FUEL/MINING/MEGA-DAM RESISTANCE
Wanda Culp (Tlingit, WECAN Tongass Regional Coordinator), and Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Executive Director) - together in the forests of the Tongass, Alaska - Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International
The WECAN International ‘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: 1) the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador and Brazil, 2) the Itombwe Rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 3) in North America, the Tongass Rainforest of Alaska and California Redwoods. Over the organizations history, we have also worked in supportive efforts to protect the Canadian Boreal forests from tar sands extraction.
In these regions and beyond - WECAN International advocates, partners, and collaborates with local organizations, and rural and Indigenous women working on the ground to defend and protect forests, and resist threats from fossil fuel leasing and development, mining, and mega dams.
In some regions, we partner with local communities to 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.
Another key component of WECAN International’s ‘Women For Forests’ work centers on supporting frontline and Indigenous women leaders in their outreach and advocacy at international forums, with elected officials, and at the United Nations and other institutions, in order to create further international pressure and visibility to protect their forest homelands.
The entire world depends on front-line women defenders of the forests.
Why ‘Women For Forests’?
From 2000-2013, global forests were reduced by 70,000 square kilometers per year (a yearly loss about the size of Costa Rica).
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.
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 sharply increases burdens on women and girls. At the same time, women’s intimate knowledge of the forests provides hope for genuine and just solutions and forest protection.
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.
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.
Watch women leaders from across North and South America tell their stories, in this Democracy Now! report from WECAN International’s event at the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru:
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
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.
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
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’.
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 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.
Mirian Cisneros, President of the Pueblo of Sarayaku, leads a Kawsak Sacha launch event in Quito - Photo 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.
Portrait of Narcisa Gualinga - via Sophie Pinchetti/WECAN International
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.
Solidarity with the Sápara People
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’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.
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.
Solidarity with the Indigenous People of Brazil
WATCH THE VIDEO!
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.
In August of 2019, WECAN International is looking forward to having an amazing network member, Daiara Tukano on the ground for the first Indigenous Women's March in Brazil. We will live-stream the march on Facebook as well as document the stories of Indigenous women who are participating in the action. To learn more about the march please see the organizers' website.
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.
Democratic Republic of Congo Rainforests
Women of the DR Congo WECAN/SAFECO program walk between the savannah and their tree nursery
Since 2014, WECAN International has partnered with Neema Namadamu and her organizations, Hero Women Rising and the Synergy of Congolese Women's Associations (SAFECO), to build a coalition of women to protect the rainforest of the Itombwe region, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Stretching across central Africa, the rainforests of the Congo basin are the second largest on Earth, (only the Amazon is larger) - with approximately two-thirds of Africa’s intact forest found in the DRC.
Our 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), both of which have been listed as in danger since 1994 due to pressures from extractive industries and inter-related conflicts.
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.
Through online trainings, on-the-ground workshops, and an ongoing reforestation program, WECAN International 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 Ecological Knowledge, and their communities living in and around the rainforest.
Over the course of a series of program strategy 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 growing over 25 local tree varieties, which have medicinal, food, fuel, and reforestation purposes. Over one-hundred thousand trees have been planted by women leaders and community members so far - all by hand, with no machinery or equipment.
We are very thankful to have Neema Namadamu on our team as the WECAN Regional Coordinator for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Neema Namadamu, WECAN DRC Regional Coordinator, speaks during the UN COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, France – Photo via Emily Arasim
Neema Namadamu is a visionary peacemaker from Bukavu, South Kivu Province in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where she advocates for peace, women’s rights, rights for persons with disabilities, rights for Indigenous pygmy peoples, and Rights of Nature. She is Founder and Director of SAFECO, the Synergy of Congolese Women’s Associations and Maman Shujaa: Hero Women of the Congo. As WECAN DRC Coordinator, Neema leads workshops and trainings with local women to address deforestation, build women’s leadership, support Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and protect the rich ecosystems of the Itombwe rainforest.
Additional Resources for Amazon Rainforest Work
Tongass Alaska and Pacific Northwest US Redwoods
Picking berries in the Tongass, traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples - Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International
The Tongass Rainforest of Alaska is the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples; is the largest national forest in the U.S.; and has been called 'America’s climate forest' due to its unsurpassed ability to sequester carbon and mitigate climate impacts. For decades however, industrial scale logging has been destroying this precious ecosystem, and disrupting the traditional lifeways, medicine, and food systems of the regions Indigenous communities.
In late July 2016, a delegation of women from WECAN International and allied organization, For the Wild, traveled to Prince of Wales Island, Alaska to meet with Indigenous women and community leaders of the region, to listen and learn from them about their traditional ways of life in the Tongass National Forest, and their struggles, campaigns, and solutions to protect their homelands from continued old-growth logging.
Building upon relationships generated over the course of the initial delegation, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network has become committed to ongoing work in the Tongass. Wanda Culp now serves as WECAN International’s Regional Coordinator in the Tongass, working with the WECAN team to develop long-term strategies to revitalizing initiatives to protect the Tongass Rainforest, and Indigenous rights and lifeways in the region.
Wanda “Kashudoha” Loescher Culp is an Indigenous Tlingit activist, advocate, and hunter, fisher and gatherer of wild foods, born and raised in Juneau, and living in Hoonah, Alaska. She is the mother of three children, and is recognized as a storyteller, cultural interpreter, playwright, and co-producer of the film Walking in Two Worlds.
Wanda Culp at WECAN’s September 2018 event in San Francisco - Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International
Under the Trump Administration, threats to the Tongass have intensified, and WECAN International has been involved in various action campaigns and petitions, as well as filing of public comments and protests of upcoming timber harvest plans.
Click here to read and share an op-ed written by Wanda Culp and other Indigenous women leaders of the Tongass, which was featured in the Huffington Post - ‘Lisa Murkowski, End The Assault On Indigenous Peoples And Our Land’
Work in the Tongass builds off of decades of action, research, and advocacy by local community members, Indigenous women leaders, and by organizations such as environmental law firm, Earthjustice, with whom WECAN International is consulting for additional guidance and campaign collaboration.
Check back soon to learn more about future efforts in the Californian Redwoods - a tree ecosystem which captures more carbon dioxide (CO2) than any other on Earth!
In order to fulfill the commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement, the Tongass and Redwood forests must be protected immediately and for generations to come!
Clear cut logging on Prince of Whales Island, Alaska - Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International
Historic Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation Advocates
in Washington D.C.
The historic Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation meet with Jim Hubbard, the new Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, who will supervise the Forest Service at the USDA, and his staff in Washington D.C. - Photo via Melissa Lyttle
"We are here in support of the current Roadless Rule to protect the largest national forest in the country, the Alaska Tongass National Forest, which is in Tlingit territory. Our people have been here over 10,000 years, and we are here to protect and preserve the land so we can be here 10,000 years more. Our culture is alive and we want our traditional ways of life that have protected the forest to continue for future generations." -- Kari Ames, Tlingit, Alaska Native Voices Cultural Heritage Guide, Keeper of traditional life-ways
From March 11th to 13th, 2019, a WECAN International Delegation of Indigenous Women from the Tongass Rainforest of Alaska assembled in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the Tongass, and the continuation of the Roadless Rule, an important measure to protect Alaska's Tongass National Forest, which falls within the traditional territories of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples.
The Delegation to D.C. was the first time Tlingit women traveled to the Capitol to fight for and protect their traditional territory, communities, and the global climate. WECAN International was grateful to partner with the environmental firm, Earthjustice as the women participated in 16 meetings, including the Alaska Delegation, Congressional committee staff, USDA, and the Forest Service, to address current attacks on forest protections. WECAN International also held a public event where the women shared their community stories and calls to action to protect their ancient forest homelands.
The Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation and WECAN Executive Director outside of the capitol in Washington D.C. - Photo via Melissa Lyttle
The Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation prepares to meet with congressional staff, the USDA, and the Forest Service in Washington D.C. - Photo via Melissa Lyttle
Following the Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation, two Congress members, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representative Ruben Gallego (D-NM) introduced The Roadless Area Conservation Act, on May 2nd, 2019, which aims to prevent logging and destructive road-building in the Tongass National Forest.
The Tongass is the largest remaining temperate old-growth rainforest in the world and is critical in helping stabilize the climate. The legislation being introduced is a key effort to protecting this vital forest and the life-ways of the Indigenous communities who have lived in and cared for this forest ecosystem since Time Immemorial. We continue to advocate for and monitor this legislation closely, as well as the U.S. Forest Service moving forward with a large timber harvest sale on the Prince of Wales Island. This devastating project would lead to massive old-growth logging in the Tongass National Forest. WECAN International stands with the Tongass and the Tlingit!
The Tongass is Under Attack!
Defend Forests, Climate, and Communities - Protect the Tongass! -Indigenous women land defenders and allies in the Tongass National Forest advocate for our collective climate and communities.
Currently, Alaskan congressional members are attempting to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 National Roadless Rule, which will lead to devastating industrial logging, destruction of Indigenous life-ways and wildlife habitat, and further harm to the climate. The United States Forest Service is expected to release a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Alaska-specific Roadless Rule this summer. The DEIS will be open for public comment for 60 days and WECAN International is calling on you to join us in taking action to protect the Tongass - Click the button below to learn more!
Additional Resources for Tongass Rainforest Work
Canadian Boreal Forests
Indigenous women leaders speak during the during the Forward on Climate rally in Washington D.C
WECAN International 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 (farmer from Texas defending her land against the Keystone XL), and Julia Trigg (Crawford Texas family farmer).
Initial advocacy work focused on increasing connections and mobilization efforts between the women on the front lines of tar sands extraction 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
WECAN ‘Women of the Land’ delegation meets with the U.S EPA in Washington D.C
In 2013, WECAN International representatives participated in the Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta, Canada, and facilitated a 'Women of the Land Delegation' to Washington D.C., 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.
During the Trump administration there have been attempts to resurrect KXL, and WECAN International continues to collaborate with many groups in an effort to forever stop this pipeline.
Into the future, WECAN International will continue to support campaigns of First Nation’s Indigenous women leaders and frontline defenders protecting their territories, waters, and the climate from the fossil fuel extraction decimating Canada’s vital forests - with an intersectional analysis of issues of extraction, colonization, Indigenous rights, Earth Rights, the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, and violence against women and the land.