MAR 26, 2018 1:12 PM PDT

Indigenous Women Activists Fight to Save Ecuador's Land

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

A movement of indigenous women brought their demands for an end to resource extraction to Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in late March. About 100 of them camped before the government palace in the capital city of Quito and were later granted a meeting with Moreno.

“Women don’t want more oil and mining exploitation. It is women who care for the children, who care for the land, so it should be women making these decisions,” Nina Gualinga, a 24-year-old environmental activist from Sarayaku, told The Guardian.

This female group is following up on a related 2017 action, in which more than 3,000 indigenous people from across the country held a two-week, 200-mile march from the Amazon to the palace. The marchers demanded an end to unregulated mining and oil drilling within their territories. While Moreno conceded to some of their demands in December, new drilling options have since been created. The women who came to the capital in March also seek government action on the violence and threats directed at them as activists.

Indigenous Women Protest, credit: Jonatan Rosas, Mongabay

Indigenous Activists Demand to Be Heard

Following the massive 2017 march and protest, Moreno made an agreement with the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the biggest indigenous organization in Ecuador, to halt new mining projects and only proceed with those achieving compliance with constitutional regulations. This was to include meeting the requirements of article 57, which gives indigenous groups rights to consultation regarding extraction projects.

But in February, despite Moreno’s previous agreement with CONAIE, the government announced it was auctioning off 16 oil concessions, or contracts, in the country's southern rainforests. The local indigenous nations were not properly consulted beforehand, according to the nonprofit Amazon Watch.

Women Activists Meet With the President of Ecuador

In response to this broken promise, the women demonstrators gathered in the capital, many with traditional garb and face-painting. They Indigenous Women Protest, credit: José Jácome/EPAcalled on Moreno to address their demands for an end to unrestricted extraction and for meaningful action against the personal dangers they face. Participants said they had experienced sexual violence and death threats.

“The threats against women are a consequence of extractivism,” Gualinga said.

“We will return to our communities and wait for a response from the government. If we do not receive a response in two weeks, we will be back,” Zoila Castillo, vice president of regional indigenous organization CONFENIAE, said. Moreno expressed a desire to find a consensus but also said, “it’s almost impossible for a world to exist without oil and mining.”

It is not unusual for land defenders and environmental activists around the globe to experience sexual violence and other forms of assault, along with death threats and murder. In 2017, almost four people were killed each week while defending their land and local natural areas against extraction and development projects.

In February, Ecuadorian voters strongly supported reducing mining in protected areas and limiting oil drilling in a national park. They also voted to limit the number of permitted presidential terms. Moreno introduced this issue and it was widely interpreted as a means of keeping his predecessor, Rafael Correa, from ever returning to power. Investigations into allegations of corrupt international oil dealings during Correa’s presidency are currently underway.

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech, conservation and the arts. She enjoys solutions journalism. Find more of her work at jtravers.journoportfolio.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 10, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 10, 2019
Pay now or later? Should we conserve floodplains?
Research from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the University of Bristol, as well as flood analytics company Fathom, encourages us to ask a tricky question...
DEC 23, 2019
Microbiology
DEC 23, 2019
Snow-Loving Algae Thrive at the Heights of the Andes
The Andes Mountain range runs along the edge of western South America. Microbial life has found a home high in those mountains....
DEC 24, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 24, 2019
Santa's not the Only One that's Making Haste - the Magnetic North Pole's Wandering Accelerates
According to the latest World Magnetic Model (WMM) released by the  NOAA's National Centres for Environmental Information (NCEI), the  Earth&...
JAN 15, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 15, 2020
2019 Was The Second Warmest Year on Record
Independent analyses from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have confirmed that 2019 was the second warmest year on recor...
JAN 16, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 16, 2020
Early-life Stress and Pollution Lead to Cognitive Impairment
Children exposed to high levels of stress at home from early on and high levels of air pollution while still in the womb are more likely to develop attenti...
FEB 01, 2020
Earth & The Environment
FEB 01, 2020
Cut the ozone, help the plants
Researchers from the University of Exeter report in Nature Climate Change their findings of a new "natural climate solution”: reducing emissions...
Loading Comments...