The women of Sarayacu organized themselves and said that if the men decided to let the oil companies in, they should start looking for other women… but in another territory. It is a non-negotiable decision that was born from the Amazonian Kichwa women.
The main enemy, what is it? The military dictatorship?
The Bolivian bourgeoisie? The imperialism?
No, comrades, I want to tell you this: our main enemy is fear.
We have it inside.
Climate change is on all agendas, national and international, and of course in people's daily lives. It stopped being a speculation or threat, to become a reality that affects millions of people in the world, but mainly impacts women in the countries of the South.
Climate injustice, which is the uneven distribution of the impacts of climate change, has a huge gender component.
Faced with this reality, governments are not taking sufficient measures, the United Nations does not provide real solutions either, rather, it is the peoples, and in particular women, who are taking gigantic steps, who we must recognize and reward.
The main victims of climate change
Climate change is causing serious impacts in the world, but especially in the South, since climate change doubly punishes our countries, such as Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia or any other in the Andean Amazon region, Africa, or Southeast Asia .
Some of the impacts are already being felt and others will inevitably come. These are:
The water reserves contained in the glaciers and the snow cover will decrease dramatically and with them the fresh water available, which will significantly reduce the availability for human consumption, agriculture of at least 1/6 of the world's population. South America is one of the worst affected regions. Women are the ones who will have to travel the greatest distances to find water. In turn, droughts will be more frequent and prolonged and women will have to travel much more to collect firewood.
In tropical forests, rising temperatures and loss of groundwater will reduce biodiversity, which will impact the livelihoods of many indigenous communities. The Amazon will become a great savannah. The women maintain the farms and live directly from the products of the jungle, so their food sovereignty and their cultures will be affected.
In arid zones, agricultural lands will become sandy and saline, crops and livestock productivity will decline, thus threatening food security. Crop decline mainly in Africa.
A latest report indicates that in some African countries the impact is so staggering that a 50% reduction in agricultural production is expected by 2020 and a 90% reduction by 2100; 30% in Asia by 2050 and 30% in Latin America by 2080. Millions of indigenous and peasant women are responsible for the crops and food for the family, the same ones that will be most affected as it will complicate the production of food for domestic consumption, as well as fishing and livestock. In the countries of the South, all these activities are carried out in 90% by women.
Hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas will be affected by rising sea levels. Also the usual phenomena such as the Monsoon or El Niño, will be more abrupt and stronger. These disasters always impact women more, because when they occur, women are usually at home, often isolated, which makes it difficult for them to obtain evacuation instructions or information that allows them to protect themselves from disasters, the same ones that usually occur in places public. When evacuations are imminent, women cannot always leave their homes as they are 90% responsible for the care of the elderly and young children. For example, in the Indian Ocean tsunami 70-80% of the victims were women or in the Bangladesh cyclone 90% of the deaths were women.
Increase in deaths from famine and malnutrition or from diseases due to extreme cold and heat, as well as an increase in cases from tropical diseases (malaria, dengue, etc.) and presence in other latitudes. Not only do women have less access to health services, but they are the ones who take care of children and the sick, so they will suffer more from diseases and will have more work and responsibilities when caring for those who suffer from these diseases.
It can be said that now there are more than 25 million climate refugees, corresponding to people who have had to forcibly migrate due to changes in the climate, who have lost their crops due to floods, droughts, etc. It is estimated that this figure will reach 200 million displaced people, of which, according to the United Nations, 80% are women and children.
Social indicators (education, food, health, etc.) will drop, with women being the first to feel these problems. For example, access to information in cases of climatic disasters is essential to be able to cope with them and women constitute 64% of illiterate people in the world and have much less access to the media.
A constellation of conflicts, possible wars and generalized violence where women are direct victims, as is the case in most armed conflicts.
However, even though it is already known that what causes global warming is mainly the burning of oil, gas and coal and also deforestation, nothing or almost nothing is done to stop this. On the contrary, more hydrocarbons are being extracted, and forests are being cut down. Instead of taking concrete and immediate actions to halt the increase in the greenhouse effect, the search for solutions is left to governments and market mechanisms. But these have failed in their objective, like the Kyoto Protocol, and worse still, they carry more and worse impacts for local populations.
We must also mention that the issue of gender is not mentioned even once in the Kyoto Protocol. Despite the imminent climate chaos, in making decisions about how to face this problem, both in prevention, mitigation, solutions or adaptation plans to climate change, they are never taken into account. Women have a lot to contribute.
Women resist oil activities
Climate change is not a natural phenomenon, it is caused by greenhouse gases emitted by countries and industries in the North. These gases come primarily from burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees. To prevent this from happening, we must prevent more oil from reaching the atmosphere and stop the destruction of forests.
For this reason, indigenous and peasant women who, for example, fight to prevent the continued extraction of oil, or gas from the territories, must be recognized by the whole world because their resistance is a contribution to humanity and the planet. In addition, this is how women protect their communities from the local impacts caused by oil activities.
Oil has been the fundamental axis of the economy of many countries and its role remains central. However, it is also the area in which there have been major social and environmental conflicts. In the areas where oil is extracted, human rights are violated, rivers, air, and soil are polluted. In these areas, poverty affects all people, but it is worse since women constitute 70% of the people living in extreme poverty in the world.
In addition, women suffer more from oil pollution, as they are in permanent contact with water, wash clothes, accompany the river to bathe children, prepare food. In Ecuador, for example, women have borne the worst, since the incidence of cancer in oil areas is 3 times higher than the national average, affecting mainly women.
Women in the oil areas are burdened by more work, because not only do conditions worsen but they are also left alone as their colleagues leave to join the circuit of demands of the oil companies as day laborers. In Ecuador, for example, in the oil provinces, 65% of mothers are single or head of household.
These are the most marginalized areas, they do not have access to energy and their food sovereignty is affected by the industry's own operations. People become beggars for the oil companies, women being the most affected.
For these reasons, in various indigenous communities, it is they who have made the decision to prevent new oil wells from being opened, and have managed to initiate a path of social restructuring in favor of the defense of culture and local sustainability. . Emblematic cases are the Kichwa women of the Sarayacu community in Ecuador, the same one that would have been subjected long ago by the oil companies if it were not for their women who have not stopped resisting. The women of Sarayacu organized themselves and said that if the men decided to let the companies in, they should start looking for other women… but in another territory. It is a non-negotiable decision that was born from the Amazonian Kichwa women.
Also Huaorani women in the Ecuadorian Amazon have organized, just as other women in Latin America are building food and energy sovereignty in their communities.
But it is also women who stand firm in defending the forests, in the face of the timber industry, in the face of biofuels, in the face of land usurpation. This is mainly because women have for centuries been the collectors of firewood and minor products from the forest. They are the herbalists and ritualists knowledgeable about biodiversity. Their life and that of the community depend on the forests and that is why they defend it.
A very beautiful example is that of some women living in the villages of the Himalayan mountains in India who see the forest as a friend. It provides them with wood for the fire and food for the animals. Tree roots help the land retain rainwater throughout the year so women can collect it from springs and streams. Unfortunately other people see the forest as a business and that is why several entrepreneurs wanted to give it an industrial use. But the women put their arms around the trees to prevent them from cutting them down. Hence, the Chipko movement, which means "hug" in Hindi, was born several decades ago.
Rural women are often the main users of the forests but also its most effective protectors, its custodians and guardians.
The wise women
For thousands of years, women have been the ones who have been most concerned about the well-being and good living of families and communities. Women are the ones who save resources, such as energy, water, they are in charge of keeping the environment healthy; they are educators of children and caretakers of the family and nature.
Women are carriers of a baggage of knowledge that must be known, listened to and learned to build local sovereignty or even to stop climate change.
Women have extensive knowledge of forest resources and know how to maintain it, women also know how to manage wild biodiversity and seeds of traditional crops that adapt to different climate conditions. It is women who work the most for energy sovereignty and facing climate change in a radical way.
Enough of ignoring the knowledge and hard work that women do in defense of sustainability, of peasant economies, of protecting forests!
It is necessary to move towards a deep criticism of the model based on the exploitation of nature, the human being and in particular the work of women.
We must continue to lay the foundations to recognize the "care economy" as an axis that must be protected and recognized. An agenda that builds sovereignty from communities and from women is the only way to achieve a true economic transformation in our countries.
Given that the way of relating to nature, in some way is determined by gender, and the impacts are felt differently by men and women, as well as the way of seeing the world, the answers and alternatives can be very dissimilar between men and women.
It is important now to be able to have female responses to a problem that needs many voices, words and hands!
"We are like grains of quinoa if we are alone, the wind takes us far.
But if we are united in a sack, the wind does nothing.
It will wobble, but it won't bring us down "
Dolores Cacuango, Ecuador
To learn more about women, climate change and oil activities:
BONILLA, Natalia. Women and deforestation. Draft under discussion. Ecological Action. Quito, Ecuador. [email protected]
Letter from the Waorani women to the Government. Lago Agrio, Ecuador. Friday, November 7, 2008. www.maippa.org
ICRC. Women and war. http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/women?opendocument
ENVIRONMENTAL CLINIC. n [email protected] OILWATCH SOUTH AMERICA.
Network of resistance to oil activities in South America. www.oilwatchsudamerica.org
ONIC. Wise and resilient indigenous women. Voices and experiences. Bogota Colombia. 2008. www.onic.org.co
RAMOS, Ivonne. BONILLA, Natalia. Women, communities and plantations in Ecuador. WRM. October 2008.
SHIVA, Vandana. Conference in Barcelona. 1st international meeting friends of the trees. June 23, 2007. http://pocapoc.net/articulos/Entradas/2007/12/13…
YANEZ, Ivonne. Debts and oil. OILWATCH. December 2007. (includes bibliography). http://www.deudaecologica.org/Deuda-de-carbono-y-cambio-climatico…
Videos on women, climate change and oil activities: www.oilwatchsudamerica.org
We are one of the voices of the South ... more than a voice ... a cry!