Throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, there is no dearth of stories where communities have been forced to leave their lands to make way for government-sanctioned and corporate-driven natural resource extraction.
You would not need to look far to find communities in areas where such projects in the name of development are taking place. Communities are forced to live under increasingly insecure conditions because their main source of life and livelihoods, access to communal lands, water, and forests, as well as their safety and security, are threatened by extractive industries and mega-infrastructure projects.
Women carry the heaviest burden of extractivism and the social and environmental devastation that is a product of it. The actions and omissions of states and corporations destroying the environment, affect and restrict the exercise of their rights and threaten their lives.
“I thought about my community and how it was before, how we lived on the shores of the lake, fishing and living off that. I felt a lot of sadness, remembering those indigenous groups and communities that have disappeared because now we do not have water or lakes; they have dried up due to the mining. And I felt the water that the mining companies have polluted, and how this contaminated water is in my body, and I felt sad because we cannot do anything about it. I felt helpless and anger to fight the extractivist government that endangers us.” (Margarita Aquino, RENAMAT, Bolivia).
In every continent, women environmental defenders are harassed, threatened, criminalized and murdered, because their activism to protect common goods are a threat to big corporations. However, their space for dissent and self-representation has become increasingly frought with risks and threats from the corporate, state and military powers that are driving the policies and decisions on resource exploitation. Women environmental defenders are criminalized for “opposing to progress”, and in some countries, they are accused of terrorism by laws aiming to limit their social mobilization.
The number of assassinated women human rights defenders is constantly increasing in contexts of violence and impunity (See Impunity for Violence: Against Women Defenders of Territory, Common Goods, and Nature in Latin America).
Despite these realities, women are raising their voice against the destructive impacts of mining on their lives and their environment. Women across continents are coming together to build collective platforms for representation and global solidarity to resist mining and promote an alternative sustainable model.
They are strengthening their knowledge and capacities on women’s and territorial rights using major feminist approaches and communication and digital tools to address the problems, as well as the legal mechanisms to demand their rights.
Building their capacities helps them defending themselves and resisting. To be fully up to date and aware of their subject in question allows them to respond in the most adequate way, to create collective responses, to be social and political actors, not victims.
For articulating, strengthening, and empowering women environmental voices and demands, were born Women and Mining Network in Asia (WAMA), WoMin in Africa, Urgent Action Fund – Latin America and the Caribbean, and Colectivo CASA in Bolivia. They are joining together, in the network of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA), to demonstrate the power of women in dismantling detrimental economic and political models that distort human sustainability and environmental well-being.
John Paul Pezzi, mccj
VIVAT International NGO,
with consultative special status at UN