Indigenous women take the lead on environmental issues
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Indigenous women take the lead on environmental issues

Across the globe, it is indigenous populations that are at the forefront of the fight against climate change, pollution, deforestation and other prominent environmental and social justice issues. They are also the people who are most vulnerable to these problems, while being the most politically disenfranchised.

Seen from another perspective, it is often women who play prominent roles in these struggles, despite a global imbalance of political and economic power in favor of men. Likewise, women in general are more affected by environmental issues than men. This is probably because the more disadvantaged and discriminated a group is, the more vulnerable it tends to be. So it is with indigenous groups, so it is with women.

From Earth Wire:

A group of about 20 female leaders gathered last week on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference to discuss the marginalization of women, the silencing of indigenous mothers and sisters, and possible solutions to these problems.

The most disenfranchised and the most aware

In terms of the environment vis-à-vis indigenous women, gender and ethnicity intersect with political power and real world concerns.

For a concrete instance of indigenous women fighting on the front lines against deforestation and environmental destruction, see the below video from Greenpeace, showing a group trying to put out forest fires in the Amazon of Brazil’s Maranhão State. According to indigenous leaders, the fires were intentionally set on their lands by loggers and land-grabbers. One of the female firefighters can be seen carrying a child on her back.

The above is an example of how those with the least power are in fact risking everything and doing more to help the environment than the most powerful, which is in this case the Brazilian government. The actions of these women are not sentimental or idealistic. They are carried out with the urgent realization that they must fight and give all for their own survival.

Indigenous women are organizing for environmental justice

Organizations like WECAN, Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International, recognize that what concerns indigenous women is core to understanding the dysfunctional relationship between humanity and the environment. The noticeable presence of indigenous women activists outside the recent UN climate talks in Paris is proof of how efforts are globalizing and cooperating in order to amplify the voices of the most vulnerable and the most in need of just solutions.

Quick facts

Countries with higher percentages of women in political positions are more likely to ratify international environmental treaties

Women are more likely to accept the scientific consensus on man-made climate change, by 2 to 1 in the U.S.

Across the world native peoples are persecuted by corporations and governments that wish to make money off indigenous lands

  • Between 2013 and 2014 murders of indigenous Brazilians increased by 42 percent.

From Think Progress:

Together, the leaders released three declarations: one signifying the creation of a coalition between all indigenous women of America, one asking that sacred Amazon forests be legally protected, and one asking for an end of fossil fuel extraction and subsidies.

Watch this video of the Kichwa tribe from Ecuador and their search for justice, culminating in a voyage to the Paris climate conference.

See also:

Brazil on fire: The Amazon and its guardians are under constant threat