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Women's Declaration on Extractivism and Climate Change

Translated from the original Spanish available here.

'Women and the land are both territory to be conquered'

'We are rich, the earth gives us whatever we need,

we hunt and we fish, there are all kinds of vegetation.

How are we to be poor? Being without nature is to be poor'.

The extraction of oil and minerals, which uses enormous quantities of water, contaminates it, and produces toxic waste which pollutes the air and makes people sick, is an exploitation of nature. Where oil and extractive companies go, they bring great problems, they tear up the social fabric and replace it with conflicts in the family and the community, and confrontation between the one and the other. The damage done by the extractive activities of these companies are long term, lasting, indeed, far longer than the economic benefits the companies claim to generate.

The women of oil zones suffer the impact of extractive activities in our bodies; we have spoken out about the increase of gastrointestinal, respiratory, and dermatological diseases as well as the cancers to which they give rise in our own bodies and in our families. We are wise when we say that we 'do not want alcoholism, we do not want there to be prostitution, we do not want our husbands to beat us. We do not want this life which, for all that it offers us schools or toilets or zinc houses, does not make us feel dignified', as Patricia Gualinga, leader of the kichwa people of Sarayaku, points out, referring to the consequences which the Eleventh Oil Circuit will bring to their lives. Extractive activities also diminish agricultural productivity due to contamination: animals die and arable land is lost, affecting families' means of subsistence and those of the community.

As oil and mineral extraction has increased, the plunder of lands belonging to indigenous people has also intensified. This plunder has not only jeopardised the social, economic and collective rights of indigenous peoples, but has also physically and culturally exterminated them in order to rob them of their lands and extract oil and minerals therefrom. The disappearance of the Tete and Sansaguari peoples is an example of this. Women suffer even more with the plunder of their rights and lands.

Our presence as women in socio-environmental struggles has gained prominence, allowing for the denunciation of oil and mineral extraction and the exploitation of women as two sides of the same coin. All of these forms of exploitation have a common root: a model of development which subordinates life to the accumulation of capital as expressed in the extractivism which devalues the conservation and care work which we women have carried out over the course of centuries in these rural communities. In addition to defending life, water, and the land, we watch over the health of our families and stand up for food sovereignty and the rights and defence of Mother Earth in the face of the capitalist system which is expressed in a plunderous extractivism and which is inequitable, unjust, overlooks women, and prioritises the reproduction of capital over the reproduction of life.

Given that the processes of degradation and contamination affect the community as a whole, women, children, and the elderly are more vulnerable due to their direct exposure to the contaminants and their ignorance of the principle risk factors associated with them. The impact of extractive activities alter the reproductive cycle of life, whose regeneration falls on the shoulders of women. This is why we face the challenge of constructing the truly 'good life', recovering the memory of our peoples in which we women play an important role in constructing the future.

Today we join together as women affected by the extractive industries. Women who fight indefatigably against the threat of the expansion of these industries with the Mirador Project in Zamora Chinchipe and the Panatza San Carlos Project in Morona Santiago. We are women from communities under threat of expulsion from our lands by the Llurimagua Project in Intag, women who face the violence of militarism against our lands as well as against our sons, cousins, brothers, and fathers, women who are criminalised for resisting the mining industry in Quimsacocha, because we defend water and life; Amazonian women who walked from the forest to the Ecuadorian capital to demand of the government that the Shiwiar, Kichwa, and Sapara territories should not be exploited for oil, nor the Yasuni; we joined together as women who stand up to the evident jeopardy in which rural and indigenous rights, and Mother Earth herself, are being put.

We women who met in Quito at the Women and Extractivism Gathering demand real solutions:

We do not want development alternatives which have meant the extinction of indigenous cultures: this is a development of destruction and death, centred on exploitation, primarily in the form of the extractive industries. This development does not have a future, which we know because we have already lived with it for more than 500 years. We have the alternative to development.

This is why we propose:

The recovery of our food sovereignty

The recovery of our water sovereignty

The recovery of our fuel sovereignty, that is,

The recovery of Mother Earth as nurturer of our bodies, our people

The reorientation of production towards the production of healthy foods for healthy living

We are therefore fighting so that minerals should remain in the earth and that Amazonian oil should not be exploited. These are the true solutions to climate change and the way to conserve our biodiversity, which is our true wealth.

We also demand reciprocity from urban peoples, from whom we have traditionally received racism and the negation of our rights and cultures. We now propose to mutually recognise each other and generate greater bonds of collaboration and a common outlook from our distinct territories, including the urban.

Quito, 14 October 2014

We have the true solutions to climate change. We do not want more development, we already have wealth and ways of life which respect life and nature.