Paula Alejandra Camargo Pàez calls attention to the intersection of gender equality, violence against women and the fight against climate change. Pàez discusses how climate change exacerbates gender-based violence (GBV), especially against rural, Black, Rasizal and Indigenous women and girls who live in areas most affected by climate change. Climate-related disasters compound risks faced by marginalized communities, prompting negative feedback loops that further limit their access to health and economic services and increase their vulnerability to all types of abuse. In turn, GBV discourages the participation of women in climate-resilient communities. In order to build climate-resilient communities, Pàez explains it requires a human rights-based, gender-sensitive approach that includes preventing GBV. Photo credit: EFE/Ernesto Guzman Jr.
The murder of Earth Defenders is on the rise, especially throughout Latin America, according to Global Watch. Nevertheless, Colombian women like Jackeline Romero Epiayu, Briceida Lemos Rivera, Isabel Zuleta, and Nini Johana Cárdenas Rueda continuously fight for the land and their livelihoods. Through community organization and outreach, these women are bravely resisting the expansion of mining industries and infrastructure projects that have devastating impacts on the environment and local communities. But with such force comes danger as these four women are facing harassment from Colombian authorities, anonymous threats to their lives and loved ones, and have even escaped attempted kidnappings and murders. Photo Credit: Ynske Boersman
Neris Uriana, the first female chieftain of Wayuu tribe in La Guajira, was elected in 2015. She had tremendous support from her husband Jorge Uriana who thinks the future is female. Jorge was the previous community leader and decided women should participate in decision making and worked to dismantle machismo culture. After becoming chieftain, Neris has introduced sustainable agriculture methods to her tribe and collaborated with other communities to improve irrigation, crop cycles, and land use. Neris has successfully created many women leaders in her tribe, such as Pushaina, who is growing the crops with minimum water supply. Photo Credit: Lucy Sherriff/PRI
Yolanda Maturana dedicated her life to defending Colombia’s wildlife and forests, and was an opponent of illegal mining and water contamination in the central and north western Colombian departments of Risaralda and Choco. Because of her activism she was brutally assassinated in her home, in the village of Santa Cecilia. Across the country, violence is escalating towards environmental activists, a trend congruent with global patterns, but also influenced by Colombia’s brutal and continuing war. Photo credit: @yolandamaturana
The Constitutional Court of Colombia has declared the Atrato River a rights-bearing subject, creating a commission of government representatives and community members to restore and protect the river. Xiména Gonzalez, an advocate, lawyer and spokeswoman for the Center for Studies for Social Justice Tierra Digna, explains how illegal gold mining and mercury have polluted Colombia’s third-most important river and threatened the livelihoods of people in the Chocó region. In granting rights to the Atrato River, the Court also curbed the use of toxic substances for the extraction of minerals, promoting sustainability and health for the communities that depend upon the Atrato’s waters. Photo credit: Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Alicia Lopez Guisao was a leader of the Asokinchas community in Colombia, organizing the Agrarian Summit Project, which distributed land and food for 12 Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in the department of Choco. When shopping in a grocery store in Medellín, she was shot to death by two gunmen. Since the retreat of Colombia’s FARC, other paramilitary groups have been acting to gain power in the city, and consequently the rate of attacks to human rights activists increased. In spite of all the pain, Alicia’s family might not be able to attend the burial, as they have been threatened to be the next in case they do. Photo credit: Congreso de los Pueblos
Ruth Alicia was a well-known and respected community leader, engaged in the promotion of health and education projects, most recognizably through the food security projected organized by the ‘Cumbre Agraria’. Her bravery and empathetic social engagement helped organize and empower local indigenous and Afro descendant communities in areas neglected and condemned within the violence of the Colombian war. As a result of her humanitarian commitment, Ruth Alicia and her family received constant threats and were displaced by paramilitaries. Ruth Alicia was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen on March 2, 2017. Photo credit: HRD Memorial
Colombia’s highly polluting construction industry is being transformed by an all-women alliance ready to make industrialization sustainable in efforts to help tackle climate change. The Fostering Cleaner Production Initiative invites Colombian women to take on industrial pollution for a greener future. Women within the initiative are being trained to bring pollution prevention to their current positions that deal with water, sewage, and varying construction companies. These women are being credited for the industry transitioning into renewable energies, and lowering waste. Photo credit: UN Climate Change Climate Action
Jakeline Romero is a renowned Colombian Indigenous advocate who has been fighting against the British-owned Cerrejon open pit coal mine in her community for years. Jakeline has seen five communities razed to allow for mine expansion, disproportionately affecting local women and children. A member of the Wayuú Women's Movement, Jakeline stands strong despite a recent open threat on her life, and uses the opportunity to draw attention to strength of the movement and the women she represents. Photo credit: London Mining Network
Women across Colombia are working together to preserve local seeds from the threats of mining, agrochemicals, and hybrid strains. In a landscape altered by climate change and decreasing amounts of water and food, women are also mobilizing to educate their communities about the harmful impacts of transgenic seeds on their food security and sovereignty. Photo credit: flickr/Global Crop Diversity Trust
In this piece, Katie Redford, co-founder and director of EarthRights International, writes about the human rights allegations against fruit company Chiquita. The banana giant, after a decade-long legal battle, has failed to get out of a lawsuit brought against it for sponsoring death squads to kill and intimidate farmers in Colombia. This legal decision is a feat for farmers, workers and other victims who were terrorized and murdered through Chiquita’s financing of Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia.
Anthropologist Mariana Goméz Soto is on the front lines of the battle against a giant government-backed gold mine and tailings dam in her hometown of Doima, Colombia. Doima is a farming town located in the Andean Highland’s Paramos, a water-rich ecosystem particularly vulnerable to mining waste. The community opposed the mining project during the consultation phase, and women continue to resist the construction of a toxic tailings pond through sit-ins and legal battles. Mariana Goméz Soto has been actively creating bridges between the community, experts in Bogota, and international allies to protect Doima’s farmland and aquifers. Photo credit: theecologist.org
Nohra Padilla has had a long history of experience with waste picking, as she started the occupation from an early age to help her family. With the pass of years, she became one of the main leaders of waste pickers from Bogotá, growing the Association of Recyclers of Bogotá (ARB) into an organization of more than 3,000 informal recyclers and the National Association of Recyclers in Colombia (ANR), with 12,000 members into strong institutions that revolutionized the infrastructure of waste management nationwide. In 2011, Padilla managed to lead a law that prohibits contracts for waste management that do not offer jobs for informal pickers and had them be recognized as a part of the recycling and waste process in Colombia. Even amongst threats to her well-being, Padilla has achieved great improvements for sustainability and waste management in her country. Photo Credit: Goldman Environmental Prize
Yolanda Garcia Luango of community organization Aso Manos Negra, alongside many other human rights and environmental activists, farmers, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, fought for the Colombian government to halt to the spraying of toxic chemicals such as glyphosate. This action is part of the Colombian authorities’ strategy, supported by the United States, to kill coca plants and fight opiate drugs since its early stage, causing many Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities to suffer from exposure to such dangerous components. Photo credit: Global Greengrants Fund