Over the last few years, it has become heartbreakingly evident that being an environmental activist these days is not only difficult, but dangerous as well. In Mexico, being a women environmental activist brings with it anti-activism abuse and gender violence, and being an Indigenous women environmental activist often means an increase in these attacks and the general threat these women face to their lives on a day to day basis.
As this article via Telesur shares, “Women environmental activists in Mexico usually face both abuse over their activism and gender violence. On top of that being Indigenous makes it even more difficult, as Mexico has a big systematical discrimination problem against its Indigenous people.“
According to [Angelica Simon, Media Coordinator for Greenpeace Mexico] women play a crucial role in the environmental struggles in Mexico, being one of the social sectors most-affected by the loss of natural resources and climate change. “A general ecological perspective should also be promoted within the gender struggle. Today more than ever we know there can’t be social and environmental justice without equality.” [Furthermore,] the National Network in Defense of Human Rights in Mexico reported 615 aggressions against women human rights defenders between 2012 and 2014, with an average of four per week.
WEA is acutely aware of critical role Indigenous women environmental leaders in Mexico play, ensuring the preservation of communities, culture and the earth. This is one of the reasons we partnered with Semillas—the only women’s fund in Mexico—and the National Network of Indigenous Women Weaving Rights for Mother Earth and Territory (RENAMITT) in 2014 to support Indigenous women who were gathering together to protect the earth in the face of development and land dispossession. Our hope is that through efforts like these that bring communities of women together, we can also increase the safety of these brave leaders as they stand on the frontlines of this movement.
According to a recent article from National Geographic discussing the Paris Agreement and its impact on climate change, the international negotiations left a few gaps in place, and if not addressed, these shortcomings may have even more wide-reaching implications for global warming.
The article states that, “Among these key gaps are gender-responsiveness and attention to land rights. Better securing women’s land rights is a critical and largely ignored step toward climate change action and broader sustainable development.” This is something we have seen in much of our work, particularly through our partnership with Semillas — the only women’s fund in Mexico — which supports land rights for Indigenous women in five Mexican states.
Securing women’s rights to land is one approach that can offer a range of benefits tied to both climate change and socio-economic development. This approach can be particularly effective in developing countries, whose rural populations tend to depend on land, forests, and agriculture for their livelihoods, where women make up the majority of agricultural labor, and where women’s land rights are the most insecure. Since the agriculture, forestry, and other land use (AFOLU) sector produces roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, the confluence of land, women and sustainable development—and how nations manage that confluence—has critical implications for climate change.
Research suggests that secure land tenure leads to a greater sense of ownership over land, better prevention of soil erosion, and increased likelihood of afforestation (tree planting) which is an important method of creating emissions-mitigating carbon sinks, and which can also provide immediate benefits to rural women who depend on ecosystem health to continue successfully farming, gathering firewood, and accessing potable water.
Taking a gender-responsive, land rights-based approach to climate change action—particularly with respect to AFOLU— can help a nation to fulfill its commitments to the UNFCCC, while at the same time fulfilling its commitments to the women and other vulnerable populations that so many INDCs specifically pledge to protect.
Global Greengrants Fund, the leading environmental fund supporting grassroots action on a global scale, and The International Network of Women’s Funds have put together a guide to supporting grassroots women’s organizations working on climate justice and women’s rights across the globe. The guide specifically addresses the urgent needs within the funding community and aims to increase appropriate funding for climate action and women’s rights worldwide led by women.
Women’s funders might describe grants that build on women’s traditional roles in agriculture or as service providers… [and] Although such interventions have supported women to mobilize and articulate their rights, they do not always challenge women’s secondary status in societies or address existing power dynamics within families and communities.
In Mexico, the legal system fails to include any specific legislation protecting women’s land and property rights. Therefore, Indigenous women’s actual control over property has been very limited. Despite the urgency and importance of the situation, there are very few organizations working to improve women’s access to land.
That is why WEA has partnered with Fondo Semillas—the only women’s fund in Mexico—to support Indigenous women leaders who have come together to represent “an unprecedented effort to spark a movement for indigenous women’s land rights in Mexico.”
Meet Silvia (Zapoteca-Chinanteca), one of the courageous grassroots women supported by our partnership, who is working for Indigenous women’s land rights in Oaxaca.
OneWorld gives a broad overview of the current issues facing the indigenous communities and especially women, in Mexico. Systemic rape, aggression and assassinations of indigenous women has skyrocketed in the past 10 years, as has natural resource extraction, issues with organizing indigenous communities, and the ever-lasting search for justice. Compounding these issues is the fact that the majority of the six and a half million indigenous people in Mexico live in poverty, lack access to the justice system, and above all, do not speak Spanish.
The political turmoil associated with the recent change of government will likely spur the reactivation of other indigenous organizations, reminding Peña Nieto of the many pending matters in terms of social justice.
But the people are skeptical and worry that it will continue to be more of the same and change will not come.
You can read the rest of the article here.