“Violence on the Land, Violence on our Bodies” report published

Project: Shedding Light on Environmental Violence in North America

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CHAPTER 1 - IITC Quote

Last month, and after two years in the making, WEA and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network officially launched Violence on the Land, Violence on our Bodies: Building an Indigenous Response to Environmental Violence” a community-based report and toolkit for action. But we didn’t want it to be just a launch; instead, we wanted to use that moment as a unique opportunity to mobilize our community and raise our voices to bring awareness to the connection between violence on the land and the destructive impacts it has on the health and safety of Indigenous women. That’s what the #LandBodyDefense Week of Action on June 6-10, 2016 was all about.

And we want to be sure that everyone who took part in this call to action knows that your participation, engagement and support during the Week of Action made all the difference.

  • On Twitter, more than 1,025 friends and allies shared and posted tweets using the #LandBodyDefense hashtag, helping us to reach nearly 200,000 people and organizations.
  • On Facebook, hundreds of you visited the Week of Action event page, and your messages, posts and shares helped us to reach nearly 3,000 people and organizations.
  • Organizations and media outlets also featured stories or blogs about this work as well, including: TeleSur, Story of Stuff, Sierra Club, and Planet Experts.

Janice-week-of-action

Thank you, everyone, for sharing this community-based report and toolkit with your networks, and for posting your own “Hand to the Land” or chestplate stencil photos. Thank you especially for believing in the urgent need to support Indigenous women and young people’s messages of resistance.

This work is just the beginning. Over the next few months, please continue to share photos and stories related to the social impacts of extreme energy extraction using the #LandBodyDefense hashtag. WEA will also be sharing more on this work and how the resources in the toolkit are being used across impacted communities. Be sure to stay connected!

Strengthening the resilience of West Bengali farmers

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GEAG-soma

Soma is from West Bengal, a state that boasts extraordinary biodiversity but is also one of the most ecologically fragile regions in the world.  At high risk of seasonal flooding, and prone to cyclones, West Bengal’s extreme weather patterns threaten the food, water, and economic security of its communities, especially its farmers. Committed to improving her circumstances and those of her community, Soma works with the local organization, West Bengal-based Development Research Communication and Services Centre (DRCSC) to mitigate the catastrophic impacts of climate change on female farmers in her state.

As a farmer, water collector and caregiver, Soma is on the frontlines of the climate change crisis. She came to WEA and our partner GEAG’s 2011 Northern India Women, Food Security, and Climate Change Training with a vision: to improve the resilience of West Bengali farmers in the face of climate change and regional flooding. Soma was not alone — twenty-nine more Indian women farmers from other regions came to the WEA training with similar visions. By connecting women from across India who already have their own techniques and solutions for dealing with floods and maintaining food security, WEA and GEAG created a container for women across regions learn from one another.

At the Training, these women farmers exchanged knowledge and learned skills in low-cost techniques to mitigate the effects of climate change. During the training, Soma and her teammate created a year-long action plan to increase resilience to floods and improve food security in West Bengal.

Soma returned to her community armed with new solutions, ready to implement her action plan. Soma facilitated demonstrations of several appropriate technologies that help women access food, harvest water, and improve community health. She mobilized her community to:

  • Construct a rainwater harvesting system, providing water for fifty families
  • Build container gardens for an entire community to ensure their access to food
  • Provide twenty women with organic, low-input seeds
  • Build six smokeless chulhas, demonstrating the positive respiratory health impacts and improved efficiency of the stoves

Soma’s story demonstrates the power of what can happen when grassroots women come together and learn from each other.  In Soma’s community, women are moving from a place of dependency to a place of self-reliance.  Soma’s leadership has helped spread needed information and solutions that can help families survive during the rainy season. Soma has helped herself and other women leaders in her community unlock their leadership to take control of their own livelihoods.

As Soma puts it, “I am a farmer, I am happy, and I choose to remain so.”

We stand in solidarity with Soma as she is improving the independence and resilience of women farmers in West Bengal.

Guatemala Women Standing Against Environmental Violence

Project: Shedding Light on Environmental Violence in North America

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Source: Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times
Source: Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

A woman in Lote Ocho, Guatemala are filing negligence claims (in Canada) against a Canadian mining company whose employees that forcibly removed a women from her home, raped her and then burned her home to the ground. She is joined in her suit by 10 other women from her village, who were also gang-raped on the same day.

However, she is filing her suit, Caal v. Hudbay Mineral Inc., in Canada, and there it is “sending shivers through the oil, gas and mining industry”. Of all the publicly listed mining and exploration companies in the world, more than half had headquarters in Canada in 2013.

Canadian companies, accounting for 50 percent to 70 percent of the mining in Latin America, were often associated with extensive damage to the environment, from erosion and sedimentation to groundwater and river contamination. Of particular note, it said, was that the industry “demonstrated a disregard for registered nature reserves and protected zones.”

You can read the entirety of the New York Times article here.

A Canyon Deserves a Monument for Preservation

Project: Native Women Leaders and Advocates Defending Sacred Places in the Southwest

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In Utah, a tribal coalition of Ute Mountain, Uintah and Ouray Utes, Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes has been formed with a singular goal: To achieve monument status from the federal government for the Allan Canyon band of Ute Mountain. They propose to name it Bears Ears National Monument.

Photo: Jim Mimiaga/The Journal
Photo: Jim Mimiaga/The Journal

“It’s never been done, all the tribes working together,” said Octavius Seowtewa, a Zuni cultural leader. “We as native peoples are banding together to work for the protection of Bears Ears instead of bickering about past issues.”

Read the full story here.

Supporting Landless Women Farmers in India

Project: Grassroots Indian women leaders improving food and economic security

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Basanti Dehuri, center, with the land title she received through a Women's Support Center (Photo: New York Times)
Basanti Dehuri, center, with the land title she received through a Women’s Support Center (Photo: New York Times)

Tina Rosenberg, in her article Letting (Some of) India’s Women Own Land, addresses how little land is owned by women in India even though more than three-quarters of Indian women live as farmers.”Without [land] title,” Rosenberg, a Pulitzer Prize award winning author, says, “female farmers acting on their own don’t have access to credit, subsidies, government programs for seeds, irrigation or fertilizer.”

In the face of this reality, WEA’s 2011 partnership with Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) provided ecological farming and climate change resilience training, appropriate technology, rights education, and seed funding to women farmers in India to improve their food and economic security, preserve the environment and traditional knowledge, and build political will. The year-long training program focused on strengthening foundations to support women leaders and farmers through asserting their rights as farmers, better managing their farms and resources, upholding their traditional knowledge systems, and encouraging the leadership of others.

Read Tina Rosenberg’s full article here.