Violence Against Women, Communities and Mother Earth: Women Activists in the Americas Refusing, Resisting, Recreating
On Monday, March 4th, at the 57th Commission on the Status of Women at the UN Headquarters in New York, the Feminist Task Force held an event entitled, Violence Against Women, Communities and Mother Earth: Women Activists in the Americas Refusing, Resisting, Recreating, co-sponsored by our partners, the Loretto Community, Office of the Chaplain-United Methodist Women, Sisters of Mercy, Siglo XXIII/SERR, the Mennonite Central Committee UN and Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus which featured powerful testimonies and presentations on the issue of harmful mining practices, land grabbing and the effects of the extractive development model on women, the environment and their communities.
Panelists spoke on extractives development model exploitation from the northern tip of the North America through the isthmus of Central America to the Amazon in South America, in English and Spanish, using strong imagery to show the violence against women and Mother Earth on the part of what we are defining as the Extractives Development Model, the entrenched nexus of unbridled capitalism, irresponsible governments and the unchecked extractive industry which creates a devastating troika for women, the communities and the environment.
“These extractive companies are destroying the earth much like you would destroy the insides of a women. Just like the uterus of the mother where the children are protected and life begins the Uterus of mother earth is being destroyed, damaged and disrespected.”
~ Nelly del Cid, activist in Honduras
The event began with panelist, Sarah Augustine, Co-director of Suriname Indigenous Health Fund, urging participants about the importance of creating a global level movement to protect local communities from the extractive industry. In her words, their are three levels of social movements against the extractive industry: the local, the regional, and the global movements; at all levels we must support the local communities from the threats and dangers of enormous industries invading our nature and communities.
Nelly del Cid from Honduras, shared with us how the ongoing work of mining and extractive companies in Honduras is destroying the environment and communities there. Mining activities in Honduras began in 1870 and since then the industry has encouraged mining and research and investigation for mining potential in neighboring countries. As a result 285 mining companies have applied for mining permits and are pending review by the government since 1870, creating all types of negative externalities, such as the contamination of one of the the only lakes in Honduras.
Currently, the cost of activism in Honduras is sometimes paid with their lives. Even so, activists continue to resist and defend the land, to help those whose lives are at risk from the negative externalities of mining. At this very moment there is a march taking place against a new law that has opened free access to open mining in Honduras.
Sally Dunne, UN representative at the Loretto Community, and co-organizer with the FTF of the Women & Climate Justice Tribunals discussed the results of the tribunals in Chicago and Central Appalacin early last year. One of the tribunal was against Mountain Top Removal and mining construction in Central Appalachia. The other was against polluting coal plants in Chicago. Testimonials about the harms of mountain tops to their removal resulting in harmful emissions from coal fired power plants, Sally told the stories of women who made their voices heard as they demanded an end to mountain top removal.
These things are going on right in the communities where people live. with no regard on the impact on the helath or the people living there. People are seen as externalities or collateral damage in the process to pursue profits and it has to stop. ~ Sally Dunne
Karla Artiga, a student at the Universidad Technologia in San Salvador and working with youth on sustainable development and the culture of peace in her country of El Salvador, presented the interlinkages of gender equality, sustainability, and care for Mother Earth. She delivered reports about the poor conditions of gender inequalities in education opportunities, lack social participation, and non-existing economic benefits in her homeland. She also advocates for increased awareness raising on the issues and activism to change them.
Finally, the event was wrapped up with a powerful presentation by Kathleen Stone, Chaplain of the UN Church Center. Kathleen spoke about the Tar Sands Crisis in the North America, and showing disturbing pictures of the damage that had already been done in Alberta, Canada where the Tar Sands project begins. Currently, the Tar Sands is set to expand into the US and has already been built along the top 1/3 of the country. Activists have gathered to prevent the expansion of the pipeline, and have not given up hope. She discussed how we could get involved and what still can be done.
The event was moderated and co-organized by FTF director, Rosa Lizarde, who closed by saying, “This is not only against violence against our Earth which is violence against women, their families and their communities. It is an assault on women activists such as these, some who pay with their lives, who in facing the Extractives Development Model–the industry, the government and the exploitative system –put themselves at risk.”
For more information about the Feminist Task Force Women’s Climate Justice Tribunals, click here.
— FTF staff