A report by the organisation for the defence of the environment and human rights, Global Witness, maintains that Brazil is among the deadliest countries for environmental defenders. In 2020, 20 activists were killed while trying to protect their territory. Some of these activists are women who have begun to lead the protests evidencing the principal role they have assumed as guardians of their lands and of the survival of the Amazon.
“Traditionally, indigenous women in Brazil have been excluded from assuming leadership roles that were usually performed by tribal patriarchs. But those roles have changed in recent years as threats against their land rights and natural resources have increased. Women are breaking down barriers, speaking out, and joining the front lines of the battle against rampant deforestation, extractive activities, and the worsening climate catastrophe”, journalist Rachel Ramirez says in a recently published CNN report.
Indigenous women and activists threatened
One of those activists is Alessandra Korap, who belongs to the Mundurukú people of Brazil and in 2015 she broke with tradition, joined the chiefs and protested against the demarcation of her lands and the infrastructure that she considers dangerous for her territories.
“When the populations are not asked for their opinion, that is when the slaughter takes place. So who is to blame for this slaughter? They are the same people that finance the hydroelectric plants, railway companies, mining companies, loggers, prospectors. Mercury itself that is bought illegally and ends up in our soil… Women are getting sick, especially pregnant women, children are getting sick from mercury.
The invaders are within, they are the land grabbers, they are already invading us and even killing us. There are the prospectors, loggers, palm growers, there are fishermen who invade and take advantage of the fishing areas of indigenous peoples” says Alessandra in an interview for EL PAcCTO.
But it is not only the murder of the leaders, the women are suffering more gender-based violence and this makes them more vulnerable to human trafficking and smuggling. Women are being subdued and silenced by criminal groups without adequate legal tools to protect them. This is one of the conclusions of the studies led by EL PAcCTO on some indigenous communities in several Latin American countries.
In addition, in the latest edition of the communication space La hora de EL PAcCTO, anthropologist Jane Felipe Beltrão warned about the need to help indigenous communities that coexist with the criminal activities of criminal organisations. “Indigenous communities do not recognise the artificial borders created by the State, which often leads to conflicts.”
Empowering indigenous women to protect biodiversity
From the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Brazil, Ricardo Pael also explained that “there is an absence of geographical boundaries and security, which leads to an invasion by organised groups that use these lands for the exploitation of its wealth and the cultivation of drugs”.
Strengthening indigenous communities is a human rights issue and essential to protecting the planet’s biodiversity. In this objective it is important to strengthen the knowledge and leadership of indigenous women. At the forefront of activism against criminal groups, they have become essential for the survival of peoples and future generations.
María Jesús Martín. EL PAcCTO