ACKnowl-EJ network launches map to commemorate International Women’s Day

A map created by researchers at the Institute of Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), the Latin-American Network of Women Defending Social and Environmental Rights and the Colombian NGO CENSAT-Agua Viva Friends of the Earth Colombia makes visible the struggles of women in Latin America against mining and in defense of life, dignity and territory.

The map “Latin-American Women Weaving Territories” was launched today to commemorate International Women’s Day and highlights 21 conflicts across the continent along with the testimonies of women who share their personal stories on the impacts they suffer as well as the alternatives they are putting into place.

The women who speak out in defense of nature and territory often put their lives at risk in the process. According to Global Witness, of the 185 environmental defenders killed worldwide in 2015, 122 were in Latin America. Several cases on the map demonstrate the different forms of violence suffered by women due to extractive activities. The assassination of women activists, for example, most recently of Laura Leonor Vasquez Pineda, shot dead for her resistance to the El Escobal/San Rafael gold and silver mine in Guatemala, is part of a pattern of persecution that is being denounced as femicide.

The map is an initiative of ACKnowl-EJ, one of the three ‘Transformative Knowledge Networks’ funded under the ISSC’s Transformations to Sustainability programme, and a contribution to the Atlas of Environmental Justice, both coordinated at the UAB. It’s an example of the collaborative activist-academic research approach within ACKnowl-EJ, which aims to create research that empowers civil society and to show the multiple visions and alternatives that communities are proposing and putting into practice.

According to ACKnowl-EJ Coordinator and EJatlas Director Dr. Leah Temper,

“the map makes evident the link between violence and domination against nature and violence against women. But it also dispels the myth that these women are passive victims. We see that mines are being stopped as a result of their activism. For example, the Tambor mine in Guatemala was recently suspended and in Piedras Tolima Colombia a group of women were the force behind the first citizen-organized referendum on a mining project in the country.”

Daniela Rojas of CENSAT, Agua Viva, explains that the map aims to make the struggles of women visible:

“This continent is a hotbed of territorial struggles where women are often the main protagonists. This fight for the health of our territories and our bodies is fundamental to stop the extractivist push enveloping Latin America. What better day to pay homage to these women? March 8 is a day of resistance, a day to commemorate the role of women in the story of humanity”.

According to Dr. Mariana Walter, the Scientific Coordinator of ACKnowl-EJ, “the conflicts show the enormous pressure that extractive activities and the governments that promote them have on the lives of women. Their tenacity and struggle is for a better future for all of us.”

The map recounts the testimony of Rosa Govela, a network member affected by the Tuligtic mine in Puebla Mexico, who says that they resist

“because when we can no longer produce food on the land, we suffer the anguish of having nothing to feed our children. We also see other forms of violence increase, including prostitution, the sale of alcohol, domestic violence and human trafficking, and the break-down of relations of care.”

RENAMAT member Digna Viracochea from Challapata in Bolivia explains on the map that women in Challapata are proud of being involved in a productive alternative. “Thus, we disseminate our case of successful resistance to mining. We want it to be known that we are vigilant and we won’t allow mining in Challapata”.

According to another network member from Molletura appearing on the map,

“despite the increased violence and sexism, we have lost the fear to speak out. We have begun to create networks with women from other communities and to share knowledge about ecological initiatives, and to work on raising public awareness. Through this we are continually increasing our capacity as radical communicators and art-based practices.”

View the map:

More information on ACKnowL-EJ.