Ecuador's struggle for protecting life is lead by women Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama - FMDP

In 2006 and 2007, Cuenca, the capital city of the province of Azuay, in Ecuador, was the stage of multiple mining projects. The Rio Blanco gold and silver mining project has raised concern and sparked opposition by the local communities, due to the negative impacts that these have had on the environment and livelihoods.

Particularly, these mining projects resulted in the contamination of the rivers of the Cuenca as well as of the protected forest Molleturo-Mollepungo. Environmental degradation, in turn, affected the communities’ rights to food, work and health. This harm motivated a number of massive pacific mobilisations. In the frontline of the protests, were women who defended their rights, and those of their communities.
Acknowledging their shared concerns, these women defenders, representing different communities, decided to work together for the promotion and protection of the environment and the rights of women. They, thus, decided to form ‘Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama’ on 13 February 2008. Photo: FMDP
In 2008, the Front joined the Women’s Latin-American Union (Red ULAM) to strengthen their struggle and support the defence activities of their peers in Guatemala, Venezuela, Perú and Bolivia. Through Red ULAM, the Front has promoted environmental and human rights education and worked to make visible the threats and risks faced by women defenders in the region. Photo: Red ULAM.
In Ecuador, the activities of the Front for the defence of the environment and their rights -and opposition to mining projects- have included, inter alia, organising and promoting pacific mobilisations...Photo: Red ULAM
...educating local communities on environmental harm and violence against women, and...
Documenting the risks and threats faced by environmental defenders in Ecuador.
In Ecuador and abroad, the work and leadership of the Front have been recognized by many civil society organisations. Photo: FMDP

As has occurred for most environmental human rights defenders around the world, the work of the Front has become dangerous for the members of the organisation. Criminalisation, judicial harassment, and the use of force to stop peaceful protests are some of the risks faced by these defenders.

In October 2015, during a peaceful demonstration against the Rio Blanco mining project, the police assaulted and arbitrarily detained eight members of the Front. Photo: Grupo Caminando con las Estrellas.

The risks faced by the Front increased in 2016 after the Chinese company Ecuagoldmining started exploitation activities. Since then, clashes between the company and the Front have characterised the women’s defence activities.

Photo: Fernando Machado/ El Telégrafo

In April 2018, a national referendum was held to decide whether mining should be prohibited in protected areas, intangible zones, and urban centres. 67% of the voters in Azauy voted in favour of restricting mining activities. The same year, the community filed a protective action against the company, arguing, among other things, that their right to previous consultation had not been respected.
In August 2018, the Provincial Court of Azuay declared the judicial suspension of the Rio Blanco mining project, based on the Front’s legal action and the referendum. . Photo: FMDP
The decision of the Court represented a historic victory of the Front and the local communities of Azuay. It proved that their struggle has not been in vain, although it has not yet concluded. Photo: FMDP

More about the Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama:

La lucha de las comunidades contra la minería. Defensoras de la Pachamama: [Spanish]

Corte ecuatoriana ratificó la suspensión del proyecto minero Río Blanco  [Spanish]

Water sources under threat from mining in Ecuador’s mountains [English]

Mujeres en Defensa de la Pachamama - Women in defence of the Mother Earth. Documentary by Areli Valencia and Gordon F. Henderson from the Human Rights Research and Education Centre - University of Ottawa [Spanish with English subtitles]

Contact Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama:

Official website: http://defensoraspachamama.blogspot.com/

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Visit environment-rights.org for resources, contacts and more inspiring stories about environmental human rights defenders.


Creado con una imagen de Simon Matzinger - "Light, born in darkness. Darkness spreads in light. One in the other; no divorce possible."