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Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama - FMDP ECUADOR´S STRUGGLE TO PROTEC HUMAN LIFE IS LED BY WOMEN.

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 in local communities, due to the adverse impacts that similar mines have had on the environment and their livelihoods.

these mining projects resulted in the contamination of the rivers of the Cuenca and of the protected forest in Molleturo-Mollepungo. Environmental degradation, in turn, affected the communities’ rights to food, work, and health. This harm motivated a number of wide-scale public mobilizations. At 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. IN response, they formed an organization, ‘Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama’ (the front) on February 2008.

In 2008, the Front joined the Women’s Latin-American Union (Red ULAM) to strengthen their struggle and support the defense 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.

In Ecuador, the Front has pursued a number of activities in defense of the environment and their rights -and opposition to mining projects- including, inter alia, organizing and promoting pacific mobilizations, educating local communities on environmental harm and violence against women and documenting the risks and threats faced by environmental defenders in the country.

In Ecuador and abroad, the work and leadership of the Front has been recognized by several civil society organizations.

As for most environmental human rights defenders around the world, the work of the Front became dangerous for the members of the organization. Criminalization, 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.

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

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 favor 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.

On 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. The decision of the Court represented a historic victory of the Front and the local communities of Azuay. It proved that their struggle had not been in vain, although it has not yet concluded.

Credits:

1. UN Geneva; UNTV mission in Ecuador; January 7, 2010; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 2. Wikipedia. 3. United Nations Photo; Human settlements - places where people live and work; January 1, 1976; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 4. Mary Hess; Ecuador; February 2, 2003; (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). 5. Craig Bellamy; Ecuador; June 20, 2015; (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). 6. Craig Bellamy, Ecuador; June 23, 2015; (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). 7. Craig Bellamy; Ecuador; June 22, 2015; (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).