Grantee Highlight: Women Defenders of the Amazon

Note from the CREDO team: This March, Amazon Watch is among three amazing groups that will receive a share of our monthly grant. Funding from the CREDO community will help Amazon Watch hold accountable the major drivers of Amazon destruction and directly support Indigenous leaders, communities, and organizations in calling for climate justice and permanent protection for the Amazon biome.

Read this important blog post from Caelin Weiss, Amazon Watch’s Development and Partnerships Specialist, below, then click here to visit to cast your vote to help determine how we distribute our monthly grant to this organization and our other amazing grantees this April.

Through strategic campaigns, communications, and direct solidarity funding to Indigenous peoples and Women Defenders, Amazon Watch uplifts Indigenous women’s rights, resistance, and solutions to permanently protect the Amazon rainforest. 

No matter where you are reading this from, you are connected to the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon is the heart pump of our planet: it stores and sequesters extensive amounts of carbon, regulates the global climate, and drives weather systems. It is home to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity and one-third of the terrestrial plant and animal species on Earth, and 20% of the planet’s freshwater flows through the region. The Amazon is also home to 511 Indigenous nations, including 66 uncontacted groups living in voluntary isolation. 

This vital ecosystem is also at a tipping point — already more than 20% has been deforested, and new fossil fuel extraction, mining, logging, agribusiness, and large-scale hydroelectric dams cause even greater destruction. If the Amazon surpasses this ecological threshold, it will be disastrous not only for the people, plants, and animals who live there but for the entire planet. It is time for the global community to act in solidarity with Indigenous peoples — who protect 80% of biodiversity worldwide — as they resist short-sighted destruction and call for their rights, autonomy, and self-determination to be recognized. 

Image Credit: Alice Aedy

Indigenous women are and have always been at the forefront of protecting their territories, communities, culture, knowledge, and lives. Women Defenders face unique and significant threats of violence, but they continue to protect land, water, and life. In March, in celebration of International Women’s Day, Women Defenders gathered throughout the Amazon Basin to connect and mobilize in their continued struggle to protect the rainforest. Their resistance, movement-building, and hope for a livable future are laying the foundation for moving from the tipping point of the Amazon to a turning point. 

On March 6, Women Defenders from across the Ecuadorian Amazon inaugurated the Casa de Mujeres Amazónicas. Created by and for Indigenous women, this is a safe space where Indigenous women can gather, heal, strategize, rest, and create together, including working on programming to support women’s economic empowerment. It also has a healing space for traditional medicine and treatments. 

Since colonization, Indigenous women have confronted threats against their lives for standing up to governments and extractive industries attempting to expand oil and mining productions on Indigenous lands. They’ve faced increases in gender-based violence, and the complete absence of public health support for Indigenous peoples against diseases, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women Defenders have supported each other, their families, and communities through these crises, and Casa de Mujeres Amazónicas will continue to be a necessary healing and organizing space for Indigenous women.

Image Credit: The Casa de Mujeres Amazónicas

On International Women’s Day, 400 Indigenous women from nine nationalities (Waorani, Kichwa, Shiwiar, Shuar, Achuar, Andoas, Siona, Secoya, and Cofan) and allies marched through the streets of Puyo, Ecuador to honor women and call for respect for rights and territories threatened by oil and mining. Indigenous women leaders from the nine nations led the march, including chants like “Mujeres Unidas, Jamas Seran Vencidas” (Women United, Will Never Be Defeated). 

Amazon Watch is honored to support these initiatives through its advocacy programs, its growing Women Defenders Program, and Amazon Defenders Fund – which mobilizes direct solidarity funding to Indigenous women throughout the Amazon to support their autonomy and self-determination. These programs recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples to protect their lands, live in territories unharmed by greed-driven destruction for the benefit of a few, and continue to practice their traditional knowledge, cosmovision, and culture free from colonization and violence. 

Now is the time to protect the Amazon by following the leadership and knowledge of Indigenous peoples. In solidarity and partnership with Women Defenders and Indigenous peoples of Amazonia, we can turn this tipping point around and permanently protect Amazonía.