Webinar: Women Resisting Climate Change in the Global South
Posted by Meaghan Carmody on May 12, 2020 at 11:08 AM
As the world grapples with the challenges posed by climate change, there is increasing awareness in the Global North that communities from the Global South will be most impacted by the effects of climate change. We increasingly recognise that those same communities are often on the front line of resistance to extractive projects that threaten the environment and exacerbate the impact of climate change, particularly: mining, mass hydroelectric infrastructure and biofuels. Women across these communities often put their safety, freedom, livelihoods and lives on the line to protect the environment and Mother Earth.
To discuss these issues, and the roots of climate change in historical and modern-day colonialism, we will be joined by Lolita Chavéz, Guatemalan human rights defender and leader of the Council of K’iche Peoples, and a speaker to be confirmed from African Women Unite Against Destructive Extractivism (WOMIN), to share their experiences and the risks faced by their communities, and women in particular, when resisting extractivism and protecting the environment.
Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic is a Maya K’iche indigenous educator and human rights defender from Guatemala. She is leader of the Council of K’iche’ Peoples in Defense of Life, Mother Nature, Earth and Territory (CPK) and member of the TZ'KAT Network of Ancestral Healers of Community Feminism, an indigenous led organisation that supports women activists and human rights defenders involved in community struggles. She was forced to leave Guatemala in 2017 due to threats against her life and has yet been unable to return. In 2017 she was one of three finalists chosen by the European parliament for the Sakharov Human Rights Award and in 2018 she received the Ignacio Ellacuría Award from the Basque government for her work in defending the land of the K'iche people against exploitation.
Speaker to be confirmed from the network African Women Unite Against Destructive Extractivism.
It’s well known that women are more impacted by climate change - because they are so often the primary caregivers in a family or community and are responsible for accessing food and water for those they care for. This holds true also for one of the primary drivers of climate change, extractive industries, where contamination and other negative impacts of mining and fossil fuel extraction impact women more than men.
It’s important to question why this is the case. Behind women’s assigned roles as caregivers is the structure of patriarchy - a systemic oppression of women based on their gender, and a consequent position of less power and privilege in society.
These oppressive structures also impact on trans, intersex, non-binary people, and people of different genders, although we won’t be specifically focusing on that in this webinar.
Not all women are equal however, as we live in a society that not only divides people according to gender, but also race and class. To sum up centuries of history, in order to justify the brutality of colonialism and enslavement of people, Western Europeans racialised people - creating a false idea of inferiority based on race. In Ireland, we have some identification with this dynamic as part of colonization, but along lines of class rather than race.
Historical colonialism may have largely ended in a political sense - but the terrible consequences of racialisation still play out today, as women of colour and indigenous women deal with a worse burden of climate change and extractive industries. On top of that, many of the transnational corporations driving climate change - through the destructive extraction of minerals, fossil fuels, and monoculture crops such as palm oil - are based in the Global North, yet the dirtiest projects are in the Global South. The conquistadors have been replaced by corporations. The accumulation of wealth from colonialism permitted the emergence of capitalism, and now transnational corporations form the backbone of neoliberal capitalism.
Women defenders on the frontlines
Women are not passive victims of the impacts of climate change and extractive industries. They are active resistors, and are on the frontlines of the climate and environmental justice movement, all across the globe. As they do this incredibly important and brave work, they also battle against patriarchy and colonialism, often manifesting as criminalization and harassment.
Join us to hear from some of the women on these frontlines. Lolita Chavez has stood up against powerful corporate and political interests involved in mining and mega-dam projects in Guatemala, and has dealt with serious threats to her life as a result.