With 'Fierce Love and Conviction,' Women Take Stand for Mother Earth

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With 'Fierce Love and Conviction,' Women Take Stand for Mother Earth

On International Women's Day, activists honor Berta Cáceres and other females fighting against oppression and global capitalism

Women protest against the murder of Indigenous leader and activist Berta Cáceres in La Esperanza, Honduras. (Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)

Women protest against the murder of Indigenous leader and activist Berta Cáceres in La Esperanza, Honduras. (Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)

Indigenous women, environmentalists, and feminists across the globe on Tuesday marked International Women's Day with a renewed call to stand up against oppression and resist the intersecting attacks on women and Mother Earth—our Pachamama.

Falling just days after the high-profile assassination of Honduran peasant leader Berta Cáceres, many groups issued specific calls to honor the slayed activist, who dedicated her life to the causes of female and Indigenous sovereignty, and resisting environmental destruction.

"Berta Cáceres is a leader who has inspired us for many years as an indigenous woman activist raising her voice in the defense of women's bodies—our primary territory—and community territory, land, water and the commons," stated Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI).

On Tuesday, the global environmental and social justice group called for female activists to "take Berta's political messages and image onto the streets" and "make visible our struggles to end violence against all women and for women's autonomy over our bodies, lives and work." And throughout the week, FoEI has organized actions at Honduran embassies worldwide to "denounce state level violence" and demand "immediate justice for the murder of Berta."

Her killing, Munic explains, "has shown us in practice that there is no environmental justice without an end to all forms of violence against women and to the exploitation of women's reproductive and productive work."

Munic continued, "Capital accumulation in a time of multiple crisis—economic, social, environmental — is made possible through the oppression and domination of both nature and women's work: both are considered infinite, elastic resources, to be exploited according to the interests of elite groups."

These women "are standing with fierce love and conviction for the forests and their communities, and navigating a brutal intersection of environmental devastation, cultural dislocation and violence and persecution as women human rights and land defenders."
—Emily Arasim and Osprey Orielle Lake, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network

Similarly, the international peasant movement La Via Campesina (LVC) is celebrating International Women's Day with a call for action "against capitalist violence all over the world."

In a statement, the group warns that "with the spread of conservative policies which constitute an attack on women’s human rights and their very lives, there is growing oppression of women by capitalism and the patriarchy around the world." 

Pointing specifically to the murder of Cáceres last week as well as other examples of women across the globe who "continue to be deprived of their most basic freedom," LVC is calling for March 8th "to be a day of mobilizing and organizing against all forms of oppression... in order to denounce the destructive capitalist and agribusiness model and to show how it harms the lives of women and jeopardizes the food sovereignty of the world’s peoples—directly affecting women peasants and small-scale farmers."

Taking up those calls, hundreds of women from the Ecuadorian Amazon on Tuesday are marching in the city of Puyo to call for the cancellation of a new oil contract between the government and the Chinese state-owned oil company Andes Petroleum.

The deal includes the territory of both the Sápara Indigenous people and the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, communities that have both condemned the deal. In a collective statement, women from the two tribes declared that they reject the contract "which will affect our territories, the forest, the water, and the air."

"Women are the main victims [of oil extraction] and their ability to feed their families becomes impaired," the statement continues. "There is deterioration of family health, and they suffer the division of their communities and other forms of violence."

The women of the Ecuadorian Amazon have been on the front lines of this and other fights. "In marches, protests, conferences and international forums," wrote Emily Arasim and Osprey Orielle Lake, with the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, these women "are standing with fierce love and conviction for the forests and their communities, and navigating a brutal intersection of environmental devastation, cultural dislocation and violence and persecution as women human rights and land defenders."

International Women's Day actions, photographs, and expressions of support and solidarity are being shared online under the hashtags #IWD2016 or #bertacaceres.

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