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Women’s leadership in Ecuador and Peru

Atossa Soltani, director of global strategy for the Sacred Headwaters Alliance, profiles guardians of the Amazon Sacred Headwaters
Women’s leadership in Ecuador and Peru

This article first appeared in our International Women’s Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 08 March 2024. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Main image: Ecuadorian Amazon’s Yuturi Warmi coalition, credit Lorena Mendoza

Nestled within the pristine expanse of the Amazon Sacred Headwaters bioregion in Ecuador and Peru, a profound story of resilience, community and environmental stewardship unfolds.

Here, Amazonian women stand as guardians of their ancestral lands, defending the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of their territories against the onslaught of deforestation, exploitation and climate change.

Empowering communities

In the heart of this ecologically critical region, initiatives like the Yuturi Warmi project in Ecuador and the collective Mujeres Amazonicas, spanning both Ecuador and Peru, embody the strength and dedication of Amazonian women in preserving their environment and way of life.

The Yuturi Warmi coalition, deeply rooted in the Ecuadorian Amazon, harnesses the traditional wisdom of Indigenous women to promote sustainable practices such as organic farming, eco-tourism and community-based education.

By blending ancestral knowledge with contemporary methods, these women empower their communities to thrive while safeguarding the biodiversity of their rainforest home within the Amazon Sacred Headwaters.

Meanwhile, the collective Mujeres Amazonicas, a coalition of women from diverse Indigenous backgrounds in Ecuador, stands as a beacon of resistance against the threats posed by extractive industries and land encroachments within the Amazon Sacred Headwaters.

Through grassroots organising and legal advocacy, these women amplify the voices of Indigenous peoples and confront the systemic challenges to their rights and territories.

A new narrative

In Ecuador and Peru, Amazonian women are not only defenders of the land but also agents of social change within the Amazon Sacred Headwaters.

Challenging patriarchal norms and advocating for gender equality, they redefine the narrative of environmental activism in the region.

By asserting their rights to land ownership and decision-making powers, they forge alliances across gender, ethnicity and nationality, fostering a shared vision of a more just and sustainable future for all within the Amazon Sacred Headwaters bioregion.

Through their tireless fight, Amazonian women are reaching leadership roles in their communities and organisation, paving the way for new generations. But this comes with its challenges. 

Female leadership

Amidst this struggle, Olivia Bisa, the first female President of the Chapra Nation, emerges as a beacon of courage and leadership. She stands resolutely against the encroachment of oil drilling and illegal activities threatening her ancestral territory.

Olivia Bisa’s steadfast commitment to protecting her land and cultural heritage has made her a target of intimidation and threats. She faces relentless pressure for speaking out against the desecration of sacred sites and the intrusion of oil drilling operations into Chapra territory.

Recent invasions of spiritual sites within Chapra territory, along with illegal activities in neighbouring territories, underscore the urgent need for collective action to defend the Amazon Sacred Headwaters from exploitation and destruction.

Despite the risks, Olivia Bisa remains unwavering in her resolve to safeguard the land, inspired by the legacy of her ancestors and fuelled by the solidarity of her community and allies across the region.

Her unwavering courage serves as a reminder of the profound sacrifices and unwavering dedication of Amazonian women in the fight to preserve the Amazon Sacred Headwaters for future generations.

Maintaining hope

As the Sun sets over the Amazon Sacred Headwaters, casting its golden glow upon the ancient forests and winding rivers, there is a sense of hope and possibility in the air.

The resilience and determination of Amazonian women shine brightly, illuminating a future where the sacred lands of the Amazon are cherished and protected for generations to come.

In their hands lies the promise of a more harmonious relationship between humanity and nature, where the wisdom of the past guides us towards a sustainable and flourishing future.

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