PUYO, ECUADOR – About 350 Indigenous women from across the Ecuadorian Amazon gathered here yesterday to celebrate International Women’s Day, and, they say, to fight back against a system that violates their rights. Many women spoke out specifically against the extractive industries operating in their territories.
They say these industries have caused forced displacements and mass contamination.
Women are often the most vulnerable in extractive sector-related issues. Many say they are exposed to sexual violence, and forced into prostitution, alcoholism and drug abuse after their traditional lifestyles in the forest have been contaminated.
Across the country, indigenous women also experience more violence than any other group: 67.8 percent of all indigenous women are reported to have suffered from some kind of gender violence, according to the latest state figures.
But indigenous communities in Ecuador have long been well-organized, and women from these communities have been at the forefront of the fight for territorial autonomy, women’s rights, and environmental protection.
Following are several images from the Woman’s Day march in Ecuador.
Women started the day’s celebrations with a traditional cleansing. Some of the elders gently patted the skin of others with nettle branches.
“For me, today is a celebration, an act of gratitude for the natural space where we live, the physical space where we live and defend our rights with happiness,” said Katy Watatoka of the Quichua nationality.