Celebration of International Women's Day 2021. Photo: courtesy of Amazon Watch

Defending the Amazon by Empowering Women Leadership in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Category Protect

The Amazon River contains one-fifth of the world’s freshwater, and the surrounding ecosystem is home to some of the planet’s most beautiful and essential biodiversity. Yet, industrial extraction industries contaminate many of its tributaries, threatening the vitality of the river and all life that survives off it.

In the early 2000s, the Indigenous Kichwa women of Sarayaku banded together and successfully stopped oil companies from attempting to extract fossil fuels in their territory. Joining Indigenous Shuar, Shiwiar, Achuar, Sapara, and Waorani women from communities across the central southern Ecuadorian Amazon, they formed the Mujeres Amazónica, ‘Amazon Women.’

The ‘Amazon Women’ in action

Now, these women are buying land to create a space for Indigenous women's sovereignty, defense of rights and lands, and freedom from extractive and gender-based violence.

Supported by Amazon Watch, this project will establish La Casa de las Mujeres Amazónicas en Ecuador — not just a place for Indigenous women to call home but land titled in women’s names, with women in decision-making roles.

It will be a space for healing, empowerment, and leadership as Indigenous women defend the Amazon, its people, forests, and the river.

Building Casa de Mujeres, ‘Women's House”

The Pastaza river flows from the Andes to the Amazon and is one of its largest tributaries. The goal of this project by Mujeres Amazónicas is to purchase a small area of land of approximately ten hectares along this river in the Ecuadorian Amazon and to secure land title under Indigenous women’s ownership.

The land will accommodate the building of a large house, the Casa de Mujeres, with meeting, healing, and cooking areas and multiple bedrooms for resting and refuge. It will also have outdoor spaces for meetings, hosting gatherings and artisan craft fairs, and growing food.

A place to heal systemic wounds

Women defenders of the Amazon face an outsized risk of systemic and personal violence. Through the establishment of the Casa de Mujeres, women’s economic, cultural, and healing projects will be elevated and supported.

This project will be a restorative site and mobilization hub for Indigenous women of all generations, including recognized and emerging leaders, community members, and youth.

Grand opening of the Casa de Mujeres in Puyo, Ecuador. Photo: courtesy of Amazon Watch

Land back to the rightful stewards

Through the Amazon Defenders Fund (ADF), Amazon Watch has supported the Mujeres’ grassroots organizing processes, strategic planning, and leadership. While the current Casa in Puyo is an extraordinary achievement, the Mujeres are aiming higher – not just a rental house but for land owned and run by Indigenous women.

Rematriating land, specifically with Indigenous women’s stewardship and land titling, is unprecedented. It is a radical act of resistance against industries with the aim to profit off the land.

Instead, it gives land back to the rightful stewards of nature, those who have lived in harmony with the Earth for ages. The goal is to heal the land for future generations.

A history of amplifying the voices of Indigenous women

Amazon Watch is honored to work in solidarity with these women warriors. Founded as a nonprofit organization in 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of Indigenous peoples, it campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability, and the preservation of the Amazon’s ecological systems.

The organization prioritizes women-led projects and funding Indigenous women directly who have typically been excluded from receiving direct support for their work, including accompanying emerging women leaders and women facing gender-based violence.

Creating agents of change

With your support, Mujeres Amazónicas will be agents of change in this territory as forests and rivers will be free from the destructive pressures of industrial extraction.

With women’s legal ownership, this project would be one of the first of its kind in the Amazon. It will showcase the power of women as healers and protectors of nature

Explore more projects supported by Daughters.