"Brothers and sisters, we're calling out to the world to join together for true change. Let's leave the oil beneath the ground," says Kichwa leader Patricia Gualinga from the Ecuadorean Amazon. Brave indigenous women such as Gualinga are rising to become effective agents of transformation in the battle against climate change, overcoming great odds to lead the charge in unprecedented ways.
Last month, Gualinga traveled to New York City to speak with governmental leaders at the UN General Assembly and to attend the People's Climate March. "The Sarayaku indigenous people believe that instead of bringing 'development,' the oil industry is destructive for indigenous society, non-indigenous society, the planet, and nature. It disrupts our indigenous worldview and destroys our ecosystems. That's why we vociferously fight so that oil is not extracted from our territories," explains Gualinga.
These women and girls who are taking the lead in a rapidly growing movement to protect their rain forest homelands across Ecuador are true forces of nature. "This isn't just the fight of indigenous peoples. It's the fight of everyone, because the air we all breathe doesn't have borders. Water doesn't have borders. While we humans place political borders, the Earth is a unified entity. And the consequences of pollution are affecting everyone," says Gualinga.
The following images are a selection from Amazon Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change, a traveling photography exhibit with written and live testimonies from indigenous women leading solutions on the front lines of the Amazon as the region confronts the impacts of climate change. The series documents their perspectives and life in traditional rain forest communities. Also included are images from the People's Climate March, which drew nearly half a million people to New York City, include UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and many celebrities.
Photos courtesy of the author