Amazonian women, leadership and autonomy in the face of the climate crisis in Ecuador

Economic empowerment and financial inclusion for sustainable development

The participation of women is fundamental in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change. For this reason, UN Women, within the framework of the PROAmazonia program, supports the integration of the gender perspective with cultural relevance in socio-environmental processes involving the management of natural resources through bio-businesses and value chains. .

Women are present in the productive processes of associations, but do not participate equally in decision-making, which has prevented them from achieving full economic autonomy. Through workshops, UN Women has strengthened the integration of the gender approach in the associative processes of producer organizations so that women are present in the production and marketing processes.

“The involvement of women in our association was almost zero. Through the workshops we identified this problem and understood that our participation is crucial, so we changed one of the conditions of membership of the association. Before, only palm heart hectare holders could participate, and all deeds were in the name of men; now it is no longer an obligation, we are more women and we are on the board of directors, making decisions says Giomara Pineda, secretary of the Association of Palm Producers of the Ecuadorian Amazon (APAE), which is part of the program.

UN Women has also developed a methodology and tools to integrate a gender perspective into conservation processes.

Participation for the future: Escuela Antisuyu Warmikuna

Photo: Johis Alarcon

Strengthening the capacities of Amazonian women is a fundamental measure to reduce the gender gaps that exist in this region of the country. This is why the Antisuyu Warmikuna School was created to strengthen the management and leadership capacity of women of the indigenous nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Since 2019, the school has received several indigenous women leaders from the Amazon who seek to strengthen their skills and knowledge on topics such as gender equality, women’s rights, leadership and organization, climate change , financial inclusion, among other important topics for their personal life and economic empowerment, as well as their fundamental contribution to the development of the people of their communities in harmony with their environment.

Since the school began its activities, women from more than 56 Amazonian communities, belonging to 11 nationalities, have passed through its classrooms. Although the pandemic has forced them to rethink a new way of teaching remotely and in small groups, this has not prevented them from continuing their education, but rather has reinforced the students’ sense of belonging, who see this school as a space for sharing between women and their peers.

One of the fundamental pillars of the school is the power of replication; that is, the women who attend can share the knowledge gained during the training with other women in their communities.

“The school gives us the opportunity to pave the way for more indigenous women to claim their rights so that they can build their capacity and participate in decision-making in their communities,” says Jiyunt Uyunkar, an indigenous leader of Achuar nationality in the province of Morona Santiago.

Voices of the Amazon: The Amazon Women’s Agenda

Ensuring women’s participation and leadership is essential to improving policies and programs aimed at reducing inequalities, climate change, the environment and disaster risk reduction.

As part of the project, UN Women promotes the construction of the Amazon Women’s Agenda, an organizational instrument created collectively to collect the claims and situations of indigenous women in the Amazon and establish a plan to overcome them. The plan was developed with the voices of women leaders of the 11 indigenous nationalities, who actively participated in the development of the methodology for the development of the agenda in order to ensure a strong participation of indigenous women in its construction.

Transcendence for a sustainable future

To ensure the long-term impact of the project, UN Women trained the technical staff of the institutions that make up the PROAmazonia program in gender issues. In this process, the “Methodology and toolkit to strengthen gender mainstreaming in the implementation of Competitive Fund bio-business projects” was developed, an instrument aimed at supporting organizations implementing bio-businesses and which can also be applied by other organizations interested in contributing to gender equality in climate change mitigation actions. The toolkit consists of four modules and is designed in such a way that it can be applied to any future project.

The program highlights the fundamental role of rural and indigenous women in building a sustainable future through environmental conservation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk reduction in Ecuador.

About ProAmazonia

Ecuador is one of the most megadiverse countries in the world. Its natural and cultural wealth has enabled the State to engage in the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources. In order to curb and mitigate the impacts of climate change in the country, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition (MAATE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) , with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), has developed the Integral Amazonian Program for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Production, PROAmazonía. The program is funded by non-reimbursable funds from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It aims to reduce deforestation and forest degradation through the conservation and sustainable management of this resource.

Mara R. Wilmoth