A message from our executive directors on COVID-19
“I think that this is a difficult situation for all of us; we are experiencing it from different contexts and situations and places, but it’s in these times that we give a new significance to the word ‘community’ and we claim our right to organize; to give each other a hug as sisters, and remind each other that we are not alone. Let’s remind ourselves that together we are invincible; that from our community or territory, we resist, we insist, we persist and we never give up.”
— Yoseling Guardado, Colectiva Feminista para el Desarrollo Local, El Salvador
Across the GAGGA network, we’re experiencing how COVID-19 is deepening existing conflict and worsening scarcities, affecting our communities and the way we organize. In more than 60 audio recordings, our partners in Latin America, Asia and Africa shared similar challenges of repression, exclusion, violence and food insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic.
Access to clean water, at a time when washing your hands is crucial to preserving life, is out of reach for some communities in countries like Bolivia, El Salvador, Georgia, Indonesia and Uganda. In the Philippines, the government has deployed military checkpoints and used the cover of coronavirus measures to prevent people from accessing their ancestral lands. In the Niger Delta where water has been polluted by oil and gas activities for decades, widows are excluded from government support. So are marginalized groups in Paraguay, Nepal and India. Rural women in Guatemala, where water sources have dried up or been taken over by national and transnational companies, are receiving threats of evictions and are experiencing an increase in police presence and gender-based violence.
These voices from across communities around the world also show how we’re adapting and reacting to these new realities — exemplifying how women lead in times of crisis, centered on solidarity and collective care. GAGGA partners have been gathering to exchange food items and services, shop collectively, make masks, provide financial support to the most vulnerable, disseminate information, and restore and strengthen food production systems that provide traditional medicine and healthy food.
Women environmental defenders have been planting the seeds for a better future that prioritizes the wellbeing of people and the planet over profit, showing us how we can live sustainably with the earth’s resources rather than extracting them; and sharing the traditional and indigenous wisdom that the fate of humans is intertwined with that of the land we live on. There is an urgent need to assure that all voices have a place in the conversations on the short and medium-term responses to this crisis, including that of young, indigenous, afro-descendant and rural women, to allow for a new future to emerge.
GAGGA’s network is able to support local movements and communities, also in times of crisis, because our partner organizations accompany and are led by the communities they serve. They understand community needs and what solutions will work in that context, and have the flexibility to adapt if priorities shift in cases like a global pandemic.
Through this network, we have also become aware that many of the women environmental defenders during this period are facing increased risks for their own safety and that of their families and communities. Now more than ever we need to support women environmental defenders; if the protection of their human rights isn’t prioritized, we are putting our movements and opportunities to create positive systems change at risk.
We invite you to listen to the audio stories from across GAGGA through the links below, and hear concrete, practical solutions and alternatives for responding to the crisis that can already help guide us to a future based on solidarity and the wellbeing of all people and our planet.
Here is a short list of how GAGGA partners have been responding to COVID-19:
- Creating alternative economies to exchange products, seeds and services; shop collectively; financially support those who need it through community-based systems
- Strengthening and restoring food systems for ecological stability, traditional medicine, a healthy diet to protect immune systems and food sovereignty
- Filling the information gap in areas the mass media doesn’t reach through community radio, newspapers, social media and posters
- Putting self and collective care into practice and putting a new significance to the word “community”
- Continuing advocacy work and providing grants to those most affected by COVID-19
- Keeping in contact and monitoring the situation with communities despite physical distancing and challenging communications, often through new tools
- Denouncing violations and attacks on human rights that governments commit under the cover of coronavirus measures
We want to thank all partners who have taken time to share their realities, approaches and visions with us. As GAGGA, we aim to be part of and support collective actions that build on our experiences of acting on the crisis while moving towards an equal and inclusive future. In the words of our compañera, human rights defender, environmentalist and feminist Betty Vásquez Rivera, from Movimiento Ambientalista Santabarbarense – Honduras:
“Let’s also make time for reading, for listening to music, for gardening. For exchanging seeds with our neighbours. Let us develop practices so that we don’t disconnect from life, from feeling, from living. So that we don’t disconnect from the urgent need and fact that community is fundamental, that collective organizing is fundamental. Let us take time to dream even in times of crisis. To build hope even in times of scarcity. To build joy and love even when they are telling us that the ‘end of the world’ is coming. And let’s come together! … Let’s not allow this to demobilize us, or to scar our bodies and our lives with pessimism. On the contrary, let’s arise with joy. Let us put art and music to our daily work in solidarity and fraternity. Because even in times of crisis we have dreams and hopes.”
Carla, Danielle and Zohra
The executive directors of Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres (FCAM), Both ENDS and Mama Cash (GAGGA alliance members)
You can listen to partners and allies across the GAGGA network in these podcasts and individual audio stories (translated subtitles and transcripts provided):
- GAGGA voices on COVID-19: Alternative economies
- GAGGA voices on COVID-19: Food sovereignty
- GAGGA voices on COVID-19: Human rights
- Individual GAGGA voices on COVID-19
You can read some of our partners’ and allies’ statements here:
- GAGGA “We, Women Are Water” Campaign Statement on COVID-19
- Rural Women’s Assembly update on COVID-19: Build people’s to people’s solidarity
- Mama Cash Statement of Solidarity COVID-19
- Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos
- FCAM – Defensoras Territoriales, Voces de Resiliencia Ante la Crisis Global
- Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)
- Indigenous Peoples Across the Amazon Issue Demands in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic
- Red Internacional de Forestería Análoga
To view resources on care and activism during a time of physical distancing, click here.
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