May 8, 2016
Women of the Itombwe forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo plant trees and defend the old-growth forest - WECAN/SAFECO Regional Climate Solutions Training Program
Dear Friends and Allies, 

This Mother's Day 2016, the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network invites you to join us in honoring, celebrating and standing in solidarity with women around the world rising as mothers, as caretakers and as protectors and defenders of our precious collective mother, Mother Earth.

Today and everyday, we commit to working together diligently  with our diverse networks and partners t o bring support, action,  and global attention  to the struggles and solutions  of frontline  women. On this day of love and celebration of mothers and our Mother Earth, we stand with the countless  defenders putting their  lives on  the line to resist extraction and environmental  degradation , and build a just, thriving and sustainable world. 

The vital work of these women leaders comes at a time of  immense  climate crisis, and in an environment of risk, criminalization and persecution.  All of our lives, the integrity of the living Earth, and the future of generations to come depends upon the work of these  outstanding  women land and community defenders.

Please explore and share our Mother's Day special update newsletter to learn more about the lives and work of extraordinary women land defenders from across the world, the 'Justice for Berta' campaign, and upcoming events in New York City during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. We also invite and encourage all network members to take action to keep fossil fuels in the ground by engaging with the critical #BreakFree actions happening across the world this week, and standing in solidarity with the Women's Global Call for Climate Justice.
defenders Standing With Women Land Defenders on Mother's Day
As part of the emerging ' Women Speak' platform, we share with you the stories of six women leaders defending land and life. Their work provides but a glimpse into the innumerable struggles, movement's and actions being led by women around the world to protect and heal all we hold dear. We thank these women, and all women land defenders across the globe, for their dedication, love, power and unrelenting voice for justice.
Maanda Ngoitiko (Tanzania)
Maanda Ngoitiko - Photo source: Vice News
Maanda Ngoitiko is the founder and Executive Director of the Pastoral Women's Council, a Maasai women's organization working to address issues of women's rights, land rights, food security and women's economic empowerment. Maanda has been a key voice of protest surrounding forced evictions and violation of Maasai communities and sacred lands for safari and game parks. She and her allies have faced repeatedly harassment, abuse and arrest by employees of Thomson Safaris and the local police, but have forged ahead in their work to protect and defend Maasai land and the integrity of local peoples. Click here to learn more about Maanda's work
Máxima Acuña (Peru)
 Maxima Acuña de Chaupe - Photo source: 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize
Maxima Acuña de Chaupe is a traditional subsistence farmer from the northern Peruvian highlands of Cajamarca . Over the past decade, Máxima has been working ceaselessly in defense of her right to peacefully live off her own property, a plot of land sought by Newmont and Buenaventura Mining for development for the Conga gold and copper mine. The proposed mine would have destroyed fragile local ecosystems and drained the sacred, vital Laguna (lake) Azul. Since 2011, Maxima and her family have withstood attacks, threats and legal suits at the hands of the mining corporations and contracted security teams. In 2014, the eviction and arrest of Maxima was overturned. Since then, Newmont has released statements indicating the cancelation of attempts to open the Conga mine in the foreseeable future. In 2016, Maxima was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her outstanding land and community defense. Learn more about Maxima via the Goldman Prize profile/video  here and Guardian article  here .
Suryamani Bhagat (India)
Suryamani Bhagat - Photo source: TRF/Thin Lei Win
Suryamani Bhagat is a forest defender and community organizer from Chhota Nagpur Plateau, Jharkhand, India. Suryamani has been an activist with the Indigenous group Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement since the age of 20, helping wrestle management of forests from the government back into local hands, fighting for legal recognition of Indigenous land rights, and mobilizing villagers to protect forest resources for future generations. She is the founder of Torang, a tribal rights and cultural centre in her village of Kotari, and has recently organized a group of local women to begin patroling and protecting regional forest lands.  Click here to learn more about Suryamani's work.
Cherri Foytlin (USA)
Cherri Foytlin - Photo credit: Emily Arasim
Cherri Foytlin (Dine, African-American and Latina descent) is a freelance journalist, photographer, speaker, artist, activist and mother of six who lives in south Louisiana, USA - an area inundated by industrial pollution and extraction, the catastrophic effects of climate change and rising seas, and some of the highest cancer rates in the United States. Cherri has been a central voice calling for climate justice and denouncing environmental racism, fracking and offshore drilling operation in the region, recently leading a 'No New Leases' action aimed at disrupting and preventing the sale of new oil drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. Cherri is a founding member of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Mother's Project - Mother's for Sustainable Energy and Idle No More Gulf Coast, and works as the  State Director with Bold Louisiana. Click here to learn more about Cherri's work.
Antonia Melo de Silva (Brazil)
Antonia Melo - Photo source: Xingu Vivo Para Siempre
Antonia Melo de Silva is the founder and director of the 'Movimento Xingu Vivo Para Siempre', a collective of organizations, Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, environmentalists, women's movements and human rights defenders working together to oppose the construction of hydroelectric dams along the Xingu River in Northern Brazil. For over two decades, Antonia has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent dam construction and community displacement, including around the highly contested Belo Monte project. Melo is one of an estimated 30,000 individuals thrown from their lands for Belo Monte. She is an uncompromised voice for the rivers, forest, people and lands of the Amazon. Learn more about Antonia's work via  Amazon Watch  and Public Radio International .
Tep Vanny (Cambodia)
Tep Vanny - Photo source:
Tep Vanny is an activist and land defender from Boeung Kak Lake, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 2007, the lake and adjacent community lands were sold to a developer under a 99 year contract. In response, Tep rose to become instrumental in organizing and leading the League of Boeung Kak Women, who have held peaceful demonstrations and stood at the vanguard of the community movement to protect the lake and denounce corrupt and ever-expanding corporate land grabs in Cambodia and beyond.  Click here to learn more about Tep's work.
bertaJustice for Berta Cáceres
Berta Cáceres - Photo credit: Goldman Environmental Prize
In early March 2016, Berta Cáceres, Honduran social and environmental movement leader and co-founder of COPINH (Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) was assassinated in her home as a result of her dedicated organizing and work to defend the Lenca Indigenous Peoples' land and rights, protest abuses by transnational corporations and the government, and tirelessly protect  the Gualcarque River from attempts to build the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, amongst other vital struggles and actions.

The tragic loss and violation of Berta Cáceres is a poignant reminder of the unjust daily threats, violence and criminalization faced by many global Earth and community rights defenders, with woman defenders in particular bearing the brunt of environmental, political and economic violence on their lives, bodies and homes.

Click here to  READ, SIGN and SHARE the vital 'Justice for Berta' petition, being organized and circulated by our allies at the Global Grassroots Justice Alliance and World March of Women - US Chapter. This vital statement and call to action brings attention to US complacency in the creation of an unstable political climate in Honduras, and demands an immediate independent investigation into Berta's assassination. For those in New York City, GGJA is organizing a  May 10, Mother's Day  action at the Honduran Consulate. Viva Berta!
NYCeventIndigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Change Solutions
Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation leader, WECAN Special Projects Advisor) presents during an International Women's Day March with women of seven Indigenous nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Pictured with Leila Salazar Lopez (Amazon Watch). 
Photo: Emily Arasim
Hear from outstanding Indigenous women leaders at the upcoming event, 'Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Change Solutions', to be presented by WECAN and allies at Amazon Watch and the Indigenous Environmental Network at the United Nations Church Center in New York City on Thursday May 12, 2016 during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Thank you for your continued support of our work for climate justice and care for the Earth and all generations, 
 Osprey Orielle Lake and the WECAN International Team