In September, images of the Amazon rainforest being ravaged by flames captured the world’s conscience. Pressure still remains on the Brazilian government to ensure that one of the most biodiverse areas in the world is protected for both the planet and the people inhabiting it. This guest blog is taken from an interview with Kabaiwun Munduruku, a female leader in Movimento Ipereğ Ayũ and a leader of the Wakoborun Women's Association of Munduruku Warriors.
Movimento Ipereğ Ayũ is Munduruku resistance movement, formed by the Munduruku people of the Brazilian Amazon, and is one of The Elders’ Sparks of Hope. Movimento Ipereğ Ayũ push for the protection of indigenous and environmental rights, the movement was formed by the community in response to the Munduruku wish to promote sustainable and culturally appropriate development. Kabaiwun Munduruku was one of the Munduruku leaders who collected the Equator Prize in 2015 for the movement’s work to protect the Amazon.
The Munduruku relationship with the forest
Our message, as women of the Munduruku people, is that we are against violence inflicted on us because we are the forest. We are made of the forest. That is why we do not accept that any government responds for us, no pariwat* should invade our territory. We are in charge in our house. We don't want anyone to touch our house because the forest is our home and it is from her that we live. We will fight for the defence of life, the defence of our rights, a free forest, and to live in peace. We want [the government] to be aware that the forest is not their home. It is our home, and they are messing with our home.
Women as leaders in defence of their land and the natural environment
We organised ourselves as women because we are suffering from threats. We're losing our territory, the lives of our children are being threatened. The land is our mother, our creator whom without we could not survive to raise our children because a child without a mother cannot survive without her breast milk. So we indigenous peoples cannot survive without our territory. She, our mother and our territory, is being threatened by the government, by the companies. Every moment we go through this threat. That is why we as women have come together to show our resistance.
We know what our people need from us, the women who are currently fighting. Our fight is not new. It comes from a long time ago. Without the women’s fight, without women on the front lines, we will not achieve our fight. Like men say, now it is the women who have the strength because they have always had that strength of having a child, feeding and breastfeeding the child until they are grown. So, it is us, women, who feed the lives of the human beings. The men are always together with us women in our struggle.
The threat to the forest
The forest for us is our home, our life. If he [the government] stays, steals, and burns, he is killing our children's lives. This government does not represent us. It is our enemy. It is killing the lives of our children, our chiefs, and leaders.
Our territory is already threatened by the dams, railroads, mining and others that are coming. The proposed changes of laws can kill us. We are here to say that everything the government is doing is a project of death that wants to kill our territory and to also say that all the fires that are happening are because of them, the land-grabbers, and the big landowners who deforest to plant soybeans, corn and to raise their cows. This is the government’s fault. Because there is a law that guarantees the defence of our territory but they are not guaranteeing it. They pretend that there is no law to guarantee the life of our forest and our territory.
All that is happening is because of the government, because the government is irresponsible. They know what is happening, that our house is being invaded. They know everything that's happening. Now they want to blame the indigenous people, it has been a long time since we have had to defend our territory so that there is no destruction. With the new government the invasions increased because the government said it will not demarcate indigenous land and will not oversee the indigenous territory. But we are still here. We know how to use our forest, with the guidance of those who hold knowledge. This is why we send out a message about the fires in our territories.
We came together because it was so important to show the world and say that we are our territory.