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Meet Nina Gualinga, the charming young woman who started using her voice to take climate action and protect indigenous rights when she was only eight years old…
Nina Gualinga is an indigenous woman who is the leader of the Sarayaku Kichwa village in Ecuador’s Amazon. She is the voice of the Amazon’s Tribeswomen.
An activist, Nina Gualinga, has been heavily involved in local, national, and global advocacy efforts to defend indigenous rights and territories in the Amazon.
She has also spoken a great deal about climate justice. Nina started her activism journey at just eight years of age and has dedicated all of her life thus far to protecting her community’s land and encouraging other indigenous women to use their voices.
She is also the Co-Founder of Hakhu Amazon Design which provides indigenous women with a means to use their artistic heritage and culture to generate a sustainable income. A true leader, let’s dive deeper into Nina Gualinga’s activism journey and celebrate the impact she has had on the world.
Nina Gualinga started using her voice to protect indigenous rights and territories in the Amazon to fight for climate justice when she was only eight years old. Her father is from Sweden, and her mother is from Sarayaku, and because of this, she thinks of herself as the bridge between two worlds.
Growing up in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Nina recognised the threats to her community from an early age when an oil company came onto their land against their will.
In that moment, she found her voice and has become a prominent advocate in the climate movement, campaigning against mining, logging, and oil industries and demanding change. The Sarayaku community, of which she is the leader, has a population of roughly 1,250 people. Its land covers over 333,000 acres, mainly pristine forests.
Through her local, national, and global advocacy efforts, Nina has participated in worldwide conferences, including numerous UNFCCC COPs – Lima, Marrakech, Bonn, and Paris, the 2016 ICUN World Conservation Congress and many more. Here she has advocated for the importance of reducing worldwide usage of fossil fuels and protecting the environment.
She has spent most of her life working to protect communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon and nature. When Nina was 18, she represented indigenous youth before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, assisting them in winning a crucial case against the Ecuadorian government for allowing oil drilling on indigenous lands.
Nina’s work has been so fundamental that she was also recognised with the WWF International President’s Youth Award. The award honours outstanding achievements by conservationists under the age of 30.
Nina is driven to ensure that the Amazon, its people, and its land are respected. Her dream is for the government to terminate its contracts with significant mining and oil companies and realise the value of the Amazon Forest.
Nina Gualinga has done a great deal to help and empower indigenous women.
Back in 2011, Nina represented the Sarayaku youth at the final hearing on Human Rights before the Inter-American Court in Costa Rica. Here, she won their historic victory against the Ecuadorian government for violating their territory and rights by drilling for oil.
Global calls to stop oil drilling in 2014 called Nina to participate in the People’s Climate March and COP21.
Nina joined a significant delegation in 2015 from Sarayaku at COP21 in Paris, advocating for living forests to be protected.
In 2016, Nina joined a historic march uniting indigenous women of seven nationalities in defence of territories and rights.
For the last number of years, Nina Gualinga has played an important role in Mujeres Amazonicas (Amazon Women) a movement that consists of women from six different indigenous nations. These nations include the Kichwa, Shiwiar, Shuar, Waorani, Sapara, Shiwiar, and Achua.
This movement started in 2013 in response to the oil concessions the Ecuadorian government was selling. These were grants that enabled companies to find and extract oil in specific places. Nina and the other women arranged a march to Quito, the capital, to protest and highlight the threats they faced, including climate change, oil drilling, and gender-based violence.
Since the movement began, the tribal women have supported one another, and many of them are leaders in their communities or organisations in the Amazon. The movement is all about raising awareness of what is happening to their territories and protecting the land for their children’s future.
The movement’s primary work addresses the impact of extractivism, whether this means oil mining, extraction, deforestation, gender-based violence, climate change, or indigenous collective rights. They focus heavily on gender-based violence since these industries are causing climate change and contribute to the increase in violence against women in their areas.
This movement has ultimately become a safe space for indigenous women since being a woman and indigenous and fighting the extractive industries is not a simple task. Having this collective of tribal women, Nina has said before that her environmental work has now become about sisterhood. She has a great network of indigenous female Amazon Tribes people, and they all empower one another.
Nina Gualinga is the Co-Founder of Hakhu Amazon Design, an organisation built to address the need to find alternatives to fossil fuels.
The foundation provides indigenous women in the Ecuadorian Amazon and beyond the ability to earn a sustainable income and simultaneously protect and fight for their land.
The organisation believes strongly in the transformative power of innovative community projects. Hahku translates to ‘let’s go’ in Kichkwa and is dedicated to promoting sustainable development projects among small indigenous communities.
Nina’s idea for The Hakhu Project came about due to years of working in advocacy with indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Her community faced everlasting threats from government departments and transnational companies over the demand for and extraction of their natural resources. As a result, Nina and her Co-Founder have created a grassroots organisation in collaboration to directly implement local projects and programmes to help in mitigating these threats. The organisation is indigenous-led and seeks to support women’s empowerment across the Amazon.
Nina and her team aim to empower indigenous communities so they can protect rainforests and ancestral knowledge for future generations. Their first project was to create Hakhu Amazon Design, and it has allowed these women to use their cultural and artistic heritage to protect their territories. Meanwhile, they have been able to earn a sustainable income by selling their unique crafts on an online platform.
They have generated artisanal capacity for over 200 indigenous women across three provinces in the Ecuadorian Amazon, creating jobs and providing income for families who now face less pressure to leave their homes to find employment. Hakhu Amazon Design has launched its collection, which combines contemporary and traditional art.
They have a catalogue of products, including chokers, earrings, tote bags, and necklaces. Hakhu Amazon Design also has a great partnerships network, including Lush, Amazon Watch, the Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation, and Rainforest Action Network!
Nina has said previously that indigenous women were neither seen nor heard despite their struggles in the past. Now, they are starting to gain more visibility, and she feels it is so important that we hear from indigenous women. Nina has spoken about the special connection women have with the Earth previously.
In particular, they have a lot of knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation. Additionally, that it is women in these communities that take care of the children and bring up the next generations. Women and girls are also disproportionately affected by climate change, and when you add indigenous, it exposes them to multiple forms of violence as they become land defenders.
At One Tribe, we couldn’t agree more with Nina Gualinga, and applaud all she has done for indigenous communities.
She has truly dedicated her life to protecting the forest and her land and empowering her people to take action and not back down. Nina is an excellent example of a leader in sustainability and climate action and the community and shows the true power a person can have.
Nina Gualinga is an inspiration across the globe and a true climate advocate at heart.
When it comes to climate change, the voice of the indigenous is one of the most important aspects in halting it all together. We at One Tribe stand with Nina, as we fund the protection of forest-based conservation projects and indigenous tribal land.
Here’s to taking climate action!
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