Throughout Southeast Asia, hundreds of women environmental activists have been jailed, attacked and defamed as threats to “national security”. They remain without adequate resources, protection and funding for their work.

When world leaders attend international conferences like Conference of Parties (COP21) on climate change, they face political pressure and opposition. When women stand up for environmental rights in their communities, they face harassment, violence, and death threats.

Climate change is not just about international agreements between governments – it matters to people’s lives and to our very survival.

Women comprise the majority of the world’s poor and experience systemic marginalization, discrimination, and violence. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. When they mobilize for environmental rights, they face myriad obstacles, both because of their activism and because they are women.

Women are taking leadership at the grassroots level to defend the lives and rights of their communities and implement creative strategies to mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change. One of the key ways they are responding to the challenge of climate change is by mobilizing for the land rights of their communities, which not only helps achieve sustainable development but has also been found to reduce CO2 emissions.

The following stories highlight some of the struggles and solutions proposed by grassroots women environmental activists. They are excerpted from case studies based on individual interviews and group discussions during a convening held by Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF) and the Samdhana Institute in Indonesia in September 2015.

Fighting oppression and impunity

Bai Ali Indayla is a Moro activist from Mindanao in the Philippines, While still a university student, Bai Ali was the first female student to be elected student body president. After graduation, she became active on issues of militarization, peacebuilding and documentation of violations against the Bangsamarocommunities in the context of the ongoing conflict between the national government and insurgents seeking regional autonomy. Today, she is the Secretary General of KAWAGIB - Alliance for the Advancement of Moro Human Rights. This position brings increased risk since groups critical of the government’s policies in the region are often branded as threats even though their work is peaceful.

Powerful multinational companies are exploiting resource-rich Mindanao and violating the rights of local people with impunity and the support of paramilitary forces provided by the government of the Philippines. Such extractive activities aggravate climate change.

In Mindanao, criminalization of environmental and indigenous human rights defenders has reached unprecedented levels. Tactics such as false charges and imprisonment, harassment, and violence are used to deter their work. Such threats occur in the context of an ongoing conflict and are sometimes carried out under the pretext of the government’s campaign against local insurgent groups. In addition, human rights defenders, their families and their communities face displacement by the conflict and are targets of extrajudicial killings staged to appear as though they took place because of the military conflict. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are at particular risk of sexual violence; rape is used as a shaming tactic and to discourage their activism.

In spite of harassment and threats against her and her family, Bai Ali continues her work tirelessly. Her approach is to protect herself by reporting her experiences publicly. “The more we speak out, the more people are alerted, the more the perpetrator will keep a distance,” she explains, “and as long as there is still discrimination against women and oppression of the people, I will continue advocating for the rights of women, children, and my community.”

© and source/ rest: opendemocracy (posted using inoreader/ ifttt).

(Excerpt etc. first posted on feimineach.com. Orig. attribution above.)

#womensstories: Defending land and community: women on the frontlines of climate justice (by @UrgentAct on @5050od)