Women in Resistance

When forests are destroyed, women in forest-dependent communities are hit hard: Their living conditions are particularly precarious; and providing food, medicine, materials and clean water becomes even harder. The traditional knowledge and wisdom that women pass down from generation to generation are also at risk. That is why women are often on the frontlines of the resistance to forest destruction.

This text comes out of conversations with women from the Ribeira River Valley who have devoted themselves to opposing the concession of one of the region’s most important parks. Their struggle is fundamental, and part of diverse resistances against the privatizing trend of creating ‘territories without people’. They remind us that their territory has been and is rooted in their stories, voices and resistance.

Oil palm company Socfin has meant oppression for affected communities. Yet, women have to confront another patriarchic system. Paramount Chiefs are the custodian of the land according to customary law, which often give men decision-making and ownership power over land.

Oil palm plantations are one of the most unsafe spaces for women, not only because of their vulnerable working status packed with injustices and precarities, but also because of the potential for sexual violence and harassment. (Available in Indonesian).

Using “intersectionality” in her reflection, the author highlights how essential it is to understand how various situations of oppression often befall the same subject.

This text shares reflections that emerged from our discussions with women impacted by Green Economy projects in Brazil.

Can the inclusion of gender-specific policies in the operations of oil palm companies and the RSPO certification scheme do more than cover up the violence and structural patriarchy and racism inherent in the plantation model? How, in such context, do these gender policies unfold?

Patriarchal oppression is inseparable from the industrial plantation model, and it is at the base of how companies generate profits. Companies target women, including due to their fundamental role in community life.

While palm oil companies present themselves as benevolent donors during the pandemic, communities living in and around these plantations tell another story. Activists against industrial oil palm plantations talk about communities’ situation since the Covid-19 outbreak.

With the Covid-19 crisis, the initiatives of movements and collectives based on feminist economics have gained strength. Feminist economics leads us to reflect on the updated mechanisms of control, while continuing to affirm the capacity for resistance and reconstruction of bodies in movement.

The inter-dependencies in and among communities with their life spaces and practices sheds light to the conservation practices of forest communities. And within these interdependencies lie the stories of women.

Women’s struggle for full and dignified recognition of their lives and territories starts with not allowing the extractive model to progress. However, it must be resolved by the need for women to be able to make decisions to strengthen collective political control.

A feminist view on Commons reveals that accumulation opposes the basic principles of sharing and sustaining: receiving from nature’s abundance is done by ensuring that needs (and not wants or greed) define the extent of extraction.