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Helena Gualinga

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Helena Gualinga
Gualinga in 2020.
Sumak Helena Sirén Gualinga

(2002-02-27) February 27, 2002 (age 22)
Sarayaku, Pastaza, Ecuador
Occupation(s)Environmental and human rights activist
Years active2019–present

Sumak Helena Sirén Gualinga (born February 27, 2002) is an Ecuadorian environmentalist and human rights activist. She is from the Kichwa Sarayaku community in Pastaza, Ecuador.[1]

Early life[change | change source]

Helena Gualinga was born on February 27, 2002. She belongs to the Indigenous Kichwa Sarayaku community in Pastaza, Ecuador. Her mother, Noemí Gualinga is an Indigenous Ecuadorian former president of the Kichwa Women's Association.[1] Her older sister is the activist Nina Gualinga. Her aunt Patricia Gualinga[2] and her grandmother Cristina Gualinga are defenders of Indigenous women's human rights in the Amazon and environmental causes.[3] Her father is Anders Sirén is a Swedish-speaking Finnish[4][5] professor of biology[2] in the department of geography and geology at the University of Turku.[6]

Gualinga was born in Sarayaku territory in Pastaza, Ecuador. She spent most of her teenage years living in Pargas. Later, she lived in Turku, Finland. It was where her father comes from. She attends secondary school at the Cathedral School of Åbo.[7]

From a young age, Gualinga has seen the punishment of her family for standing against the interests of big oil companies and their environmental impact on Indigenous land.[1][7] Several leaders and members of her community have lost their life in dangerous conflicts against the government and corporations. She has stated for Yle. She saw her involuntary upbringing in such a bad environment as an opportunity.[7]

Activism[change | change source]

Gualinga has become a spokesperson for the Sarayaku Indigenous community. Her activism includes exposing the conflict between her community and oil companies. She was carrying an empowering message among the youth in local schools in Ecuador.[7] She also actively exposes this message to the international community hoping to reach policy-makers.[8]

Deforestation in Bolivia, 2016

She and her family describe numerous ways in which they, as members of indigenous communities in the Amazon, have experienced climate change. Their description includes those of forest fires, desertification, direct destruction and disease spread by floods, and faster melting snow on mountain peaks. According to her, these effects have been noticeable firsthand in the lifetimes of community elders. Gualinga describes that those elders have become aware of climate change regardless of their lack of scientific background.[7]

Gualinga signed that read "sangre indígena, ni una sola gota más" (Indigenous blood, not one more drop) outside of the UN headquarters in New York City. It was at a demonstration with hundreds of other young environmental activists. It was during the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit.[7][9]

Helena Gualinga participated in the COP25 in Madrid, Spain. She spoke about her concern on the Ecuadorian government authorizing oil extraction in indigenous lands. She said: "Our country's government is still granting our territories to the corporations responsible of climate change. This is criminal." She criticized the Ecuadorian government for claiming interest in protecting the Amazon during the conference. She accused that it was instead of attending indigenous Amazon women's demands brought to the government. The demand was brought during the 2019 Ecuadorian protests.[9] She also expressed her disappointment towards world leaders' lack of interest to discuss topics. The topics were brought by indigenous peoples to the conference.[9]

Gualinga founded Polluters Out with Isabella Fallahi and Ayisha Siddiqa. These aimed at fossil fuel industries.[10] The movement was founded as a response to the failing of COP25.[8] The movement's request is to: "Demand that Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), refuse funding from fossil fuel corporations For COP26!".[11]

In popular media[change | change source]

Helena Gualinga is the protagonist of the documentary "Helena Sarayaku Manta" (Helena of Sarayaku). The movie documents her life and activism. It is related to teaching the Sarayaku ways of living. The movie was directed by Eriberto Gualinga. It was premiered on March 18, 2022 at the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital.[12]

On April 4, 2022, Helena Gualinga and her sister Nina Gualinga were shown in Revista Hogar magazine.[13] Their photographs were on the cover of the 691st issue of the magazine. According to Helena's social media, it was the first time ever that indigenous women were on the magazine's cover.

On April 22, 2022, Helena Gualinga was pictured in Vogue magazine in an article on traditional Kichwa Sarayaku. It was the face paintings written by Atenea Morales de la Cruz.[14]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Helena Gualinga, la adolescente que desde Ecuador eleva su voz por el clima". El Universo (in Spanish). 2019-12-11. Archived from the original on 12 December 2019. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Castro, Mayuri (2020-12-13). "'She goes and helps': Noemí Gualinga, Ecuador's mother of the jungle". Mongabay. Archived from the original on 2021-01-26. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  3. Carlos Fresneda, Puerto (2020). Ecohéroes: 100 voces por la salud del planeta. RBA Libros. ISBN 9788491877172. En la Amazonia, las guardianas de la Pachamama (Madre Tierra) han sido secularmente las mujeres. Nina Gualinga (nacida en 1994) es la heredera de una largea tradición que viene de su abuela Cristina, de su madre Noemí y de su tía Patricia, amenazada de muerte por defender su tierra frente al hostigamiento de las grandes corporaciones petroleras, mineras or madereras.
  4. Suominen, Annina (5 March 2020). "Reporterklassen: Klimataktivisten Helena Sirén Gualinga har många järn i elden". Åbo Underrättelser (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 10 November 2021. Retrieved 10 November 2021. pappa är finlandssvensk
  5. Ahokas, Kukka-Maria (10 April 2020). "Suomalaisaktivisti maailmalla – Helena Sirén Gualinga puolustaa alkuperäiskansojen oikeuksia". Kansan Uutiset (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 10 November 2021. Retrieved 10 November 2021. isänsä puolelta suomenruotsalainen
  6. "Helena Gualinga: Who is the young voice against climate change?". Ecuador Times. 13 December 2019. Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Koutonen, Jouni (11 October 2019). "Helena Sirén Gualinga, 17, taistelee ilmastonmuutosta vastaan Greta Thunbergin taustalla: "Tämä ei ollut valinta, synnyin tämän keskelle"". Yle Uutiset (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 6 November 2019. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Foggin, Sophie (2020-01-31). "Helena Gualinga is a voice for indigenous communities in the fight against climate change". Latin America Reports. Archived from the original on 2021-03-11. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "La adolescente Helena Gualinga, activista del pueblo Sarayaku, arremetió contra el Gobierno de Ecuador en la COP25 de Madrid". El Comercio. 11 December 2019. Archived from the original on 12 December 2019. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  10. Chan, Emily (2020-04-21). "Climate Activists Are Holding Virtual Protests Now, Here's How You Can Join Them". British Vogue. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  11. "Our Petition". Polluters Out. Archived from the original on 4 May 2020. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  12. "Helena Sarayaku Manta (Helena of Sarayaku)". The 30th Anniversary Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital. Archived from the original on 2022-04-09. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  13. "La Amazonía tiene voz de mujer: Nina y Helena Gualinga". www.vistazo.com (in Spanish). Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  14. "In the Ecuadorian Amazon, Wituk Face-Painting Is an Act of Resistance". Vogue. 2022-04-22. Retrieved 2022-04-26.

Other websites[change | change source]