Noemí Gualinga

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Noemí Gualinga (born 1967/1968 (age 54–55),[1] known as "mother of the jungle") is a community leader and activist for the Sarayaku. Sarayakus are the Amazonian Kichwa indigenous group from the Ecuadorian Amazon.[2] numbering roughly 1,200.[3]

Noemí is the sister of Patricia Gualinga. She is the mother of Nina and Helena Gualinga.[2] and daughter of Cristina Gualinga[4] Her family is a family of Sarayaku rights defenders. She is married to Fenno-Swedish biologist Anders Henrik Sirén. They have lived in Puyo, Pastaza since 2017.[2]

Early life[change | change source]

As a young women, Gualinga worked in the Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of Pastaza. From the age of 23, she was shown in radio broadcasts in Puyo. It was giving out medical advice and working for the preservation of Kichwa culture.[2]

Sarayaku oil development conflict[change | change source]

In 1996, the Ecuadorian government granted Argentinian oil company Compañía General de Combustibles (CGC)(also known as the Argentinean General Fuel Company),[5] there was exploration to territory of the Sarayaku without first consulting the local community. The company entered Sarayaku land in 2002 with the help of Ecuadorian military. They allegedly committed human rights abuses. There were even threats of rape.[1]

In response, the Sarayaku community was led by female leaders such as Gualinga. They organized protests against the intrusions in 2003. They opened a legal case that was heard before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).[1] The Sarayaku were able to block oil development by constructing "Camps for Peace and Life".[5]

On July 25, 2012, the IACHR ruled the State of Ecuador responsible for violating community rights of the Sarayaku and failing to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from the indigenous community.[5] It was in accordance with international standards for indigenous consent before development projects, laws, or policies affecting their way of life.[3]

2020 flooding and COVID-19 pandemic[change | change source]

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread among indigenous communities. The Bobonaza and Arajuno rivers flooded, heavily affecting the Sarayaku villages. During the quarantine period, from March to July, Noemí Gualinga organized daily missions to bring food relief from the city of Puyo to her home. She helped organize COVID-19 testing in Sarayaku.[2]

Other activities[change | change source]

Gualinga has led the Sarayaku Women’s Association, Kuriñampi (Golden Paths), since the year 2017. She helps the women's sales of jewelry and handicrafts. She is also a member of Mujeres Amazónicas. It is a collective for women defenders of natural rights.[2]

Noemí appears rarely as a leader in photographs. However, she has taken part in protests such as those of March 2018 at the Carondelet Palace in Quito. During that protests, 60 women from 11 indigenous nationalities demanded an audience with President Lenin Moreno.[2]

Gualinga continues to work as a community leader and provider of helps. In one event, she helped a woman who had fled from her abusive husband. The woman had given her 12-year-old daughter to a man in a form of forced marriage long-running in indigenous communities.[2]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Caspani, Maria (25 May 2012). "Indigenous women lead land rights struggle in Ecuadorean Amazon". Thomson Reuters Foundation. Archived from the original on 1 April 2021. Retrieved 2021-04-01.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 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. 3.0 3.1 "Ecuador: The Sarayaku struggle goes global". 25 May 2012. Archived from the original on 26 November 2020. Retrieved 2021-04-01.
  4. Carlos Fresneda, Puerto (2020). Ecohéroes: 100 voces por la salud del planeta. RBA Libros. ISBN 9788491877172.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Sarayaku - Pachamama Alliance". Archived from the original on 4 August 2020. Retrieved 2021-04-01.