Young indigenous women from Mexico and Morocco unite for COP27 Global Voices

Luz Edith Morales Jimenez on the left, Fatima Zahrae Taribi on the right. Portraits used with permission.

When Fatima Zahrae Taribi, a 20-year-old climate justice activist from Morocco, met Luz Edith Morales Jimenez, a young land defender from Michoacán, Mexico, she wondered how they could communicate. Zahrae speaks French, Arabic and English, and Morales speaks Spanish and Purépecha, an indigenous language of his region. Yet when they met at a climate camp in Tunisia ahead of the international climate conference COP27, the UN’s annual international conference on the environment, they understood each other without the need for words.

“The strange thing is that I don’t speak Spanish and they don’t speak English, so we had to find a way to communicate. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words, and with them, our only option was to take action together and speak through our eyes and our emotions. Zahrae told Global Voices via Instagram. “I couldn’t believe we connected on such a deep level without words.”

Although the Atlantic Ocean separates these two young women of different indigenous backgrounds, they have suffered comparable effects of colonialism, land dispossession and climate change.

Morales’ father, a Purépecha indigenous who was trying to protect his ancestral lands from encroaching development projects that would cut down ancient forests for avocado monoculture, was shot and killed by Mexican police in 2017. Three other people were killed. killed and 10 were tortured. Yet five years later, authorities have failed to address the case. Since then, her daughter has been fighting for justice.

Southern women met at the Climate Justice Camp in Tunisia in September 2022

Meanwhile, Zahrae comes from a long line of indigenous Amazigh Moroccans who speak their own language but endured discriminatory policies to make them adhere to “Arabism”.

For the indigenous Amazigh people, responding to the challenges posed by climate change could mean the difference between life and death for entire communities.

The use of water-intensive industrial farming methods has made the country’s limited water resources more apparent. As food insecurity and water shortages become more common, authorities are struggling to find creative solutions, which is particularly complicated in Moroccan regions where indigenous peoples are tied to the land.

Amazigh populations face challenges such as higher than average poverty rates and prejudice, as well as more obvious environmental challenges such as maintaining forests as structural drought intensifies across the country. Maghreb, the Sahel and beyond due to the climate crisis.

Zahrae’s grandfather was a guardian of the lands and dedicated his life to defending the people’s right to their lands against French settlers. Zahrae resumed her role to continue guarding the land after years of worsening drought.

“I see myself as a continuation of his soul, as I am a protector of the earth against another enemy: climate change,” Zahrae said.

COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh

The two young women met at the Climate Justice Camp in Tunisia earlier this year and reunited at COP27, which is being held in Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt, from November 6-18.

The COP is the United Nations’ largest international climate conference, bringing together heads of state, nonprofits, business leaders and activists to take action towards achieving the world’s collective climate goals. , as agreed. in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

This year’s conference, COP27, brings together more than 190 countries amid global crises. Food and energy costs are at record highs due to the effects of COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and nearly every region of the planet is experiencing extraordinary weather disasters, including records for rain, heat, fires and storms.

The the main objectives of COP27 include develop financial plans to address climate change and lower global temperatures by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius through reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Role and Burden of Indigenous Peoples in Climate Change Mitigation

Indigenous peoples often pay a high price for their unwavering devotion to the environment. For Zahrae and Morales, climate change is a symptom of persistent structural problems. They both face “racism, gender-based violence, extractivism and imposed death,” Morales says via WhatsApp.

“Indigenous communities are still the ones that preserve the majority of the diversity that exists on the planet, without expecting anything in return. We live with resistances that have survived all the mega-projects of the big cities since Antiquity; it is we who give life and protect all that remains of nature”, she continues. It requires leaders to keep their promises to Indigenous peoples.

Over 80%ent of the world’s biodiversity is protected by indigenous peoples around the world, despite their estimated population of 5%part of ulation. Biodiversity plays a crucial role in climate change mitigation and human survival. Yet the continued commitment of Indigenous peoples to the land and ecosystems often comes at a high price.

In Latin America, land defenders, who are often indigenous, are routinely killed. In 2021, 54 land and environmental defenders lost their lives in Mexico, according to the non-profit organization Global Witness. “Mexico was the country with the highest number of recorded killings, with defenders killed every month, totaling 54 killings in 2021, compared to 30 the previous year,” their latest report says.

Many more are harassed, criminalized and intimidated by government, corporations and other actors. They are particularly at risk when they oppose mining and renewable energy megaprojects (such as large wind farms or hydroelectric plants), industrial monocultures and other private or public projects that threaten their communities. , their forests and their water sources.

In North Africa and the Middle East, the challenges of defending the environment and climate often come with the risk of being imprisoned or forcibly disappeared. In Egypt, for example, where the conference is taking place, there are an estimated 60,000 political prisoners behind bars. The country has been accused by preventing environmental organizations from carrying out the independent policy, advocacy, and grassroots work necessary to safeguard the nation’s natural environment.

Although they have contributed the least to global warming and environmental degradation, indigenous peoples and other historically colonized and marginalized peoples are on the front lines of the effects of climate change. Proponents of the term “climate justice” seek to correct this imbalance. The level of the oceans is rising. Pollution, extreme heat waves and droughts are health and crop risks.

People in both regions also report hoarding of water for commercial or political purposes, leading to conflict. Women, in particular, are at risk of vulnerability and violence in the face of climate change.

“Milpamérica resiste” can be loosely translated as “Corn America resists”, in reference to indigenous peoples. The banner translates to “The remedy of the earth, we are the water that quenches the fever of mother earth”.

These are some of the factors motivating Zahrae to create a safer environment for climate advocacy. “My first step was to find ways to make it accessible, fair and safe for individuals to stand up for the cause they believe in.” Zaharae started Moroccan Youth for Change, a community where young Moroccans can meet and talk about the issues they face, such as climate change.

Morales, for her part, is active in Futuros Indigenas (Indigenous Futures), a network of indigenous activists and journalists from Mexico and Central America who enable indigenous peoples to share their own stories about climate change.

Asked about how women in the Global South can benefit from their similar lived experiences, Morales says: “I have always believed that there is strength in unity. We can take advantage of our common crises to support each other.

For Zahrae, meeting Morales and other young climate activists was essential. “Thanks to these people, my hope and confidence in humanity has been restored and I am now able to meet the challenges ahead with a smile on my face and serenity in my heart.”

About Wesley V. Finley

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