Women have long taken action to protect rivers. These women would be affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam in India.
(Photo: Karen Robinson)
What are their main concerns when facing the huge social changes and trauma that these projects bring to their communities? What inspired them to resist large dams and join the movement against all odds? How can they build more strength into their struggles?
These were some of the questions we brought to a special women's forum at the third international meeting of dam-affected people, held in Temaca, Mexico.
Under an open tent, some 60 women gathered in a sharing circle to discuss our personal connections with rivers and our motivations for joining the international struggle to protect rivers and human rights.
What made this experience remarkable was the authenticity that each woman brought to the circle, and the inspiring stories of strength they shared. Across the world women have long been at the forefront of the dams struggle, confronting the dam companies and government officials who are pushing large dams in their communities, organizing events to call attention to these projects, and bringing people together in creative actions to protest dams. Many of the women who came to Mexico for the Rivers for Life meeting said this was one of the first times they had shared their inner most feelings and internal struggles about trying to balance their family needs with the call to save their rivers from damming.
The stories we heard in Mexico were sad, moving, inspiring. The clear message was that these women simply could not keep silent anymore about the injustices that large dams cause.
Maria Chuy is from Temaca, which faces submergence by the El Zapotillo Dam. "My inspiration has been my town," she says. "I could not stay still. I realized that I am not only good for cooking and staying home and raising children, and had to do something to save my town. I had to tell my children how to protect their rivers, defend their territories. This faith pushes me forward against all odds."
Dora Gauto Rios from Paraguay brought the group to tears when she told us her story of being forced out by Yacyreta Dam. "Today our river is silent. We know what our river tells us. In 17 years three dams have been built on our Parana River. It is completely polluted. It is gone! Our children will no longer be able to enjoy it. We are impoverished. Today, we do not have land; we do not have a place of birth."