All over the world, women play a critical leadership and community role in providing, managing and safeguarding water resources.
Yet too often, governments ignore women’s lives and perspectives when making decisions about water. Years of experience have shown us that dams and other water infrastructure impact communities in gendered ways.
Hydropower dam projects often exacerbate existing power imbalances between women and men. In many cases, women suffer the negative impacts of dam development disproportionately, facing gender-based violence, insufficient compensation, lost livelihoods, and a lack of access to information, decision-makers and justice systems.
These women river defenders are resolving this disconnect for the planet, their communities and future generations.
Join us in honoring them and please support and follow them and their work.
Munduruku Association, Tapajós River, Brazil
Alessandra Korap is a well-known Munduruku indigenous leader and defender of women’s, indigenous and environmental rights from Itaituba, Pará, in the Brazilian Amazon. She has been using her position to denounce human rights abuses that result from infrastructural mega-projects in the protected areas of the Amazon region, such as the São Luiz do Tapajós Hydroelectric Project and the Ferrogrão railroad. Alessandra Korap is the first woman to coordinate the Associação Indígena Pariri (Pariri Indigenous Association), formed by thirty-five families from ten indigenous groups in the Médio Tapajós region in Itaituba. She was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights prize in 2020. Follow her on Twitter: @Alkorap1 and Instagram: @alessandra_korap
American Rivers, USA
Amy Kober is the senior communications director for American Rivers. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected wild rivers, restored damaged rivers and conserved clean water for people and nature in the United States. Follow American Rivers on Twitter: @americanrivers and Instagram: @americanrivers
Justiça Ambiental, Zambezi River, Mozambique
Anabela Lemos is an environmental activist and founder of Justiça Ambiental-Mozambican civil society organization committed to the struggle for environmental and social justice and to building a new socio-economic paradigm. She recently won the Swedish government’s Per Anger Prize! Lemos for the over 20 years of just energy transition work she leads in Mozambique focused on respecting the human rights of local people. Follow Justiça Ambiental on Twitter: @JA4change and Instagram: ja4change
Xingu Vivo, Xingu River, Brazil
Antonia is a Brazilian human rights activist and environmentalist and is the program director of Movimento Xingu Vivo, an organization opposed to construction of the Belo Monte Dam. In 2017, she received the Alexander Soros Foundation Award for Environmental and Human Rights Activism for leading campaigns against the construction of the Belo Monte Dam and other environmentally harmful projects in the Amazon rainforest. Follow Movimento Xingu Vivo on Twitter: @xinguvivo and Instagram:@xinguvivoparasempre
Mekong Community Institution, Thailand
Arita is a young researcher working with Mekong Community Institution, she’s an expert on community-based knowledge and research and the Tai-Ban research to support communities along the Nam-Ing river and the Mekong river. She also produces resources to support the campaign work for the community. Follow Mekong Community Institution on Facebook
Center for Political Ecology, Chixoy River, USA
Barbara Rose Johnston is a senior research fellow at the Center for Political Ecology (Santa Cruz, California) where she explores the intersection between human rights abuse and environmental crisis. She is currently documenting the involuntary resettlement, violence, and massacres associated with the Chixoy Dam in Guatemala.
Berta Cáceres (posthumously)
(4 March 1971 – 2 March 2016)
COPINH, Río Gualcarque, Honduras
Berta was a Honduran (Lenca) environmental activist, indigenous leader, and co-founder and coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). She won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, for “a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam” at the Río Gualcarque.
Bertha Zúniga Cáceres
COPINH, Río Gualcarque, Honduras
Bertha is a Honduran social activist of Lenca descent. She is the daughter of social leader Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in 2016. Soon after assuming her mother’s role of general coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) in May 2017, Zúñiga Cáceres survived an attempt on her own life. Follow COPINH on Twitter: @COPINHHONDURAS and Instagram: @copinh
SOFFLECO (Solidarité des Femmes sur le Fleuve Congo), Congo River, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Blandine is the coordinator of the SOFFLECO movement, “Solidarity of Women along the Congo River”. Its mission is to build a strong women’s movement along the Congo River and its tributaries in the promotion of rights to natural resources, climate justice and the management of biodiversity along the river. Follow Femmes Solidaires (FESO) on Twitter: @FESOorg
Chalermsir Prasertsri (Love)
Community Resource Center, Mekong and Salween Rivers, Thailand
Chalermsir is a young lawyer from Community Resource Centre(CRC) working on legal consultation and empowering the right of the community in the Mekong and Salween rivers. In 2013, Chalermsri and her colleagues from CRC supported the Thai Mekong Network by filing the case to Administrative Court in Thailand on the Xayaburi dam and Pak Beng dam (2017) which are lower Mekong mainstream dams. The Xayaburi dam court case was remarkable as the first transboundary case in the Mekong region. Follow on Community Resource Centre (CRC) on Facebook
The Mekong Butterfly, Mekong River, Thailand
Chanang is a young researcher from The Mekong Butterfly organization. She is currently focusing on research on livelihoods and biodiversity approaches supporting communities for protecting and monitoring ecological and livelihoods changed from the Mekong river mainstream dams. She’s also an avid bird watcher and photographer. Follow the Mekong Butterfly on Twitter: @MekongButterfly
CFLEDD ( Coalition des Femmes Leaders pour L’environment et Development Durable)
Chouchouna is the co-founder and program officer of the Coalition of Women Leaders for the Environment and Sustainable Development (CFLEDD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Passionate about the rights of girls and women, she focuses on gender issues in relation to the right to land and the management of natural resources. Follow CFLEDD on Twitter: @cfleddrdc and Facebook
Movimiento Social en Defensa del Río Sogamoso, Sogamoso River, Columbia
The life of the rivers in Colombia is at risk due to multiple factors; the construction of dams and hydroelectric plants are among the main ones. Claudia wanted to farm and support her family. However, the construction of the Hidrosogamoso dam caused them to change their plans. Claudia became one more affected by this project, but also a leader of the Social Movement in Defense of the Sogamoso and Chucurí Rivers. She is also part of the delegated coordination of the Movimiento Ríos Vivos Colombia, who have recently stood out for coming out in defense of the Cauca River. Follow Movimiento Ríos Vivos Colombia on Twitter @riosvivoscol
Constanza Prieto Figelis
Earth Law Center, USA
Constanza is a leading expert on the Rights of Nature in Latin America with a specialty in the protection of rivers and marine ecosystems. Her work to fight for the rights of ecosystems in the courts now extends to over five countries in Latin America. She is also an expert legal drafter of ecocentric laws. Aside from her work at Earth Law Center, Constanza collaborates with other environmental, feminist, and immigrant protection NGOs. Constanza studied law at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (Chile) then earned a master’s degree in private international law and international trade from the Pathéon-Assas University in Paris (France). She is also a candidate for an LL.M. in Environmental and Energy Law at the University of New York. Follow Earth Law Center on Twitter @EarthLawCenter and on Instagram: @EarthLawCenter
Rio Negro, Brazil
A TikTok phenomenon, this young woman has more than 6 million followers. Answering questions from his fans, Cunhaporanga tells about the routine of the village where he lives in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, on the banks of the Rio Negro. Follow Cunhaporanga on Instagram: @cunhaporanga_oficial and TikTok @cunhaporanga_oficial
Northern Arizona University, USA
Denielle Perry is a water resource geographer and Assistant Professor at Northern Arizona University in the School of Earth and Sustainability. Co-chair of the international Durable River Protections Coalition. Steering Committee and Co-PI NSF RCN-UBE River-based ImmersiVe Education & Research (RIVER) Field Studies Network.
Friends of Lake Turkana, Omo River, Kenya
Ms. Ikal Angelei is Program Coordinator for Friends of Lake Turkana, Kenya, which works to stop plans to build the Gibe 3 Dam in Ethiopia. Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) is a community association formed in 2008 in response to threats to the viability of the world’s largest permanent desert lake in northwestern Kenya and south-western Ethiopia. She won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2012. Follow Ikal Angelei on Twitter: @Ikal_Angelei and Friends of Lake Turkana on Twitter: @FoLTurkana and Friends of Lake Turkana on Instagram: @folturkana
Jenniffer Chávarro Quino
Asoquimbo, Magdalena River – Colombia
Jenniffer is the President of Asoquimbo and works for the defense of the territory and those affected by the El Quimbo hydroelectric dam. The organization started for those imposed to this dam, and for resistance, and social mobilization are the foundations of the defense of territorial autonomy, social, economic, cultural, and environmental rights of the communities’ victims of the extractivist model. Asoquimbo is made up of peasant farmers, fishermen, artisanal barequeras (os), and day laborers. Follow Asoquimbo on Twitter: @Asoquimbo and Facebook
Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI), Philippines
Joan is an indigenous activist from the Cordillera with more than 20 years of working on indigenous issues from the grassroots to the international level. She is the Global Director of Indigenous Peoples Rights International. Her expertise includes areas like human rights, sustainable development, the environment, climate change, and additionally the application of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. She was awarded the UN Champion of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award. Follow Indigenous Peoples Rights International on Twitter: @IPRightsIntl and on Facebook and Joan Carling on Twitter: @JoanCarling
Red Nacional del Agua, Rivers of Columbia
Juanita is an environmental activist and creator of the National Water Network of Colombia. Follow Juanita on Twitter: @JdlAAG and Instagram: @jdlaag and Red Nacional del Agua on Twitter: @RedNalAguaCol and Instagram: @RedNalAguaCol
Bunong Indigenous People, Old Kbal Romeas villager representative, Srepok River, Cambodia
Krang is a community member advocating to protect her village’s river (Srekpok) from Sessan dam project construction since 2013. Since many of her community leaders were summoned and sued, she decided to be a community representative to work and replace those accused community leaders since 2017.
Love the Mekong Community Network, Ubon Rachatani province, Mekong River, Thailand
Kumpin is a local activist who has long experience working with a community network along the Mekong River in Ubon Rachatani province in Thailand. She promotes the rights of youth and the rights to access the legal rights for stateless people in the community in Ubon Rachatani province and organizes the community to monitors and opposing the Ban Kum dam on the Mekong mainstream dam along Thai-Laos border.
Bocas de Ceniza/Waterkeeper, Magdalena River and other Rivers of Colombia
Liliana is the executive director of the Bocas de Ceniza/Waterkeeper. She is an environmental lawyer and Waterkeeper who is pushing for more stringent laws urging her government to dedicate resources to risk management and working to create a culture of protection around vital waterways. Follow on Facebook Bocas de Ceniza Waterkeeper
Lupita de Heredia
Kanaka, Santiago River, Ecuador
Guete-Conservación Sur, Rivers of Chile
Marcarena is a lawyer for Guete-Conservación Sur who focuses on free waters of our beautiful rivers in Chile. Follow on Twitter: @MacaSoler
Kruščica River, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Maida Bilal led a group of women from her village in a 503-day blockade of heavy equipment that resulted in the cancellation of permits for two proposed dams on the Kruščica River in December 2018. The Balkans are home to the last free-flowing rivers in Europe. However, a massive hydropower boom in the region threatens to irreversibly damage thousands of miles of pristine rivers. This is the first Prize for Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is the co-founder and president of the Eko Bistro citizens’ association, which was formed in late 2017 to fight for protection of the Kruščica River. She’s also an unpaid board member of Bosnia-Herzegovina River Coalition, representing 30 Bosnian and Herzegovinian environmental groups. Maida won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2021. Follow Eko Bistro on Facebook
SOS Mata Atlântica Network, Brazil
Malu is the organization’s representative in the State Council of Hydric Resources. She was one of the founders of the National Forum of Hydrographic Basins Committees, in 2000, and is the São Paulo representative of the civil society segment in the coordinating collegiate of the Forum in its third management. Follow on the SOS Mata Atlântica Network on Instagram: @sosmataatlantica
Mari Luz Canaquiri Murayari
Federación Huaynakana Kukama, Marañón River, Peru
Mari is the President of the Huaynakana Kamatahuara kana, a federation of Kukama women in the lower Marañón Valley. The Marañón River is the source of food, water, and transportation for the Kukama people; it is also the center of your spiritual universe. After seeing their river suffer from pollution for decades, especially from systemic oil spills that have destroyed its fragile ecosystem and fisheries, the Kukama women decided to take legal action calling on the Peruvian government to recognize their river as a legal person, or “Ser Vivo.” Read more.
Munduruku Association, Brazil
The founder of Wakoborun Association for Indigenous Women, Leusa Munduruku was born at the shores of Tapajós River. This freshwater ecosystem and all of its incomes inspired Leusa to purse the natural craftwork, using bio-resources found in her territory. Her business inspired other Munduruku women to fight for a bio-economy in opposition of the exploratory economic model. Follow the Wakoborun Association for Indigenous Women on Instagram: @associacaowakoborun
Sustainability Network Party and former Senator, Brazil
Born on a rubber plantation in the forest, in Acre, she dedicated herself from an early age to the protection of the forest, traditional people and social environmental issues at a regional, national and international level. During her tenure as Brazil’s environment minister, the largest number of conservation units were created and indigenous lands were ratified; furthermore, this period saw the largest drop in annual deforestation rates in the Amazon. Follow her on Instagram: @marinasilva and Twitter: @MarinaSilva
Instituto de Defensa Legal, Marañón River, Peru
Maritza is a lawyer with the Instituto de Defensa Legal. The Legal Defense Institute (IDL) is a civil society institution founded in 1983, whose purpose is the promotion and defense of human rights, democracy and peace in Peru and Latin America. Follow IDL on Twitter: @ideele and Facebook.
Narmada Bachao Andolan, Narmada River, India
Medha Patkar is an Indian social activist working on various crucial political and economic issues raised by tribals, dalits, farmers, labourers and women facing injustice in India. She is an alumnus of TISS, a premier institute of social science research in India. Patkar is the founder member of the 32 years old people’s movement called Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). NBA is an Indian social movement spearheaded by native tribals (adivasis), farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists against a number of large dam projects across the Narmada River, which flows through the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Follow Medha Patkar on Twitter: @medhanarmada and Narmada Bachao Andolan on Facebook and Twitter: @NarmadaBachao and Instagram: @narmadaandolan
Femmes Solidaires (FESO), DRC
Mignonne Mbombo is the Femmes Solidaires (FESO) Programs Coordinator working with women along the Congo River in opposition to the Inga 3 dam. Follow FESO on Twitter: @FESOorg
Mirtha Villanueva Cotrina
Defensora de la Vida y la Pachamama de Cajamarca, Marañón River, Peru
Ecosistemas, Rivers of Chile
Mitzi is a journalist and the communications coordinator for Ecosistemas is an environmental, ecological and sociocultural organization concerned with the defense of water and the environmental impacts of industrial and hydroelectric megaprojects. Follow her on Twitter: @MitziUrtubia and Ecosistemas on Twitter: @riosvivos and Instagram: @ong.ecosistemas
3S Rivers Protection Network (3SPN), Sessan River, Cambodia
Noy is a community leader who has advocated to demand for procedures to mitigate risks from Yali dam on the Sessan river for riparian communities since 2002. After a year, 3SPN supported local community network facilitators. In 2012, Noy became a team leader and today is the project manager at 3SPN. She has empowered five community-based organizations along the Sessan and Srepok rivers to enable them to protect their community’s rivers. Follow 3SPN on Facebook.
Rights of Rivers South Asia (RORSA) and South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), India
A long-time expert on rivers and the current Associate Coordinator, South Asia Network on. Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP). As Parineeta reminds us, “Rivers bind people together”.
Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas, Dulcepamba River, Ecuador
Rachel is Co-Director of the Dulcepamba Socioenvironmental Project at Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas. The Institute contributes to ecological thinking in the Global South through training and research spaces from the perspective of political ecology. It convenes various social, indigenous, peasant, women, environmentalists and academics, national and from the region, establishing bridges between the academy, the social sectors and popular environmentalism. Follow the Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas on Twitter: @EcologistasEst and Facebook
Futaleufú Riverkeeper, Chile
Rocio is the Executive Director of Futaleufú Riverkeeper. With Riverkeeper, she has worked on the Futaleufú Sin Represas campaign that resulted in ENDESA’s renunciation of its water rights on the Futaleufú River, started the first community-based Water Monitoring Program in the area, and developed various community initiatives to protect the natural and cultural heritage of Patagonia. Follow Futaleufú Riverkeeper on Instagram: @futakeeper
CONTIOCAP, Tuichi/Bene Rivers, Bolivia
Ruth is an indigenous leader with CONTIOCAP, the national Coordinating organization for the Defense of Native Indigenous Peasant Territories and Protected Areas of Bolivia. Follow CONTIOCAP on Facebook and Twitter: @contiocap
FESO (Femmes Solidaires), Congo Rivers, DRC
Salome Elolo is the Executive Director of Femmes Solidaire (FESO), a non-profit women’s organization for the promotion of women’s rights with natural resources. FESO supports women in advocacy actions and has been assisting the women of Inga and surrounding villages since 2016 in Congo Central to advocate against the construction of the Inga Dam. Follow FESO on Twitter: @FESOorg
Representative, Lao Khmer minority people of Old Srekor village, Sessan River, Cambodia
Sarun is a community leader advocating to protect her village’s river (the Sessan) from the Sessan dam project construction since 2013. The community has promoted her to represent them.
Rights of Rivers South Asia (RORSA) and South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), India
Shrishtee Bajpai is a researcher-activist working on alternatives to mainstream development models. She is a founding member of RORSA-a committed campaign working towards the recognition of the rights of rivers in the South Asian region.
Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil Apoie (APIB), Brazil
Born in the indigenous land of Araribóia, in Maranhão, Sonia dedicated herself from an early age to publicizing the indigenous woman. She is the executive coordinator of Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil Apoie (APIB) and has been a leader in the struggle for peoples’ rights. Follow on Twitter: @GuajajaraSonia and Instagram: @guajajarasonia and APIB on Twitter: @ApibOficial and Instagram: @apiboficial
Quisca Productions, Marañón River, Peru
Stephanie is a documentary filmmaker, independent journalist, writer, activist. She co-founded Quisca Productions and is currently working on the production of the documentary “KARUARA”, an audiovisual product that will tell the story of the river people. The river and the Karuara are a fundamental part of the survival of flora, fauna and ours; therefore with the effort of all the people involved in this production, they want to strengthen the fight for the Amazon and our origin peoples. Follow Quisca Productions on Facebook
Honor the Earth, Minnesota
Winona LaDuke is an internationally renowned activist working on issues of sustainable development renewable energy and food systems. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, and is a two-time vice presidential candidate with Ralph Nader for the Green Party.
As Executive Director of the Honor the Earth, she works nationally and internationally on the issues of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice with Indigenous communities. Learn more about their work to Stop Line 3. #StopLine3. Follow Winona LaDuke on Twitter: @WinonaLaduke and Honor the Earth on Twitter: @HonorTheEarth and Instagram: @honortheearth
Earth Thrive, Balkan Rivers, Serbia
Zoe is a deep ecologist and Founder and Director of Earth Thrive, an international organization for the rights of animals and nature and against #ecocide in the Balkans and Mediterranean regions. Follow Earth Thrive on Twitter: @Earth_Thrive and Instagram: @earth_thrive