People who defend their land and community – noted as environmental defenders – are often red-tagged and face systemic violence such as eviction, threats and extrajudicial killings. Despite these challenges, environmental defenders form alliances with different communities and groups and challenge the root causes of the vulnerabilities and marginalization.

The knowledge and expertise in environmental protection and risk mitigation mechanisms shape the livelihoods of many Indigenous communities in the Philippines. However, the state and private sector’s economic development activities disrupt and threaten the land and livelihoods of local communities.

In Tami’s view: “Everyone [in my community] has to perform their share of responsibility in food production and I grew up with a constant reminder of my mother not to waste food, because it’s the fruits of the blood, sweat and tears of the tribesmen and farmers.”

“We are a society of people and our lives are intertwined and interconnected. Therefore, we have a responsibility to care for each other. But these peaceful lives have been ruined by militarization and corporations who encroach on our lands.” Tami explained.

Despite the importance of their work, many of these stories from environmental defenders are often invisible due to limited media coverage and a lack of funding and resources to document such struggles and victories on the ground.

Lia affirmed the importance of building solidarity: “It is important to gain the support of other civil society organisations from different sectors. This will ensure a strong local unity on environmental issues, also institutions such as religious groups and the academe can also help widen the reach of the advocacy. The local government unit, who has direct contact with community members, also have the potential of giving urgent help as well as legislation.”

“We can all be environmental defenders and it’s best if we all get involved with environmental movements, since environmental issues and climate change affects all people. … it is through collective action that we can influence positive change.” Lia Mai Torres, Center for Environmental Concerns.

The SEI Asia miniseries on women environmental defenders explores how women defenders across Asia are challenging the structural causes of disaster vulnerability, seeking socio-environmental justice and equitable decision-making in disaster risk reduction efforts.

Listen to the podcast below: