Josefina Tunki lives and travels in the heart of the Cordillera del Condor from where thousands of tons of gold and copper are extracted. She is the first female president of the Shuar People in Ecuador. In recent years, she has become the Indigenous leader who is the face of the anti-mining struggle in her homeland.
She is unafraid and has confronted both the state and the mining companies. As is often the case for Indigenous leaders, she has been threatened and her community militarized in 2020. Read this article on Josefina in Mongabay News entitled “If We Have to Die in Defense of the Land, We Have to Die.”
She started as a bilingual teacher and left the profession to lead her people. Over her life, she has held many different leader positions in the following organizations: Women’s Federation of the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers; Kanus Agroforestry Craft Association; and the Santiago Association; which is one of six organization that make up PSHA, an Indigenous organization that unites more than 12,000 people living in the Condor Mountains in southeastern Ecuador.
She was nominated by last year’s Moral Courage Award recipient, Patricia Gualinga, who writes, “Josefina Tunki is the first Shuar woman to hold the presidency and lead the People as a symbol of women’s strength in a culture where there has been no greater visibility or participation of Shuar women.
“I believe that Josefina is an ideal candidate for her great tenacity and her fight against large-scale mining, for her defense of nature and the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, for her clarity and strength in a difficult context, for continuing to risk her life to defend rights. I believe that people like Josefina should be made visible to protect her life and integrity. This recognition could be a small balm in her hard fight and would be a way to continue positioning Indigenous leaders who defend life.”