Research reveals the violent daily life that has already victimized 765 defenders of the Brazilian Amazon in the last 10 years.

Research reveals the violent daily life that has already victimized 765 defenders of the Brazilian Amazon in the last 10 years.


The Igarapé Institute’s report presents the challenges of the region in the voices of women leading the fight for the environment and human rights.

In-depth interviews point to solutions for conflicts and violence affecting 51% of Brazilian defenders in the Amazon.

To protect the Amazon rainforest, it is necessary to listen to the women who protect it. In the report “Challenges and Recommendations for the Amazon from the Voices of Women Defenders of Human Rights and the Environment – Brazil,” the Igarapé Institute presents the perspective of defenders in the Brazilian Amazon basin on their experiences and proposals for conflicts in the region. The violence they suffer is at the heart of the issue: the study indicates that between 2012 and 2022, there were 765 attacks – including 36 murders – against women in the Legal Amazon who are combating the illegal exploitation of the forest’s natural resources, the invasion of their lands, and the expropriation of their peoples.

The number, compiled by the Igarapé Institute from data provided by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) on conflicts in rural areas in the region, includes intimidation, imprisonment, and attempted murder. The majority of the aggressors are land grabbers and farmers, and the cases are concentrated in the states of Pará, Maranhão, and Rondônia. The Amazon region accounted for 59% of land conflict cases in the country last year.

“The data make it evident that violence is a part of the daily lives of this population, especially in areas under pressure from environmental crimes and in urban centers,” analyzes Melina Risso, the research director of the Igarapé Institute. “As if the violence related to the dispute and protection of territory weren’t enough, they also face that resulting from gender inequality and the consequences of challenging traditional women’s roles.”

According to the study, the impact of violence on women is less visible and often not even quantified. One of the main conclusions of the report is that, despite playing a central role in environmental preservation, defending rights, and mitigating climate change, the violence faced by defenders, as well as their contributions, are not properly recognized or documented.

“Defenders belong to a group of multiple identities, but they commonly share in their accounts the normalization of the violence they experience, including the invisibility of their leadership. It’s a form of silencing,” says Melina.


In-depth research


At the Amazon Summit in August, the Igarapé Institute launched the “Somos Vitórias-Régias” research, which interviewed 287 environmental and human rights defenders in the Amazon basin of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. In it, 51% of the interviewed Brazilian women stated that they had experienced violence between 2021 and 2022 – not only physical but also psychological and moral violence.

Now, this new research seeks to identify their challenges and proposed solutions. For this purpose, a participatory methodology was used. In-depth interviews were conducted with 23 defenders, along with a focus group with an additional eight participants. Data collection was carried out by 13 Amazon defenders trained by the Igarapé Institute, who had previously worked with the Institute in the first research.

“In the Amazon, there are various Amazons. The risks and vulnerabilities generated by this multiplicity impact how they perceive and address their challenges. Defenders are in a key position to propose solutions that take into account this diversity,” says Melina Risso. “It is from this listening that we can implement effective actions for the ongoing conflicts they are subjected to.”

The defenders heard by Igarapé point out priority proposals for the State to address these challenges. They emphasize the need for public institutions to fulfill their constitutional role in the Northern Region, improving security and healthcare services for indigenous and rural populations. Land and environmental regularization are also considered essential to combat hunger and violence, as well as the formalization and investigation of complaints, improving the response to crimes, and creating material and financial incentives for women’s groups, associations, and organizations.

They also list recommendations for civil society organizations, academia, and collectives: allocation of resources, providing financial autonomy and alternative support networks; developing care and self-care methodologies based on local, community, and regional knowledge; and conducting research on topics that impact the region, generating evidence that can guide public policies.



Here are excerpts from interviews with Amazon defenders heard in the research:

“Many times, they only listen to us as indigenous people when you have a position, a role, or a degree, so that you can raise your voice and speak. Many times, indigenous people suffer and cannot cry for help because authorities tend to close their ears and only listen to a person with higher social status or prestige when they are in dialogue.” “Indigenous defender residing in the Amazon rainforest.


“I am a victim of sexual violence: I was raped when I was 9 years old. My vulnerability began there, because of depression, anxiety, and other problems that this violence brought to me as a child. The indigenous movement was a door that opened for me, also to heal me – not exactly to heal me, but to make my life a little easier with all of this throughout much of my life.” – Indigenous defender residing in the forested Amazon.


“I was there to do other things with my relatives. But I passed through a certain place where I saw the relatives themselves handing over a little girl to a miner. She was very young. Used as a bargaining chip. I wanted to cry, do something. But I just took a deep breath, pretended I didn’t see it, and continued. I don’t know what was more violent, seeing the scene or pretending I didn’t see to continue having access to that territory.” – Indigenous defender residing in urban Amazon.


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About the Igarapé Institute

The Igarapé Institute is an independent think-and-do tank that conducts research, develops solutions, and establishes partnerships with the aim of influencing both public and corporate policies and practices in overcoming major global challenges. Our mission is to contribute to public, digital, and climate security in Brazil and worldwide. Igarapé is a non-profit and non-partisan institution, based in Rio de Janeiro, operating from the local to the global level.

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