I am Rafaela Iturralde, a recent graduate from Quito, Ecuador. I majored in International Affairs and Environmental Studies and focused both of my majors in my home country. For the past three years, I have been involved in the Rights of Nature movement due to its importance to Ecuador. In 2008, Ecuador’s new Constitution included the idea of Sumak Kawsay (good living), which considered nature as subject to rights. This summer I am interning at the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, an international organization destined to promote and support the rights of nature in South America and around the world.
This is an important moment for the Rights of Nature as it is a movement that is growing every day around the world. Just last year, the. Whanganui River and the Te Urewera Forest in New Zealand were granted the rights of personhood. Not long after that, two of the most sacred rivers in India, the Ganges and Yamuna rivers were also given legal rights. These are just two examples of countless others that are rising around the planet. This September marks the 10th Anniversary of Ecuador’s new Constitution and therefore the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature considers it very important to celebrate and evaluate how the movement has grown in this decade.
Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is an international organization based in Quito, Ecuador, where I am interning now. However, it has founders all around the world and therefore even though the main organization efforts are based in Quito but coordinated by people from all over the world. Among the many projects that we are working on, the most important one is planning and organizing the International Symposium that will be held at the end of September in Quito, Ecuador. This symposium will include the Ecuadorean government, the organization founders, and people from all over the world that have been part of the movement, as well as people that have suffered from the violation to the rights of nature.
Among the planning efforts, I am in charge of different tasks, such as contacting international attendants, reviewing the conference agenda, and working with the communications team to find effective strategies to promote the event. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to the south of Ecuador with a team to record a video of the Vilcabamba River, where the first case of the Rights of Nature took place. My role in the trip was to coordinate the logistics of the team as I traveled with the videographer and an environmental lawyer who was interviewed as part of the video. This was a fun experience, getting to learn about what happened in the area and why the lawsuit was first filed, and why it was done in the name of the Rights of Nature. During the trip I got to learn a lot about Ecuadorean law and how the new Constitution has been used to protect nature, its successes and failures.
I am looking forward to the next steps of my internship as it will get more and more intense as the conference approaches. I feel lucky that I can be part of such an important even in a topic that I have been so involved for the past three years. The opportunity to be able to experience such a unique and impactful internship wouldn’t have been possible without the Skidmore Funded Internship Awards and specially the International Community Service Award. I feel lucky and honored to be part of this team.