November 2023 was a month filled with important events for CATAPA and its volunteers – from Klimaduro events, photo expos, Repair Cafes and info stands all over Flanders, our Stop #ExpresDefect campaign flourished within the Belgian borders, you can read more about it here! Nonetheless, its sister campaign, The Right to Say No, was not to be overlooked: while Stop #ExpresDefect took over Flanders, staff members and Catapistas participated in the Right to Say No Andean gathering (or Encuentro del Derecho a Decir No).

The gathering was ample in scope, uniting representatives from our partner organisations from Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. Everyone, from volunteers, community leaders to frontline defenders, gathered in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, to exchange knowledge, tips, and skills in order to protect South American communities from harmful mining projects. Regardless of the shape their struggle took, whether decades old or incredibly recent, the Encuentro was a chance to create a platform for these activists to share their story, find support and create a network that will help them in their ongoing fight. It was a chance to promote a narrative of hope in the face of the threat of large-scale mining.

To further the reach of The Right to Say No, the remaining staff and Catapistas took advantage of our personal Catapista gathering, the Autumn Movement Weekend, to connect with our overseas partners. This interaction took the form of an interactive art project, wherein the Ecuador and Belgian teams competed to see who could form letters with the help of nearby objects (and even people at times!). At the end, the best pictures of the letters were chosen to display a message that CATAPA and all its partners can get behind: ‘Agua Si, Mina No!’

This project provided a moment of levity where people from both countries could get to know each other, interact, and join in the fun. Furthermore, it strengthened our sense of companionship and solidarity in the face of those who would trample over what others hold dear. The Movement weekend and the Encuentro both brought us closer together strengthened the bonds that were already there through The Right To Say No, which we will continue promoting loudly and proudly.

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