Distributor:  Global Environmental Justice
Length:  8 minutes
Date:  2014
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Portuguese / English subtitles
Color/BW:  Color


Curator imageLaura Miller, Applied ethicist and instructor, Southwestern Illinois College, St. Louis Community College, Fontbonne University, and Webster University

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Brazil's Women Warriors

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* New title added January 2023 *
If Not Us Then Who?  Film 6 of 7 

400,000 women harvest the nuts of the babassu palm, which is used to produce soap, oil, bread, charcoal,and cosmetics, providing them a modest living. When access to the trees was denied, a movement began.

Brazil's Women Warriors

If Not Us Then Who? Film 6 (7:30)
Brazil’s Warrior Women: a movement for access to babassu oil

This is one of seven short films about sustainable living in the forests of Indonesia, Costa Rica and Brazil. Taken together, they tell a story of oppression, resistance, accomplishments, and confidence for the future.

Laura Miller, Applied ethicist and instructor, Southwestern Illinois College, St. Louis Community College, Fontbonne University, and Webster University

Please download the teacher's guide for maps, background information, suggested subjects, questions and activities.

"They are warriors because they have the courage to fight and say things."

In Brazil, women without land have been left to find ways to provide for themselves. 400,000 women harvest the nuts of the babassu palm, which is used to produce soap, oil, bread, and charcoal, providing them a modest living. Still, this way of life was not without threat, sometimes physical, by ranchers and farmers who sought to ban the women from their fields. In response, the babassu harvesters joined a women’s rights movement advocating their right to harvest babassu without fear. They have since established the “Free Babassu Law” in seven states, guaranteeing them free access to the forests. The passing of this law has now enabled women to provide for themselves and their families, and to craft long-term plans that were never possible before.


Other titles in the If Not Us Then Who? Collection:

Download the Teacher's Guide


00:00:03.130 --> 00:00:06.416
Brazil's Warrior Women

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The nut breakers are warriors.

00:00:15.012 --> 00:00:20.878
They are warriors because they fight and have the courage to say things.

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We are a movement fighting for the sake of our Babassu forests.

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The land is good, as good as ever.

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Many coconuts, always breaking, always insisting, always chatting.

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We take the oil from the almond,

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The with the shell we produce charcoal.

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Myself, from time to time I use it,

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As it helps with gastritis and stomach pain. You just take the flesh and sprinkle it in food.

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This little flesh does a lot, I make bread.

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It means my whole life because I am the daughter of a nut breaker.

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I learned to break coconut when I was very young.

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I have been a single mother for the past six years and I have seven children who I support by breaking coconut.

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So for me it is my life and that of my children.

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First we make milk to put into the pot with the meat and the beans.

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The oil is roasted for food, and the oil that is not roasted is used as a cleaning product like soap.

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We then sell to get money.

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Our wealth is the Babassu and that is what unites us.

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We are milk sisters of the Babassu.

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I think that the threats are constant and they change they change their face.

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The fence is a symbol of prohibition, it means we have no right to the babassu.

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In the beginning, the woman here were involved in an extremely tough fight.

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Some time ago the cattle rancher arrived and said he did not want her breaking coconut in the area.

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And then, when she returned there the next day, her litre bottles had been punctured with a bullet.

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So he meant that if he had found her there, he would have killed her, right?

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The cattle rancher told the gunman to lace the rope used for catching cattle, around her.

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And then he lassoed her, she was breaking coconut and he lassoed her.

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She put both hands to the chord so it wouldn’t cut her neck and then he started dragging her.

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In another case, a woman and her community of Espirito Santo were destroyed.

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They killed the pigs and dogs and then they violated her, raped her, but didn’t kill her.

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He left her alive there and then the animals ate her. We found only a trace.

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So, we revolted and then we started to fight. And with the support of the priest, we began to gain knowledge.

00:04:03.360 --> 00:04:10.202
We began to join Piaui, Maranhao, Imperatriz and Baixada.

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And we started discussing the creation of the coconut breakers movement at a regional level.

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So today we have this fight and we will not give up so easy.

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Their long struggle established the ‘Free Babassu Law’ in 17 municipalities, protecting the Babasssu forests and giving the landless coconut gatherers free access.

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Babassu Forests

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17 ‘Free Babassu’ Municipalities

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All good

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The ‘Free Babassu Law’ has enabled them to start planning for the long term.

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This production is of great importance for the women because when it is sold, each woman gets her percentage.

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The first stock had more than three thousand litres, sold.

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We’re diversifying production.

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And, in addition to helping people with a family income, we’re protecting the forest.

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We are selling to Buy Direct, which is the program straight to school lunches.

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It gives a very good juice product and also improves our family income.

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The ‘Law of Free Babassu’ not only protects the babassu, it also protect the environment and forest, the Amazon as a whole.

00:05:47.336 --> 00:05:53.697
We won everything through associations as part of the women’s movement.

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It’s marvelous.

00:06:14.048 --> 00:06:17.438
It is a community of people who work in the fields, breaking coconuts,

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fishing, dancing, leaping, who play and who are doing a lot of things.

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And that preserves our ancestors, which we believe is a force that helps us and holds our hands to say,

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Do not fall, arise.

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There are over 400,000 Babassu Coconut Breakers working to protect 18 million hectares of Brazil’s forests.

00:06:47.716 --> 00:06:53.126
They will continue to enjoy life, improve it and enact the ‘Free Babassu Law’

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You already know you can not cut them down…

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… We need to preserve our natural wealth’

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Main credits

Redman, Paul (film director)
Redman, Paul (director of photography)
Redman, Paul (editor of moving image work)
Lewis, Tim (film producer)

Other credits

Music, Jayme with Jon Walker.

Distributor credits

Tim Lewis

Paul Redman

Docuseek subjects

Indigenous Studies
Forests and Rainforests
Conservation and Protection
Cultural Anthropology
Government Policy
Women's Studies
Women's History
Global / International Studies

Distributor subjects

Indonesia,Indigenous Rights,Deforestation,Logging,Sustainability,Conservation Law,Biodiversity,Cultural Ethnography,Government,United Nations,Women’s Movements,


Espírito Santo, Piauí, Maranhão,; Imperatriz, Biaxada, Babassu; nut breakers movement,; Buy Direct,; "Brazil's Women Warriors "; Indonesia; Indigenous Studies; Forestry; Forests and Rainforests; Sustainability; Conservation and Protection; Biodiversity; Ethnography; Cultural Anthropology; Government Policy; Women's Studies; Women's History; Global / International Studies;

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