Dilma Ferreira Silva was a leading Amazonian rights activist who fought for decades for the rights of people affected by dams.
She herself was among the 32,000 people displaced by the Tucuruí, a mega-hydroelectric power plant, built in Brazil during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
In 2005 Dilma was invited to join the Movement of Dam-Affected Peoples in Brazil (MAB), and in 2006 she formed the women’s collective, eventually becoming regional coordinator of the movement.
In speaking about her activism, her colleagues commented:
“She stood out very fast because she was always very fearless in the struggle.”
Dilma lived in the rural settlement of Salvador Allende,50 kilometers from Tucuruí, and dedicated her life to better protect communities and the land affected by the construction of mega projects. She was especially concerned with the gendered impacts of such projects and advocated for women’s rights.
At a national MAB meeting in 2011, Dilma spoke to women affected by the dams, saying:
“We are the real Marias, warriors, fighters who are there, facing the challenge of daily struggle”.
In the following years, Dilma organized grassroots MAD groups and worked with the community to form farming cooperatives that created a better distribution of food for the community. They improved the commercialization of fishing, and developed a cistern project for safe drinking water. She was also an advocate for farmers whose lands were being coveted by ‘grileiros’ (land grabbers).
On 22nd March 2019, at the age of 48, Dilma, her husband and their friend were all brutally murdered. The three killings came as part of a wave of violence in the Amazon against the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (translates as ‘landless workers’ movement’), environmental and indigenous activists.