Speaking out: Indigenous women leaders in Peru

Jane Carter, 30 September 2015
Speaking out: Indigenous women leaders in Peru

Representatives, practitioners and campaigners engaged in promoting the rights of communities and indigenous peoples over land and natural resources have been converging on Bern this week. Today and Thursday we will be deep in discussion in a two day conference hosted jointly by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), Oxfam, the International Land Coalition (ILC) – and HELVETAS, identifying successful ways to achieve change. More information can be found on the conference website.

HELVETAS is co-organising the session on women’s rights – in which one experience to be highlighted is that of indigenous women leaders in the Atalaya region of the Peruvian Amazon. Whilst it was not possible for any of these women leaders to come to Bern, what we were able to do was to make a video (with sub-titles) so that their voices can be heard by participants.

As is the case in much of the Amazonian basin, forest area lying within Peru is home to a diversity of indigenous peoples whose livelihoods are integrally linked to the forest resources. Also as elsewhere in the region, their way of life is threatened by various outside interests – by timber companies, immigrants seeking new areas to settle and farm, and larger commercial interests. There is increasing recognition amongst the indigenous groups that they need to come together to address these threats, and to do so with clear arguments and sound management plans. Thus AIDESEP, the Asociación Interetnica de Desarollo de la Selva Peruana (Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest) is implementing the Veeduría Forestal, or Community Forest Monitoring Initiative. Under this initiative, data is gathered to monitor forest cover and support technically sound forest management decision-making by indigenous and advocacy bodies at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

In Atalaya, the local Veeduría is housed within CORPIAA (Coordinadora Regional de Pueblos Indígenas de AIDESEP, Atalaya – Regional Coordination of the Indigenous Peoples of AIDESEP, Atalaya). Working closely with the Peruvian forest authorities, HELVETAS supports the Veeduría with funding from the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) and ICCO Cooperation. Our staff are particularly engaged in providing training on technical issues, and raising awareness about climate change. A deliberate effort is made to include both women and men in such training, and to support women as well as men leaders. Leadership amongst the Amazonian peoples has traditionally been the province of men, but this is changing.

In the video to be shown today, Nery Zapata speaks about the difficulties of being a woman from a minority group in Atalaya, leading the indigenous local organization. As President of CORPIAA and Coordinator of the Veeduría, she has an important role. Reaching and remaining in her position has required self-confidence and determination, as is evidenced from her words. The video also features Patricia Cachique, an indigenous leader from the native community Boca Apinihua. Patricia emphasizes the importance of training women as well as men in issues related to forest management and climate change, and points out the importance of shared knowledge between women and men if there is to be shared decision-making. To view the video, click here.

Jane Carter
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Jane Carter

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