DEFENDING OUR TERRITORIES AND BIODIVERSITY AS INDIGENOUS WOMEN
Caring for the land, rivers and forests, as well as for the life of the communities that inhabit the Earth, is an urgent task taken on by the Indigenous Peoples of the whole planet. Here, the experiences of struggle of Indigenous Women leaders from Asia and Latin America show us how we can better preserve the environment and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
“Bersiru,” which can be translated as helping each other, is a deeply seated value of the Sasak People, in Indonesia. Part of what this value means is committing to collaborate with family and community for the next generation, without breaking the transmission chain of inheritance, from the elders to the youngest.
Adding to this the defence of the land, rivers, forests and mountains as part of an ancestral legacy, a task that is today as necessary as it is urgent, we can see how Indigenous Women are fighting, from within our communities, to preserve the environment, protect our natural resources and mitigate the impacts of climate change in the regions we inhabit.
An exemplary case of this is the work of Rohani Inta Dewi, 28, who as a leader of the Sasak People, after studying International Relations, joined the network of defenders of the Cek Bocek community to protect its inhabitants from the growing presence of mining companies that cause social, economic and psychological damage to the population.
Rohani participated in the Global Leadership School of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) and, in the context of the territorial advocacy plan that she had to produce, she carried out a proposal inspired by “Bersiru” to curb the negative impacts of gold exploration by a multinational company on the livelihoods and cultural objects of her community. She says: “I am inspired by this value of my culture, wherever I am, wherever I go. It motivates me to be of service to others. For me, the best person is the one who can help others.”
Another positive experience is that of Chhing Lamu Sherpa (59), from the Sherpa People of Nepal. She defines herself as a guardian of the mountain, a role passed on to her by her ancestors, recognizing their wisdom to defend life in all its manifestations. She was born in Pinjuling Katne, Udayapur, and is a human rights activist and environmentalist.
The example of perseverance of her mother, who was persecuted and arrested on a false accusation of tearing up the king’s photo, fills her with pride and encourages her to keep learning, working and advancing our cause as Indigenous Women.
“My mother was illiterate. She supported me because I had to fight against my family and my society in order to assume my leadership. Without her, I would not have succeeded,” she says.
Chhing went on to complete a postgraduate degree in Rural Extension and Women from the University of Reading, United Kingdom, and is now President of TEWA, a women’s philanthropic organization, as well as the founder of the Spirit of the Mountain East organization.
Like Rohani, her time at the Global Leadership School helped her strengthen her work and implement coordinated actions and fund management to gather indigenous knowledge related to food and practices on how to face climate change.
Wilma María Calderón Gostas (41), of Miskitu roots, from Honduras, followed a path similar to that of these women from the Sasak and Sherpa Peoples. She recognizes her identity as Indigenous Woman, which gives her wisdom, strength and spirituality, as well as giving meaning to her life and helping her feel like a leader.
She was born in Puerto Lempira, in the department of Gracias a Dios, a place where the green-blue water of the sea feeds the spirit and life of the people. She grew up noticing how the Miskitus had different ways depending on whether they lived in Honduras or Nicaragua. In the neighbouring country, because of the war – so she understood by witnessing the actions carried out in her youth – they were more sensitive to the defence of human rights.
She tells us of one of the elements that represent the philosophy of the Miskitus, the “masta” organization, which is a system that teaches the values of respect and solidarity, as well as models of resistance assumed by the leaders who are now formed in 12 territorial councils, giving strength to the fight.
The forests, the land, knowledge and the mother tongue are elements that give life to their culture and worldview, and that are present in the work of the leaders of the community. “As a tangible object of our Miskitu culture, I can say that this is what this mutual respect gives us. The sense of solidarity present in this spirit of struggle for our common goods is what keeps us united in our territory,” she says.
If you are interested in these stories, you can learn more about our trajectories and community developments here.