INDIGENOUS WOMEN ESTABLISH TIES BEYOND THE BORDERS OF OUR OWN COMMUNITIES
Our growing leadership and participation are bringing up a new challenge: the exchange of experiences and tools for the education of girls and youth against all types of violence on a global scale. In this article, we present the progress made in a fight carried by the Indigenous Peoples of the seven sociocultural regions of the world. Join us!
“Knowing that women’s rights are not recognized forced me to get out of my comfort zone and ask myself what I could do to improve their lives, so that it may be more like my own life or that of women who live elsewhere. The leadership I carried within was wanting to come out, because it always made me uncomfortable to see women and children suffer.”
The quote is from Irene Serina Leshore, 45 years old, from the Maasai community of Kenya, in Africa. Those words were spoken in 2013 as she participated in the project of the Global Leadership School of Indigenous Women of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI).
Irene, like many Indigenous Girls and young women from this community, was a victim of female mutilation in the eighties. Since then, she promised herself that if she had daughters, she would not allow that they go through the same thing. Practices such as female mutilation and the inheritance of wives, carried out in the name of tradition, are being imposed today on Indigenous Women and Girls across different sociocultural regions, despite efforts by the Movement of Indigenous Women to abolish them.
For Irene, her community was the whole world. “When you leave your village you realize there’s more to the world, and you learn how to use it to help your village,” he says. Exchanging experiences at the Global School allowed her to see that her reality was shared by many of us throughout the world.
The same feeling of understanding and sisterhood was felt by Judy Muliap, 46, a representative of the Marind tribe of New Guinea, on an island of the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia, as she arrived to a meeting with some twenty of us carrying a clay pot symbolizing the food of life for the people of her community. She told us her story, which is similar to that of the majority of women in her country, where 68% of them experience violences.
As a defender of her people and human rights, Judy joined Soroptimist International, a volunteer organization she has been supporting for 15 years by working in education and health in her village. She saw that the justice system was not working and that the security and protection mechanisms for women reporting and laying charges for crimes of violence against them were deficient, for which she promised to support these women.
Her empowerment was her main motivation for participating in the Global Leadership School, where she was able to learn from the experiences of others on how to address problems and identify possible solutions. This allowed her to return with new contributions to share with the women of her community and her organization. “I was passionate about working for women, especially since 40% of them are in the villages and they need a lot of support.” Just like Serina, she was able to envision a world beyond her village.
The protection of girls and youth from all types of violences is a duty for us, because of the marks that most of us carry from childhood. Khesheli Chishi (65) belongs to the Sümi Naga People and sees herself as a simple, straightforward, honest and strong woman. She was born and raised in Satakha, a town in the Zunheboto district of the Indian state of Nagaland. She attended a primary school that was only for boys, and she gained from that experience the strength that still drives her today.
“When I say I can’t do it, they tell me, don’t leave, don’t run away, make your stand, show them, you can do it,” she recalls, recognizing the support of her parents and sister, who helped her turn something negative into a challenge to face to achieve her goals in a context marked by torture, death and violence under the Special Power of the Armed Forces that has governed her region since 1958.
The forced migrations, state violence, militarization, trafficking and sexual violence, as well as the threatening of individual and collective rights have a great impact on us specifically as Indigenous Women, forcing us to face countless situations of injustice with great determination and courage.
“Women have to come together, unite, know who they are if they want to take their place in society and be recognized as people who can take on responsibility. Those are words that stayed with me, that I keep in mind,” says Khesheli as she recalls the words of her older sister, who was her guide and mentor.
The life of Gilma Luz Román Lozano, from the Uitoto clan, in the Colombian Amazon, was marked by forced migrations due to the invasion of territories, consequence of illegal mining as well as of the armed conflict and the presence of drug trafficking and its impact on the community. In that region, boys and girls go to school only until the fifth grade of primary school, and there is a relationship between low literacy rates and the violences suffered by the people in rural environment.
As we can see, the realities of our communities are echoed throughout the world. This tells us that advocacy work in regional and international arenas, including the Global Leadership School, is a key resource to gain more power to transform our present experiences and project a future free of violence, with more education. If you liked this article, you can learn more here.