Indigenous Women face the worst consequences of the climate crisis, yet our voices are often not heard in the struggle against climate change. To change this situation, Indigenous Women from different regions attended COP27.

Within the Magar Indigenous community in Nepal, it is believed that cutting down a tree near a water spring and contaminating it will be punished by the Serpent god. Like many of our Indigenous Peoples, this community wholly depends on nature, culture, and spiritual beliefs. The Magar community holds nature-based knowledge that is directly related to sustainable biodiversity and climate resilience. Forests and the redistribution of the benefits they provide are protected and regulated through laws and policies created by the institutions that make up their self-government, called Bheja. In its mandate to preserve and protect the forest, Bheja pays special attention to water resources, medicinal herbs, and wildlife and vegetables.

Kamala Thapa Magar is part of the Magar community and is also an indigenous leader who went to the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2022 (COP27), together with FIMI’s delegation of seven Indigenous Women leaders from different regions, to raise their voice in the context of the climate crisis: Kamala Thapa, Jenifer Tanchangya, Tarcila Rivera Zea, Lucy Mulenkei, Aminatu Gambo and Nadia Fenly. As part of the Indigenous Movement, the objective of our participation was to communicate and highlight the role of Indigenous Women in the conversation about land and the environment from a sustainable point of view. At the same time, FIMI was looking to these Indigenous Women and others to get to know the spaces and mechanisms for advocacy and participation, so that they can continue communicating and positioning their knowledge from their own perspectives and differentiated vision.

Preparatory Events

Indigenous Women kickstarted their participation at COP 27 at the eighth meeting of the facilitation work group of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP), from November 1 to 4. This was followed by the preparatory meeting of the International Indigenous People’s Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC), which took place on November 5-6. These meetings addressed the issues of mitigation, adaptation, financing and collaboration in the fight against climate change from an Indigenous perspective. Over the course of two weeks, participants engaged in a series of negotiations, side events and discussions.

Culture, Gender and Resilience: Unlocking Diverse Knowledge Systems

his event, held on November 15, sought to highlight the essential role of women in the intergenerational transfer of the cultural heritage as well as the immense potential of arts, culture and heritage to drive gender-inclusive climate adaptation and mitigation pathways. The session focused on three concepts within the resilience framework: the role of women as custodians of culture (tangible and intangible); women as key change agents in climate action, adaptation and mitigation; and women using the arts and culture as a transformative tool to drive climate action and awareness. The event put the spotlight on the importance of recognizing ancestral knowledge and its uses related to nature, plants and the Andean world; this knowledge should be investigated, safeguarded and broadcast locally, nationally and internationally.

Participants also discussed the multiple roles of women in the self-construction of their habitat, since gender plays an important role in environmentally friendly behaviour in the management of construction materials. Additionally, through their actions day to day, women implement strategies that protect the buildings against rain, insects, and daily use. The event also highlighted the need for gender-sensitive climate action, because of the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change. In the same way, participants discussed the relationship between women and the environment: they are being affected by climate change, but the most important thing is to observe how they respond to these changes. Although women are the custodians of a great deal of knowledge on how to adapt to climate change, they are often unaware of the power this knowledge can have in conversations on climate change at the national and global levels.

Culture and Biodiversity: Application of Traditional Knowledge and Practices in Support of the 30×30 Biodiversity Goal. .

This event held on November 16 in collaboration with the Climate Heritage Network and Julie’s Bicycle focused on the following themes: art, culture, antiques and legacy. The event focused on the culture and resilience of Indigenous Peoples in ecosystem restoration. It also highlighted opportunities to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to biodiversity conservation, based on their self-determination and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

The integration of international frameworks with the perspectives of Indigenous Communities was also discussed. In this sense, according to FIMI’s President Tarcila Rivera Zea, when a protected area is defined, it should be not only about the land, the trees and the animals, but also the Indigenous Peoples. Likewise, it was highlighted that the Indigenous Communities have the solutions, with their traditional knowledge, to imagine and bring about a fair and resilient future with a low carbon footprint. For example, the indigenous communities of Malaysia practise the “Tagal” system: prohibition zone (near rivers); red zone (fish breeding); orange and yellow zones (harvest allowed sometimes); and green zone (open) GOMPI GUNA. This governmental system, recognized as an amendment in Malaysia, aims to protect and replenish before harvesting. In this regard, Lucy Mulenkei, Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network and Vice President of FIMI, pointed out: “We want action now! Indigenous communities have to unite and work together.”

There were also talks of how the halt in tourism caused by the pandemic positively impacted some ecosystems, like those in Kenya: rather than breaking these resilient communities, the absence of tourism made it possible for wildlife to return to the area. Indigenous Peoples do not believe in the commodification of the sacred. We need a paradigm shift from Western conservationism to ‘Land Back’ and the holistic management of landscapes. Julia Bernal, Executive Director, Pueblo Action Alliance.

Likewise, the participants insisted on the importance of paying attention to the heritage and knowledge of the communities, building a bridge between the intergenerational system and integration into the school system, teaching youth about the richness of food diversity. We have to look at nature without asking ourselves how much it is worth; biodiversity is very much within us!” expressed Jenifer Lasimbang, National Coordinator, JOAS, Malaysian Indigenous Peoples’ Network. Indigenous languages are key to protecting traditional knowledge, which is part of the cultural legacy. Our shared belief in the power of culture, arts and heritage enables us to imagine and bring about a just and resilient, low carbon future,” said Andrew Potts, Coordinator at the Climate Heritage Network.

Indigenous Peoples and Women will not be left behind

The climate crisis caused by the Western model of development impacts us directly, yet our States turn a deaf ear to our complaints. That is why it is so important for Indigenous Women to take their place in international decision-making spaces. Our perspective focused on well-being and maintaining a symbiotic relationship between human beings and nature, ecosystems and biodiversity is what this fight needs now.

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