A New Generation of Indigenous Leaders – Today, the World Has More than 100 Indigenous Women Ready to Lead the Fight against Hunger and Malnutrition

Human Wrongs Watch

8 August 2018 (FAO)* – It is estimated that there are more than 185 million indigenous women in the world belonging to different regions and cultures. Although their way of life and traditions are not the same, most of them play a crucial role in guaranteeing the food security of their communities and in protecting natural resources, benefitting the more of 7 billion people inhabiting the world.


Photo from FAO.

Indigenous women participate in multiple productive activities and contribute to the economic and social development of their communities. They are fisherfolks, farmers, pastoralists, shepherds and forest guardians, among many other roles.

“But on many occasions, our rights are neither recognized, nor protected and our contribution is invisible,” emphasizes Tania Vera, a young indigenous Guaraní-Ava, who lives in the town of Fortuna, in Paraguay.

Like many indigenous Guarani, Tania carries soccer in her genes. It was through this sport that, in 2015, when she was only 19 years old, she realized that indigenous women are not always represented in the mechanisms where decisions that affect her and her community are made.

“The women wanted to play professional soccer as the men of the community did, but there was not a female league and when these issues were discussed, we were not invited,” says Tania.

“The same happens when decisions are made about a productive project that will be developed in the community, indigenous women do not participate and our vision is not heard.”

In light of this situation, Tania decided to participate in the Leadership School for Indigenous Women on Human Rights and Food Securitywhich FAO and the International Forum of Indigenous Women developed in 2015 in Paraguay.

This School has the objective of empowering indigenous women leaders and activists so that they become advocators of human rights, food security and nutrition.

At the end of the course, each participant must present an advocacy plan to respond to a problem identified by the community, and which affects their food security.

“During the course we learned about the rights of indigenous peoples and exchanged experiences on the right to access to lands and territories, which is a constant threat to our peoples.”

In fact, as a result of the loss of their lands and territories, many indigenous peoples are forced to migrate to other areas in search of new employment options and livelihoods. In Latin America, around 40% of all indigenous peoples live in urban areas, including 80% in some countries of the region, according to UN figures.

After participating in this course, Tania has continued her university studies in Law and has been integrated into different decision-making spaces that affect her community.

Today, at 21 years old, Tania is part of the Committee of Indigenous Representatives that participate in the national FAO program approved by the Green Climate Fund: PROEZA.

This program has the objective of reducing the adverse effects of climate change in the country, and at the same time combats rural poverty while mitigating deforestation and greenhouse emissions.

“I am the only woman among the eight indigenous leaders that takes part in this Committee, but I will continue working so that there are more and more indigenous women participating in decision making processes. We have a lot to contribute. Climate change, poverty and food insecurity are issues that also affect us and to which we can also contribute with our experiences and knowledge ”

Tania also promoted the creation of the first formal soccer team of indigenous women in their community, called Guaraní-Fortuna. In less than two years, the team has already become vice champions of international tournaments in South America and the United States.

Since 2015, FAO and FIMI have implemented the Indigenous Women Leadership Schools on Human Rights and Food Security in countries such as India, the Philippines, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay, training more than 100 indigenous women leaders.

This year, in order to train a new generation of indigenous women leaders, FAO and FIMI coordinate the implementation of four regional Training Schools of Trainers in Human Rights and Food and Nutrition Security, in Africa, Asia, Mesoamerica and South America.

“The participation of indigenous women in decision-making is fundamental, not only to solve the challenges we face, but also to contribute to the sustainable development of indigenous communities in general. We have experience and knowledge, we just need to be heard,” Tania emphasizes.

This year, FAO, together with FIMI and NOTIMIA, has launched the Global Campaign for the Empowerment of Indigenous Women for Zero Hunger, whose purpose is to call upon governments, the international community, civil society, media and indigenous authorities to guarantee the full and effective participation of indigenous women in the decision-making processes that affect them and their communities.

Key Facts

  • There are over 370 million indigenous peoples living in more than 90 countries across the world.
  • While they constitute about 5% of the world’s population yet account for about 15% of the world’s poor.
  • There are at least 5,000 different indigenous peoples groups in the world representing diverse cultures.
  • Indigenous peoples have some 4,000 languages, most of them are considered endangered.
  • Most of indigenous peoples live in Asia.
  • Main causes of marginalization of indigenous peoples derive from the violation of their right to their traditional land and territories.

*SOURCE: FAO – UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Go to ORIGINAL

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2018 Human Wrongs Watch

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