A delegation of indigenous women from the Andes and Amazon of Peru are attending COP23 in Bonn to raise their voices on the role of indigenous women against climate change.
Indigenous women play a key role in traditional and non-traditional livelihoods. However, even though indigenous women make contributions to the social, economic and cultural life of communities, they often face discrimination from both within and outside their communities.
As a result, indigenous women are vulnerable to social and economic exclusion, exploitation, marginalization and gender-based violence, according to the international Labour Office. Climate change threatens to make indigenous women still more vulnerable to such processes.
“With the onslaught of climate change, extreme weather conditions like droughts, floods and typhoons are affecting the production of crops and food security of indigenous peoples. Indigenous women—not unlike other rural women—are often farmers and in charge of feeding their families. Their livelihood—and lives—are at stake”, Tarcila Rivera Zea, UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
ONAMIAP, the National Organization of Andean and Amazonian Indigenous Women of Peru, has been protecting the individual and collective rights of women and indigenous peoples for the past 12 years. Since COP20 in Lima, ONAMIAP has participated in international climate negotiations to highlight the links between indigenous women and the impacts of climate change. As part of their participation in climate change policies, they made contributions to the Gender Action Plan of Climate Change of Peru, published in 2016.
Throughout this year, the organization has conducted a series of workshops with women in the Andes and Amazon to prepare a document proposal of actions and public policies necessary to face climate change in equal conditions.
“We are here in COP23 to present the proposal we have developed as indigenous women as we often hear about the role of indigenous peoples but not of the role of indigenous women. We do not only think of one part of our territory but of the whole, and we also think of the entire country in the Coast, Andes and Amazon as climate change affects us all”, explains Melania Canales Poma, Vice-president of ONAMIAP.
Sovereignty and food security
Some of the main concerns for ONAMIAP regarding food security –expressed in their recent proposal– are related to the valorization of the Andean and Amazonian ancestral practices, like the care of seeds and different practices that contribute to the conservation of local biodiversity. They also call for public policies to promote a more sustainable agriculture.
“We have a key role in our communities in the conservation of our native seeds and our Pachamama. In this COP23, we want to make contributions as indigenous women on our relationship with the environment” says Ruth Flores, from the Aymara community in Puno, Peru.
Health and ancestral knowledge
The women of ONAMIAP demand for the implementation of sectoral policy on intercultural health with the participation indigenous and native peoples. In addition, they ask for an effective recognition of traditional medicine through the recovery of ancestral knowledge.
“It is us, the women, that are the ones who pass on ancestral knowledge through generations as we are the ones closer to the environment”, says Jerly Ventura, member of the community shipibo-conibo from Pucallpa, Peru.
Water management and agriculture
“We are concerned about the melting of the glaciers of Peru as they are the ones that feed the rivers of the Amazon. When they disappear, we don’t know what will happen to the Amazon”, tells Melania Canales.
The proposal considers the formulation of sustainable and equitable water management plans that also include the participation of indigenous and native peoples. Moreover, they call for a shift towards a sustainable agriculture through the recovery of knowledge and ancestral practices in water management and agriculture.
The aim is to promote the use of natural and clean energies to reduce the exploitation of hydrocarbons that causes deforestation and degradation of forest. Additionally, the women of ONAMIAP call for more conservation and reforestation of forests with native Amazonian and Andean plants, as well as the promotion of integral Agroforestry projects.
“In the past, we used to know when it was summer and winter. Now there is always rain. We live in the forest and all the trees are being torn down. We want to raise awareness, for example to not deforest in areas close to our waterholes”, says Talit Layango, from Loreto in Peru.