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Breaking Gaps, Achieving Dreams 

The FSC Indigenous Foundation celebrates the launch of the Indigenous Women of Panama’s Economic Empowerment Plan and is supporting its implementation.

CAMIP workshop

On Monday, October 17th, the Advisory Committee of Indigenous Women of Panama (CAMIP), the Ministry of Government of Panama, and the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) launched the Indigenous Women of Panama’s Economic Empowerment Plan (PEMIP 2025)

This plan is a comprehensive and pioneering initiative that seeks the full inclusion and effective exercise of the socioeconomic rights of Panamanian Indigenous women, based on their protagonism and self-determination. It creates a space to convene multi-sectors including public and private actors to bring resources and commitment to support the Indigenous women of Panama. 

The FSC-IF is supporting the implementation of PEMIP through three of its components including ancestral cultural restoration, leadership, and governance. 

The Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development, and Ministry of Labor are committed and empowered to support the Plan, and Enred Panama is providing technical assistance.

Launch of the Indigenous Women’s Economic Empowerment Plan 

The launch, held at the Parlamento Latinoamericano, featured words from Janaina Tewaney Mencomo, Minister of External Relations, Rocío Medina, IDB Representative in Panama, Roger Tejada Bryden, Minister of Government, and from delegates of CAMIP including Elsy Pedrol, delegate from the General Congress of the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, Briseida Iglesias, delegate of the General Congress of the Comarca Guna Yala, and Andrea Lino, delegate of the General Congress of the Collective Lands Emberá-Wounaan. 

Andrea Lino described the challenges and effort to develop this plan.

“We had to climb mountains to find ways to connect virtually and develop this plan. But we, as women, fighters, leaders of each territory, we made this great effort to arrive to this day.” 

Briseida Iglesias ended with a strong message for, “unity, sisterhood, and social equity.” 

Creation of an Indigenous Women’s Advisory Committee 

In 1993, the National Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Women of Panama (CONAMUIP) was created. It became evident that space was needed for Indigenous women’s voices after the National Roundtable of Indigenous Peoples in 2016 where there were few women decision-makers.

In 2018, under the leadership of Sara Omi, President of the Congress of Alto Bayano, CONAMUIP proposed the formal creation of this space. The Advisory Committee of Indigenous Women of Panama (CAMIP) was constituted, formed by twelve delegates representing each territory in the National Roundtable of Indigenous Peoples (CONDIPI). CAMIP receives, processes, and transmits information while at the same time is linked to the community and governance structures of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama. 

With the IDB and the Ministry of Government of Panama, CAMIP developed the Indigenous Women of Panama’s Economic Empowerment Plan (PEMIP 2025), based on conversations with various Indigenous women, evidence and data, analysis of policies, and consultation with experts. 

Beginning implementation 

Immediately after the launch of PEMIP, CAMIP met in a workshop supported by FSC-IF to discuss the implementation of the plan and the by-laws of CAMIP, as part of the activities that the Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) is supporting as part of PEMIP implementation. 

On October 21st, the FSC-IF supported another workshop with the CAMIP leaders and women chiefs on institutional strengthening of CAMIP, Indigenous women’s leadership, and the creation of a strategy to promote dialogue spaces for effective participation of Indigenous women as a tool for political incidence. At the end of the workshop, participants took a proactive role to participate in the different working groups that are part of the Plan’s axes to continue working on the implementation of the PEMIP for the benefit of their communities. 

In close collaboration with CAMIP, the Ministry of Government, the IDB, and ENRED, the FSC-IF is also working on implementation by developing a national Indigenous women’s organization registered in Panama to support the implementation of PEMIP, conducting a pilot in one Indigenous territory to create a guide to promote Indigenous women’s cultural preservation, drafting by-laws of CAMIP to improve its governance, and developing a strategy to increase participation of CAMIP in other national spaces related to the implementation of the PEMIP. 

The FSC-IF is committed to working with and for Indigenous women, who we know to be the guardians of ancestral knowledge providing solutions that will determine our future and the future of the planet. 

Watch a video about PEMIP below (in Spanish).

News

From Words to Actions: Catalyzing Multi-sectoral Alliances to Co-create Indigenous-led Financing Mechanisms for Inclusive Nature-based Solutions

Indigenous leaders, donors, and NGOs discussed Indigenous-led finance models and funding initiatives at a Climate Week New York event.

Indigenous Peoples and their territories are sources of global solutions to climate change. Respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and increasing their participation in climate-based solutions is critical to achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals, fostering climate resilience, and reducing risks to all sectors. 

However, only a fraction of funding for climate and nature-based solutions has directly reached Indigenous Peoples’ organizations and local communities in the past decade. Indigenous-led financial mechanisms are the fuel to safeguard Indigenous customary rights and value their livelihoods and practices as an underlying principle to promote sustainable development and catalyze scalable and long-term climate solutions.

At Climate Week New York, the FSC Indigenous Foundation, USAID, the Coalition for the UN We Need, and GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion organized a panel discussion From Words to Actions: Catalyzing Multi-sectoral Alliances to Co-create Indigenous-led Financing Mechanisms for Inclusive Nature-based Solutions to bring together Indigenous leaders, donors, and NGOs to exchange on existing Indigenous-led finance models and identify ways of integration and collaboration to achieve common goals toward piloting Indigenous-led funding initiatives worldwide.

Francisco Souza, Managing Director of the FSC Indigenous Foundation and member of the Apurinã Indigenous Peoples of the Brazilian Amazon, opened the session with a critical message about the importance of creating and strengthening cross-collaboration among different sectors. He also stated: “The conversation today is about the future, but we need to think about the past, and we need to recognize and respect the past.” Indigenous communities have lived in harmony with Mother Earth for centuries. “Integrating Indigenous communities will help us reduce risks for the future and think together about the solutions; the asset that we bring to the table is the knowledge that we’ve gathered for centuries.” 

Maria F. Espinosa, member of GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion, pointed out that women need to be at the heart of climate action and  Indigenous Women are already taking leadership in helping their communities adapt to the changing climate. She said, “Climate change is a symptom of a broken relationship between society, politics, our economic models, and nature. The call here is for reconciliation between humans and nature, and Indigenous Peoples are key to rebuilding the relationship with nature.

In the first panel, Indigenous Voices, participants discussed how to ensure Indigenous voices are heard at the highest levels of decision-making in climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, climate finance, and how to create stronger alliances to conserve forests and other ecosystems. Aïssatou Oumarou, an Indigenous leader from Chad and Vice President of the Network of Indigenous and Local Populations for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (REPALEAC) stated that “REPALEAC helps Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) in Africa, we support 467 organizations. Our vision is to help Africa provide the great contributions of ICLCs to climate action and to request our participation in decision-making.” 

Kanyinke Sena, Director of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC), stated that “Local communities are not receiving enough funding” in order to implement nature-based solutions to tackle climate change and protect their resources. Participants also called attention to the alarming numbers of environmental defenders that have been killed in recent years for raising their voices.

In the second panel, Donor Perspectives: Investing in the fight against Climate Change, panelists presented the financial initiatives and programs that they offer to support local solutions to global environmental problems and empower Indigenous Peoples in their roles as guardians of nature. 

They all concluded that there is funding available to help solve the problems: “The money is there”, but all interested parties need to strengthen and clearly define good financial mechanisms as well as improved mechanisms for implementation, reporting, and follow-up. It is essential to ensure that climate finance is reaching Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. 

This productive discussion included: Gillian Caldwell, Chief Climate Officer and Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID, Andrea Johnson, Advisor, Global and Mexico and Central America Initiatives for the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA), and Yoko Watanabe, GEF Small Grants Programme at UNDP. 

Caldwell from USAID stated, “Indigenous Peoples have been aware since a long time ago that the climate was changing in dangerous ways, and yet they are still sometimes marginalized from climate-related decision-making.” 

Johnson from CLUA called for building trust-based philanthropy and the co-creation of solutions. “CLUA is trying to shift the ways in which the money is channeled.”

Watanabe from the GEF Small Grants Programme at UNDP called attention to the ownership or programs, “It is very important that the decisions are owned and held by civil society and Indigenous Peoples.” She also mentioned that sharing lessons learned is essential. 

The last panel, Indigenous Led Initiatives – Nature Based Solutions, was dedicated to sharing good practices and lessons learned about collaborative conservation projects and nature-based climate change solutions. The two distinguished panelists: Francisco Souza, Managing Director of the FSC Indigenous Foundation (IF), and Gustavo Sanchez, President of the Mexican Network of Forest Local Organizations (MOCAF) and Board of Directors of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), discussed how we can promote multi-sectoral alliances to co-create Indigenous-led financing for inclusive climate-based solutions. 

Souza stated, “We should be able to think about Indigenous economies and Indigenous businesses” in order for IPLCs to achieve sustainable self-development.  He also mentioned that IPLCs need to evaluate if they can see carbon markets as an opportunity. Indigenous Peoples have the capacity to manage their resources as they have been doing this for centuries, but at the same time, “We should be able to influence different spaces, to negotiate with different stakeholders, to manage the money at different scales.”

On the other hand, Sanchez spoke about global and regional programs they are developing with donors and expressed concern about the slow progress in some aspects. He called attention to the flexibility of programs in terms of priorities that are defined, “Donors need to understand what the other stakeholders require, to actually see the priorities in the territories and not just the priorities that donors have.” He called for action and closed with the statement: “We hope to get to the COP with more facts and not only with promises.”  

Francisco Souza closed the event with a message that we need to think about implementing the $1.7bn pledge made at COP26 to give funding directly to Indigenous Peoples and local communities, but we also need to bring together different stakeholders together to think beyond the pledge. 

View a recording of the webinar here.

News

III Guna Women’s Congress

The Congress was a space for dialogue, reflection, empowerment and spirituality among Guna women.

Strengthening and spirituality

Guna women play a fundamental role in the Gunadule society, as guardians of the forests and responsible for transmitting traditional knowledge such as language, collective memory, and traditional practices of planting and medicine based on native plants.

This III Congress of Indigenous Guna Women was held from September 6 to 8 in the community of Gardi Sugdub to be a space for dialogue, reflection, and strengthening among Guna women. The spirituality of Gunadule women and the processes of recovering ancestral knowledge were some of the topics discussed. Participants also reflected on the main socio-economic and environmental problems affecting their communities, in order to generate local development alternatives with a gender approach and from traditional Guna knowledge.

Briseida Iglesias, recognized as a Guna sage and founder of the Bundorgan Women’s Network, Darelis Erhman, leader of the women’s organization Nis Bundor, and Kandra Ehrman, Secretary General of the Guna Youth, were some of the panelists of the congress. Local authorities also participated, such as the Director of the Women’s Institute (INAMU) Nellys Herrera, and prominent members of the Guna General Congress. The words of welcome were given by the Sagladummagan Domitilio Morris, Rengifo Navas and the Argar guide Alberto Vázquez.

There was also space to discuss and evaluate the proposed organizational system of Bundorgan, resulting in the development of internal regulations and their approval in assembly, after three years of being organized among women.

This event had the support of the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD), financed by USAID and implemented by the FSC Indigenous Foundation as part of the Project to Strengthen the Indigenous Agenda of Panama, which is being developed by the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, the Mesoamerican Coordinating Committee of Women Territorial Leaders, and the Association of Indigenous Emberá Women Artisans (AMARIE).

Strengthening from the root

The Guna Women’s Congress has been held every year since 2019, when the newly born Bundorgan Women’s Network convened this space. Up until ten years ago, Guna women were not allowed to participate in the General Congresses of the Guna Culture and only attended as companions, without the right to express their opinions. Women like Briceida Iglesias opened spaces so that women could attend the general congresses with voice and vote; promoting the management of their own space.

Thanks to these opportunities, Guna women have been developing a joint agenda of socio-cultural advocacy for the well-being of Mother Earth. Each meeting among Indigenous Guna women is a step forward to strengthen women and transgress the barriers that have historically limited the political participation of Indigenous women in decision-making spaces.

An increasing number of women have become interested and joined the Bondorgan Women’s Network. Forty-nine women attended the first congress and this year the number tripled, with the participation of 150 women from 32 communities of the Gunayala region.

The Bundorgan Women’s Network works for the recovery and preservation of traditional medicine, culture, and ancestral practices of planting and Guna medicine.

Originally published in Spanish on the Coordinadora de Mujeres Líderes Territoriales de Mesoamérica website.

News

Indigenous-led tourism benefits communities, economies, and Mother Earth

Native American Tribes and Indigenous Peoples of Latin America discuss successful Indigenous-led tourism models

According to the World Tourism Organization, approximately 370 million Indigenous Peoples in the world are linked to tourism activities. If managed in a responsible and sustainable way, Indigenous-led tourism can increase employment, reduce poverty, empower local communities, spur cultural revival, and allow for a sustained relationship between land, nature and Indigenous Peoples.  

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have had disastrous effects on the tourism industry, impacting all those who depended on it as a source of livelihood. Recovery methods must be inclusive of Indigenous Peoples’ vision for their communities and development.  

Opportunities for Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous-Led Tourism 

With this in mind, the FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF) and the White House Council on Native American Affairs (WHCNAA) Committee on International Indigenous Issues organized a webinar on July 14, 2022 to highlight the conditions and approaches that have made Indigenous tourism initiatives economic, social, cultural, or environmental successes. The webinar was part of a series that seeks to foster information sharing and connections between Native American Tribes and Tribal organizations in the United States and Indigenous Peoples organizations in Latin America to support Indigenous-led economic development.  

After a welcome by Salina Sanou, IPARD Program Deputy Director and Africa Regional Country Manager, Kathryn Isom-Clause, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Interior, provided an introduction to the webinar, highlighting the connection between Indigenous resource management practices and climate and market-based solutions.  

Denise Litz, member of the Tuscarora Nation and Chief of the Division of Economic Development of the Bureau of Indian Affairs provided a context as the world is opening from COVID-19 lockdowns and tourists are looking to explore new places and make connections. Indigenous tourism faces challenges that have now been exacerbated by the pandemic. She stressed the importance of tourism for communities and the efforts of the U.S. Department of the Interior to support tourism recovery.

“Indigenous tourism offers communities an opportunity to generate income, alleviate poverty, increase access to healthcare and education, and conserve cultural and natural resources,” said Denise.  

Indigenous tourism webinar

The first panelist, Sherry L. Rupert, CEO of the American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA), shared key research and data on the economic impact of cultural tourism, including the fact that Native American tourism in the United States is a 14 billion USD industry.  

However, Tribes still face challenges to access funding, grow markets and benefit from the national tourism system. She shared some examples of successful Native tourism enterprises including Redwood Yurok Canoe Tours, DX Ranch South Dakota, and the Steward Indian School Cultural Center and Museum

She welcomed Reid Milanovich, Chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who noted the critical importance of cultural tourism to Tribal economies. He thanked AINTA for their support in maximizing tourism opportunities and “lifting Tribes to help them share their stories.” 

Indigenous tourism webinar

Seleni Matus, Executive Director of the International Institute of Tourism at the George Washington University spoke about fostering regional partnerships for Indigenous tourism. First, she shared a Toolkit and Model for Regional Development and Management of Native Tourism, developed by Tribal Nations and the North Dakota and South Dakota Tourism Alliances, to inspire new ways of collaboration among Tribal Nations and promote vibrant economies at the state level. The Tribal-led process includes stakeholder consultation, shared vision, capacity development, and forming market linkages.  

Seleni gave an overview of the Indigenous Tourism Collaborative of the Americas, an initiative to inspire connections and exchange knowledge so Indigenous Peoples can determine their sustainable futures. More than 75 organizations are involved in the network, which was born from discussions during the Indigenous Tourism Forum of the Americas. The Collaborative offers an online repository and ongoing virtual dialogues to develop a shared action agenda defined by Indigenous leaders. 

Graciela Coy, Maya Q’eqchi’ and President of Ak’ Tenamit, presented the sustainable tourism network Caribe Maya. The network is composed of community groups and women’s organizations along the Mayan Caribbean coast in Guatemala and Honduras, an area rich in cultural wealth and marine and terrestrial biodiversity. She explained that the planning and organization is managed by the Indigenous, Garifuna, and community groups who make up the tourism network, and that benefits are distributed among the communities to support education and health.   

Caribe Maya connects with national and foreign tourists by leveraging technology and social media and working together to promote the products offered by the different groups. She stressed the importance of strategic partnerships with the private sector and the Guatemala Institute of Tourism.  

Indigenous-led tourism webinar

Coming out of the pandemic, tourism began to increase again in 2021, bringing positive impacts to the communities. 

“We have seen some changes. We have observed the empowerment of communities, women’s groups, and associations and see the participation of women who have a significant leadership role in these community tourism activities,” Graciela said.

Other positive results include stronger enterprises, biodiversity conservation especially of the mangroves, and increased participation in decision-making spaces, for example the Izabal Department Tourism Desk.  

Graciela shared lessons learned, including the need to be resilient and prepared in face of tropical storms and climate change, the importance of strategic partnerships to strengthen community tourism, increasing women’s participation and equal distribution of benefits, and the need to develop contingency plans against any negative impacts of tourism that could arise.  

The question and answer section concluded with agreement on the need to engage a wide range of sectors including government, private sector, and NGOs to support Indigenous-led tourism. All speakers highlighted the importance of collaboration, working and learning together, and building partnerships.  

Alejandro Paredes, IPARD Program Director, gave closing remarks thanking all panelists and attendees, emphasizing the importance of continuing the discussion and strengthening the connections established in this webinar.  

View the webinar recording here.  

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