Latin American and the Caribbean Climate Week 2023: Indigenous Women and Their Powerful Messages on Climate Change
Indigenous women from around the world are on the frontline against climate change.
The “Latin American and the Caribbean Climate Week” is approaching, and Indigenous women from all over the world have joined our campaign, ‘Indigenous Women on the Frontline Against Climate Change,’ to highlight their crucial role in the fight against this environmental issue that currently jeopardizes life on Earth. We united their voices from diverse regions of the world.
The series of climate weeks leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, makes its stop in Latin America, with Panama as the host, from October 23 to 27.
In this context, we have been showcasing the strategic work carried out by Indigenous women globally. We have gathered messages that demonstrate that, despite being one of the most affected populations by this issue, they lead the implementation of climate solutions. Their knowledge of Indigenous solutions that have existed for millennia is essential in the current effort to reverse the damage to our Mother Earth. Listen to some testimonials!
Empowered Indigenous women against climate change
Mataal Magdalena Pérez – Maya Poqomam (Guatemala)
She highlights the essential role of women in preserving mother tongues and their connection with nature, serving as a pillar of resilience against environmental devastation and climate change.
Olga Kostrova, a member of the Chulymtsy People (Russia)
She discusses the role of women in her community in monitoring changes in nature and raising awareness about environmental issues that affect both the forests and the food security of the community.
Anne Samante – Indigenous leader from the Maasai community (Kenya)
Anne highlights the critical role of Indigenous women, who are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts due to gender disparities and resource scarcity.
Gloria López, member of the Lenca Indigenous People (Honduras)
Gloria discusses the pivotal role of Indigenous women in guiding their families to adopt positive actions and the valuable work carried out by Indigenous women’s organizations in transmitting ancestral knowledge, which serves as a source of climate solutions.
Indigenous young women are also on the frontline against climate change
Jeptoo Kibichum – Endorois Indigenous People (Kenya)
She discusses the multifaceted role of Indigenous women who are active in areas such as preserving ancestral agricultural knowledge and collaborating on adaptation strategies.
Kandra Ehrman – Guna Indigenous People (Panama)
As a young Indigenous woman, she stands out as the first diver in her community and as an activist for climate change. She also works towards the empowerment of Indigenous women.
The process of strengthening the traditional governance of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama continues
Four Indigenous territories in Panama initiated a process of collective elaboration of new Organic Charters and Internal Regulations.
Started in October 2022, the traditional authorities of four Indigenous territories in Panama (Comarca Naso Tjër Di, Comarca Kuna de Madungandi, the Emberá and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darién, and the National Congress of the Wounaan People) began a process to strengthen their territorial governance systems through the collective drafting of new Organic Charters and Internal Regulations.
For Indigenous Peoples an Organic Charter and Internal Regulations is a legal document that organizes and establishes: 1) Criteria for the election of local, regional or general authorities; 2) Uses and rights over the land and the conservation of nature; 3) Social norms related to traditional and plant medicine; and 4) Mechanisms that ensure gender parity in the representation of authorities.
In May 2023, the four territories that initiated these processes have suceeded in validating the drafts of their Organic Charters and Internal Regulations before their local and general authorities and in the presence of government representatives.
The Kuna Comarca of Madungandi approved through an assembly/workshop the Internal Regulations of its General Congress in the community of Ibedi on May 10, with the participation of 50 sahilas (local Kuna authorities) and their argar (interpreters of the sahilas).
Act of validation of the Internal Regulations of the Tuira Region of the Emberá, Wounaan and Eyabida Collective Lands of Darién, community of Pijibasal.
A week later, the same process was carried out in the community of Pijibasal in the province of Darien, in the Regional Congress of the Tuira, which belongs to the Embera and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darien; with the participation of 50 local Embera, Wounaan and Eyabida authorities (known as Noko, Chi Pör and Buru according to each community).
Thirty people from the community also participated in both workshops, including children, youth, women and elders with a voice and vote to contribute to the disucssion, as the workshops are open to the general public.
COMARCA KUNA DE MADUNGANDI
In the last 8 months, the technical team of the Madungandi General Congress analyzed, together with sahilas and argar, more than 100 articles that establish, for example, the main functions of the community authorities (sahilas, argar and sualibed or community police), their reasons for dismissal and election, and developed the rights to land, hunting and family from the Kuna way of thinking.
To reach a consensus on the content of the document, two four-day workshops were convened between October and February 2022-2023, attended by more than 30 authorities and officials of the Madungandi General Congress, both of which were held in Akua Yala, the capital of the comarca.
A significant challenge was to transcribe all the procedures, functions, methods and other elements that already exist and are used by the Kunas of Madungandi into the final document that will be submitted to the Ministry of Government for approval.
Vista del puente sobre el lago Bayano desde las oficinas del Congreso General de Madungandi en la comunidad de Akua Yala.
EMBERÁ, WOUNAAN AND EYABIDA COLLECTIVE LANDS
In Panama, the title of Collective Lands is granted to Indigenous communities that were left out of a Comarca when the Comarcas were created. The title of Collective Lands represents the ancestral right to the sovereignty of their territory for the people who inhabit it.
Such is the case of the Emberá and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darién, where the Eyabida people have also been living for some years. The Eyabida were persecuted by the internal conflicts in Colombia, where they originate. The process of elaboration of the Internal Regulations of the Tuira Region served then as a propitious moment to officially establish the Eyabida People as inhabitants of the Collective Lands.
At the workshops, first held in the community of Mercadeo in November 2022 and a second in the community of Bajo Lepe in March 2023, more than 30 traditional authorities, mostly Nokora (Emberá) and to a lesser extent Chi Pörnaan (Wounaan) and Burura (Eyabida), analyzed and interpreted the text that mandates ways to administer justice, certify authorities and marriages, establishes collective rights over the use of natural resources and restrictions on activities of outsiders within the territory.
REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN
Although there are few women in decision-making positions in both territories, the drafting of the Internal Regulations provided an opportunity for Emberá and Kuna leaders to create spaces where their proposals and needs could be heard within their General and Regional Congresses.
In Madungandi, a territory where there have not been any women Sahila, it was agreed that the women would have a representative in the General Congress, who would be elected by the women themselves and would have the right to speak and vote in the Congress.
In the Tuira Region, two key leaders participated in all the workshops: the deputy general cacique, Lucrecia Caisamo, and the Noko of the Pijibasal community, Lucia Flaco, who contributed to the consensus on issues related to land care, traditions, and the community economy.
The population of the Kuna Comarca of Madungandi and the Emberá and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darién have been strongly affected by megaprojects imposed on their territories.
Akua Yala, capital of Madungandi, is a relocated community. Their ancestral territory was completely flooded as a result of the construction of the Bayano Hydroelectric Dam in the 1970s. Likewise, the Alto Bayano Collective Lands, which include the communities of Ipetí and Piriatí Emberá in East Panama, were also relocated.
The disappearance of native forests and the poor quality of the land in the areas to which they were relocated has caused significant cultural losses. Without forests, these Peoples cannot practice or adequately transmit traditional knowledge about land use, medicinal plants, or ecosystem conservation.
Another example is the Bajo Lepe community, site of the second workshop, whose location is affected by the concession of 325,000 hectares from the State of Panama to the oil company Sinclair Panama Oil Corporation in 2018, as denounced by community members on the way to the workshop.
IMPACT OF THE PROJECT
The collective work of the communities to organize their governance and develop social, cultural, economic and conservation norms based on discussions open to the entire community have served to raise awareness among young people, local leaders, elders, and authorities about their rights as Indigenous Peoples.
Throughout the process of drafting the Organic Charters and/or Internal Regulations of the four territories benefiting from the Strengthening the Indigenous Agenda Project (FAIP), the communities demonstrated interest in knowing and understanding the rules that govern them.
FAIP aims to strengthen the political structures of the Comarca Naso Tjër Di, the Comarca Kuna de Madungandi, the Emberá and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darién, and the National Congress of the Wounaan People by drafting and publishing their organic charters or internal regulations.
FAIP is funded by USAID and FSC, implemented by the FSC Indigenous Foundation and framed within the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) program, executed in coordination with AMPB, CMLT and AMARIE.
Panama’s President signs decree adopting the Indigenous Women’s Empowerment Plan
Indigenous women’s leadership and teamwork were important to achieve his historic act
On the occasion of Indigenous Women’s Day, President of the Republic of Panama Laurentino Cortizo Cohen signed the Executive Decree adopting the Plan for the Empowerment of Indigenous Women of Panama (PEMIP 2025).
“We don’t want to be in the statistics of vulnerability. We want to be in the statistics of empowered women, breaking barriers, women who fight every day to develop their territories,” said Sara Omi, PEMIP 2025 Coordinator and Emberá leader.
It was a historic act in which for the first time in the Republic of Panama a public policy of gender inclusion was established, aimed at promoting the integral development of Indigenous women within and outside the Indigenous territories.
“With this sanction, for the first time a public policy is established for the integral development of Indigenous women, important pillars for the conservation of their culture, demonstrating great leadership and capacity to contribute to the development of the nation,” said President Cortizo.
The Economic Empowerment Plan for Indigenous Women of Panama (PEMIP 2025) is a pioneering initiative that seeks to unite commitments between Indigenous women and public, private, and civil society actors, to carry out concrete actions that provide more and better opportunities for Indigenous women to fully develop their potential and capacity to contribute to the development and well-being of their families, territories, and country.
Its objective is to advance the autonomy, full inclusion, and effective exercise of the economic rights of Indigenous women, without any type of discrimination and based on their protagonism and self-determination, with a timeline from 2022-2025.
The key message of this event was teamwork. The Plan is a multisectoral initiative with the participation of 69 entities, such as public sector institutions governing economic-labor policies (Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Labor and Labor Development, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Authority), private sector (CECOM), development of Indigenous Peoples (Advisory Committee of Indigenous Women of Panama – CAMIP), NGOs (FSC Indigenous Foundation, City of Knowledge, AECID) and multilateral banks (Inter-American Development Bank, United Nations Development Program).
At the event, we heard from Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, President of the Republic, Roger Tejada Bryden, Minister of MINGOB, Briseida Iglesias, Guna Ancestral Sage, Sara Omi Casamá, National Coordinator of PEMIP 2025, Meybi Chamarra, Coordinator of CAMIP, Aulina Ismare Opua, Cacica of the National Congress of the Wounaan People and member of the National Council for the Integral Development of Indigenous Peoples of Panama (CONDIPI), Ana Grigera, Gender and Diversity Specialist of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and María Ángeles Sallé, member of the PEMIP Technical Assistance Team and ENRED Panama.
A success factor to reach this day was that all stakeholders listened to Indigenous women and were open to working with different communities and empowering Indigenous leaders.
The Ministry of Government acknowledged that the FSC Indigenous Foundation plays an important role in facilitating this process.
How we support PEMIP 2025
The FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF) is supporting the governance and implementation of this plan through the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) Program, working with Indigenous women and guided by their wisdom, knowledge, innovation, and leadership. IPARD is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and other private sector partners.
FSC-IF has a leading role in the PEMIP Strategic Sustainability Committee, working together with the IDB, CAMIP, the Ministry of Government, and ENRED, achieving many advances for the institutional strengthening of PEMIP and the implementation of CAMIP, such as workshops to expand their knowledge, manage the governance of PEMIP, empower their role in the Plan and be multiplier agents of change within their territories.
We also support i) the institutional strengthening of CAMIP, ii) the implementation of PEMIP in coordination with the government and CAMIP, to carry out the implementation of PEMIP at the local and community level, iii) the promotion of the implementation of PEMIP and other basic policies such as the implementation of Law 37 and Law 301, the organic charters of different comarcas and collective lands, iv) expansion of other issues to other areas to be inclusive in social, education and health issues and security of their rights, v) strengthening alliances and governance of the PEMIP, creating operational manuals and creating a network that strengthens and can ensure the sustainability of the Plan.
We consider this Plan to be not only a pioneering but an integral initiative that supports all actions promoted for and by Indigenous Peoples, supporting PEMIP 2025 and CAMIP as safeguards for the future and for Mother Earth.
Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge is vital to combat the climate crisis
Takeaways from Africa Climate Summit and Climate Week 2023
Last week in Nairobi, Kenya, governments, businesses, international organizations, civil society, and Indigenous leaders met at Africa Climate Week 2023 and African Climate Summit to highlight solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while adapting to the climate crisis.
One message from the week is clear: Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral knowledge is vital to combating the climate crisis. If we scale up Indigenous-led actions and funding, we can protect our planet, peoples, and future.
Many stakeholders have identified nature-based solutions as key programmatic priorities in the next decade in the fight against climate change. Indigenous Peoples have been the world’s nature-based solution providers for thousands of years.
Highlights from Africa Climate Week
Over 30,000 people gathered for Africa Climate Week and Summit to explore solutions.In the opening ceremony, Anne Samante of the National Indigenous Peoples Coordinating Committee on Climate Change and MPIDO read a statement that was put together in an Indigenous Peoples pre-summit.
Indigenous Peoples “are not only victims but we also come with solutions,” Anne Samante said.
The gathering concluded with the Nairobi Declaration – a common position for Africa leading up to COP28 with commitments around climate finance, renewable energy, a Global Climate Finance Charter, green minerals, and economic transformation. A key theme discussed throughout the week was the potential and need to include youth, one of Africa’s most valuable resource. The President of Kenya Dr. William Ruto acknowledged the role Indigenous Peoples play in their cultural landscapes in protecting forests, savannahs, marine environments, and drylands.
Judith Kipkenda from the Ogiek Peoples of Kenya and the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus read the Indigenous Peoples’ declaration in the closing ceremony. It includes the following key themes: (1) Indigenous focal points and participation at African Union and United Nations level, (2) free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) and stopping evictions of Indigenous Peoples from their lands, (3) recognition and strengthening traditional knowledge systems and partnerships to integrate this knowledge with scientific knowledge, among others.
“Although we as Indigenous Peoples contribute the least to climate change, we suffer the most from its consequences. We are here with solutions and lessons,” Judith Kipkenda said.
Indigenous knowledge systems for adaptation actions in Africa
In an Africa Climate Week side event organized on September 8jointly by the FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), Indigenous Knowledge Systems for Adaptation Actions in Africa, Indigenous leaders and key stakeholders discussed the necessity of including Indigenous knowledge for effective and long-term solutions to the climate crisis.
Dr. Al-Hamndou Dorsouma, Division Manager, Climate and Green Growth Department, African Development Bank, and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, FSC Indigenous Foundation Council Chair, gave opening remarks.
“Those with Indigenous knowledge have higher adaptation and lower vulnerability, they make informed decisions and used local knowledge of diversification of crops,” said Dr. Dorsouma.
“It is the time to trust Indigenous Peoples and learn from Indigenous Peoples,” said Hindou Ibrahim.
Then, a panel discussed the importance of Indigenous knowledge in addressing climate adaptation in Indigenous Cultural Landscapes, including Dr. Arona Soumaré, Regional Principal Climate Change Officer, AfDB; Daniel Kobei, Executive Director, Ogiek Peoples Development Program, Balkisou Buba, Vice President of the Cameroon Branch of the Network of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities for Sustainable Management of Central Africa Forests Ecosystem (REPALEAC); and Roopa Karia, Environment Office Director, USAID Kenya and East Africa. Salina Sanou, FSC-IF Regional Director for Africa and Asia, moderated the event.
“We are moving away from a do not harm to an inclusive approach, “ said Dr. Soumaré of the AfDB.
“While working with science, we need to consider Indigenous knowledge. Women are holders of that knowledge,” said Balkisou Buba.
“Indigenous Peoples must be part of climate strategies from the design phase,” said Daniel Kobei, emphasizing that Indigenous knowledge is different from traditional knowledge.
“A real concern from USAID is the legal rights of Indigenous Peoples and the human rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Roopa Karia.
Dr. Alejandro Paredes, Interim Managing Director of the FSC Indigenous Foundation and Dr. Olufunso Somorin, Regional Principal Officer, Climate Change and Green Growth Program at the African Development Bank, closed the event.
Speakers agreed that Indigenous knowledge is powerful and we need to use it in climate adaptation strategies and actions. Indigenous knowledge is the future.
We invite you to join us to make this future a reality as we carry this message to COP28 and work to elevate Indigenous-nature-based solutions with concrete actions.