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.