This week, we celebrate the #IndigenousWomenDay by emphasizing and positioning their contributions to the sustainability of life and the territorial management.
"We are one seed and one voice for common governance" was one of the conclusions of the III Inter-AATI, held in December last year. The Inter-AATI women’s meetings are spaces for analysis and discussion, that bring together women leaders from different indigenous communities and governments from the Colombian Amazon, to reflect on their common horizons of work aimed at the well-being of populations, the protection of their territories and the strengthening of socio-environmental governance.
Indigenous women have worked on organizational processes to recognize, strengthen and position their contributions and roles in their governments, proposing strategies and activities to strengthen their leadership capacities. This has been promoted in the InterATII and macro-territorial meetings, and also in the work spaces related to the implementation of the Indigenous Territories as special political entities with administrative functions (632 Law -Decree).
As a result of this organizational work, these women have expanded their spaces for political participation, emphasizing the importance of restoring balance through gender complementarity, and strengthening its political power from the daily, ritual and organizational activities that they exercise in their territories since the origin.
The Indigenous Government includes the ways of guiding, regulating and building life in the territory. It is daily and ritual, since it has its origin in the maloca, in the meditation of the payé and in the dialogue with the family in the stove. It also has decision-making mechanisms that are formally developed in Councils, Assemblies and other areas of discussion.
The political participation of men and women transcends the formal spaces that make up the organization. From day-to-day activities, indigenous women generate significant contributions for the maintenance of life and for the defense and strengthening of self-government in their territories. This is why, the revitalization, recognition and visibility of the roles they exercise for this purpose is so important.
*Juan Gabriel Soler - Gaia Amazonas
Life Givers and Seed Mothers
Women’s roles have been assigned since the world was given to indigenous peoples by their ancestors. These roles are not only about being life-giving and responsible for raising good people, or as they call them, real people. It also implies being seed mothers, that is, possessing the seeds of their ethnic groups, to care for them, exchange them and inherit them from mothers-in-law to daughters-in-law, or from mothers to daughters. This makes them guardians of a fundamental biological diversity, and key actors in the permanence and conservation of the Amazon Biome richness and their food systems.
The chagra is a place for the construction of collective welfare, health and territorial protection because of the extensive traditional knowledge of women about crops, relationships between plants, types of soil, strategies for their fertilization, production cycles, as well as on the management of diseases and pests with which they make a localized management of the territory, that allows its regeneration. Also, they reflect and discuss to turn this pensamiento (thought) and all their work into a political place, based on the generation and transformation of food for the wellbeing of their people.
Maloqueras, contestadoras and godmothers of Yuruparí apprentices
The maloquera woman is one of the most important roles within the amazon indigenous communities. With her pensamiento (thought) and work in rituality, she distributes the works among the women of her family or community, to ensure order and maintain harmony, joy and food abundance. She is a woman healed to receive and speak to all who visit the maloca. She knows how to offer casabe, chicha, caguama, and to attend well to those who participate in the rituals of which she and her husband -the maloquero- are hosts.
Day by day, the maloquera takes care of the maloca: she makes sure that the maloca is a peaceful place, pleasant, with food and drink available for those who come to visit always feel welcome and happy, and to share a daily chat and to reflect on the future. For the Amazon indigenous peoples, abundance is fundamental to good living.
*Sergio Bartelsman - Gaia Amazonas
These women also ensure the training of new contestadoras and godmothers of Yuruparí apprentices, accompanying and transmitting her knowledge to these women who have been healed to fulfill these functions.
The contestadoras and godmothers of Yuruparí apprentices are women who have a gift since birth, and are chosen for the proper exercise of their functions. For example, the contestadoras are older women, who know very well the history and the whole repertoire of essential songs for rituals (a single song can last two days and narrates the ancestral routes for the formation of their villages). They know when to give strength to the singing of men, integrating their voice to it, and they must have a lot of concentration and training to be able to respond adequately.
* Juliana Sánchez - Gaia Amazonas
On the other hand, the godmothers of Yuruparí apprentices accompany the men during this sacred ritual. They are the only women who can enter the maloca during the ritual and be close to men when it is allowed. Only they can touch the hunt and the food that will feed them, in particular the children and young people in formation, since they require a special food so that their bodies can acquire the complex and profound knowledge, they begin to receive from their first ritual of Yuruparí.
These women, their knowledge and work, are fundamental to sustaining life in abundance, the proper management of the territory and the transmission of knowledge systems and practices that have allowed their existence for so many years.
Captains, researchers and women leaders
It is worth mentioning that in the Amazon, women exercise many more roles and functions, in addition to the maloqueras, chagreras, contestadoras and godmothers of Yuruparí. Each woman plays different roles according to her healing, interests and skills. The captains, for example, are women administrators of the common house and its resources. They combined the ritual, the daily and the organizational roles, since they are women who have been elected to this position for their good performance in the traditional role of maloqueras, for their organizational capacities, conflict mediation, and for distributing well-being in an equitable way.
Among the fundamental people for community and territorial organization, are the women leaders, who act as guides and spokespersons for the initiatives and proposals of women. They socialize the information that is built in the different areas of their government, and contribute to the analysis and discussion of the projects and programs that are planned to be implemented in their territories, so that the women of the area know them and can make informed decisions. They also support and coordinate women in their communities to strengthen their participation in different areas of their government and carry out their initiatives.
*Canela Reyes - Gaia Amazonas
Finally, the researchers are responsible for investigating and systematizing the traditional knowledge that governs the territory and, in this way, strengthen its transmission and prevent its disappearance. In their research process and based on their knowledge as women of abundance, they record stories of origin, practices and advice associated with the cultural identity of their ethnic groups and with the good management of the territory.
Indigenous women’s reflection on participation in their governments and their importance in the environmental governance of their territories, has allowed women from different territories of the Amazon to advance in the construction of a Comprehensive Women’s Policy, which contains the guidelines, principles, strategies and actions that express and empower indigenous women’s participation in self-government. This is because the daily, organizational and traditional roles that they play in society, from their transversal work, contribute to the strengthening of their governments and promote collective well-being and territorial balance.