What we wrote, read, listened to, remembered, watched and were inspired by last week.

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Next year — 2015 — is the deadline for the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals were created to guide government policies on some of the most pressing threats of our time — poverty, hunger and more.

Recently, Indigenous women met to share the challenges they have faced in implementing the MDGs in their communities. They put forward their demand that the post-2015 global development agenda reflect their priorities as women and as Indigenous Peoples.

[L to R] Otilia Lux de Coti, Rose Cunnigham Kain and Tarcila Rivera Zea.

[L to R] Otilia Lux de Coti, Rose Cunningham Kain and Tarcila Rivera Zea.

They met at an event co-sponsored by MADRE and RLS-NYC, called “Indigenous Women and the MDGs – Challenges and Lessons Learned.” This event featured as panelists these Indigenous women leaders:

MADRE is a partner to all three Indigenous organizations: Wangki Tangni, CHIRAPAQ and FIMI. All the panelists spoke about their advocacy and programs for Indigenous women and Peoples.

Otilia Lux de Coti, Executive Director of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF-FIMI)

Otilia Lux de Coti, Executive Director of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF-FIMI)

These grassroots activists discussed the failure of governments to achieve the MDGs for Indigenous Peoples. But the panelists also highlighted the efforts of Indigenous organizations and networks, and their work to fill the gaps left by national and international development projects.

Indigenous Peoples are often not considered in government policies and programs. If they are, the help they receive is often superficial. These assistance programs do not take a holistic approach to the issues they wish to solve. They disregard all advances or practices already implemented by Indigenous Peoples.

For example, programs on HIV/AIDS, malaria, child mortality and maternal health are often run in urban areas. These programs do not reach Indigenous Peoples who live in rural areas. Distance and cost makes these essential services inaccessible to Indigenous Peoples.  In addition, Indigenous healers, midwives and traditional medical practices are neither respected nor supported by government initiatives.

Tarcila Rivera Zea, President of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA)

Tarcila Rivera Zea, President of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA) and of CHIRAPAQ, a MADRE sister organization

These government assistance programs tend to treat Indigenous Peoples in a degrading manner. Tarcila pointed out that Indigenous Peoples deserve respect not pity.

“We are not objects of charity,” she said. “We want recognition as women and as people with rights!”

The Indigenous movement has been fighting for decades for recognition. They have struggled for decades to be seen and heard as human beings who deserve to enjoy the fullest range of their individual and collective rights.

As Otilia explained, “All the mechanisms created as resources for Indigenous Peoples are the results of the efforts of Indigenous women, youth, and people. They did not come from the governments or the United Nations.”

Indigenous Peoples will not let obstacles deter them from their goals. Indigenous women and youth continue to work together to build human rights from their Indigenous perspective.

Most importantly, they will build a common strategy to demand that Indigenous Peoples be consulted and prioritized as we establish global sustainable development policies in the years to come.

Young activist attending the panel discussion.

Young activists attending the panel discussion.

 

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What we’ve written, read, listened to, remembered, watched and been inspired by this week.

As the world remembers the more than one million lives that were lost and devastated by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, conflict continues in Syria, Sudan, Israel and Palestine.

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On September 9, the world lost a powerful advocate for human rights: Sunila Abeysekera.

We’re filled with sadness at Sunila’s passing and with immense gratitude for all of her work and devotion to human rights. We learned so much from her through the years, through her advocacy at the international level for peace and justice and her organizing to bring real change to communities on the ground.

With her passing, our movements have lost so much. But her legacy will be lasting. Thank you, Sunila.

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Learning by doing is an age old phrase, one that never seems to lose its relevance. Being thrown into the mix is an unparalleled method of teaching, rivaling the innovative educational technologies that attempt to challenge it each year.

Stella at MADRE

Stella at MADRE

I experienced a prime example of this tried-and-true philosophy during my time as a development intern at MADRE. I was thrilled that any organization would accept a high school junior to intern for them, and honored to be part of such an admirable, respected institution. In preparation, I read through MADRE’s inspiring program descriptions and educated myself about the organization, but really had no idea what to expect walking in on my first day.

The development office, as I soon found out, is the funding branch of the NGO structure.  It oversees foundation prospecting, grant writing and, on good days, grant acceptances and documentation. Every activity and new idea our partners and friends envision is shaped, contextualized and presented by the development department, where dedicated hours of poring over files and foundation directories help make MADRE’s and other NGO’s wonderful programs a reality. This realization made every prospect, grant application and foundation file I worked on feel like a direct link to the courageous, admirable women MADRE partners with worldwide.

Even on a small scale, I felt the unique gratification of doing my part to further the progression of women’s human rights today and for the future. On my last day at the development intern desk, reflecting on my time at MADRE this summer and looking toward my final year of high school and the opportunities that lay ahead, I take with me an experience that has taught me the importance of each microscopic brush stroke in the world’s infinitely expanding mural of change.

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For 30 years, MADRE has supported Indigenous women from different regions at the forefront of wars, discrimination, and extreme poverty, working hand-in-hand with women and families to bring solutions to their communities. MADRE provides strategic support for Indigenous women activists to be present and visible to international governing bodies, helping to bring their demands to the international arena. 

For this year’s 12th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, MADRE, in partnership with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – NYC Office had the privilege of facilitating the participation of our sisters from Latin America and Africa. 

I wanted to take this opportunity to share a statement of courage and resilience that I heard from Silvia Perez Yescas, an Indigenous leader and a woman human rights defender from Oaxaca, Mexico, a place where the lives of women human rights defenders are at a high risk. She was in New York to deliver this statement at the official session of the Forum and had the chance to meet with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya.  
Silvia Perez Yescas and Dali Angel from Oaxaca Mexico with James Anaya, special rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.

Silvia Perez Yescas and Dali Angel from Oaxaca Mexico with James Anaya, special rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.


We at MADRE are proud of this continuing work to bring the voices of Indigenous women forward to influence key decision-making bodies. 
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Our partners Rose Cunningham and Liduvina Gill of Wangki Tangni and Mirna Cunningham of CADPI discuss living well, women’s political participation, violence against women, and intercultural exchange in this video produced in partnership with UNDP:

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Last week our partners at FIMI, with the support of MADRE and our friends at Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung here in New York, gathered for a final event together at this year’s United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The event combined a series of individual speakers, panelists, songs, and demonstrations of hope and faith for the future our partners are building in the countries and around the world.

MADRE partner Rose Cunningham with two friends from FIMI's School of Global Leadership.

MADRE partner Rose Cunningham of Wangki Tangni in Nicaragua with Silvia Perez from Mexico and Maria Eugenia Choque from Bolivia.

The women in the room used the opportunity to share advice and tell stories, highlighting what they saw as the most important and critical ways to advance the movement for the rights of Indigenous

FIMI members attend a last UNPFII event together.

FIMI members attend a last UNPFII event together.

women and Peoples around the world. Many of them spoke about education, access, and resources, as the many ways those issues are interrelated. Several of the women recounted feeling alone in mainstream schools and struggling to finish their degrees, but spoke of how powerful it was to have the knowledge they acquired, and how much their sisters in the room had helped them to feel a sense of belonging they had often lacked. Almost every speaker emphasized the need for Indigenous women to pursue formal education and enact change from within existing systems in their home countries.

After several of the participants spoke, the women gathered before a home-made altar signifying their hopes for peace and their powerful women ancestors.

pf altar

The women performed a piece dedicated to acknowledging their generational differences and honoring the wisdom of the older women and the energy and hope of the younger women in the room.

pf generations

Music was omnipresent at the event; women sang during their presentations, before panels and speakers, and during the breaks, sharing their culture and their stories with another. The ended the day, and the week at the UN, by singing together.

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We’re so excited to have some of our wonderful partners here in town for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues! Here’s some of what they’ve been up to:

Tarcila Rivera (CHIRAPAQ), Lucy Mulenkei (IIN) and Mirna Cunningham (CADPI)

One of the best things about the Permanent Forum is having the opportunity to see partners from around the world all in one place! It also allows our sisters to exchange advice and stories, and offer one another support. Here, Tarcila Rivera of CHIRAPAQ in Peru, Lucy Mulenkei of IIN in Kenya, and Mirna Cunningham of CADPI in Nicaragua, also a member of the Permanent Forum, attend an event.

Lucy at the working group on sustainable development goals.

Lucy attended a session where a Cape Verde speaker spoke out: “Africa should be given priority in post 2015 development agenda. Agriculture is at the heart of poverty eradication in Africa.”

Otilia Lux de Coti at the MADRE/RLS panel.

On Monday, MADRE and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – New York Office hosted Indigenous women from around the world who discussed and shared strategies for combatting violence against women. Read more about our work with RLS here.

Follow @MADRESpeaks for more updates on UNPFII !

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My beloved coworkers have a saying: “You don’t have to be a mother to be a MADRE.” They’ll say it lightning-quick, in tones that range from reassuring to affirming to just plain old firm. And certainly we practice what we preach; most of us are not mothers – but we are MADREs.

I’ve been a big sister, a fairy godmother, a cousin, a daughter, a coworker, a friend, a best friend, a partner, a Wife, a Boston Wife, a Job, a teacher, a partner-in-crime and more, but I’ve never been a mother. In the most expansive set of the word, I’ve never mothered a single living creature. I can’t keep a plant alive, I’ve never been pregnant, I refuse to be independently responsible for the well-being of a pet, and my fondness for leather jackets and bacon says I’m not much of an Earth Mother, either. But I’m a MADRE.

If the coworkers, sisters, partners, interns and volunteers who make up our world are what I can measure a MADRE by, here’s what you need in your toolkit if you want to carry the mantle. You’ll need strength and compassion. You’ll need a big, loud voice and a willingness to use it when necessary. You’ll need patience: with systems, with other human beings, with the incredibly, devastatingly slow pace of progress. You’ll need endless reserves of determination and devotion to the overwhelming cause of making the world a better place for everyone who occupies it. You’ll need to believe in collective action and understand that the world is structured to advantage some and disadvantage others, and at the end of the day, you’ll need to believe unflinchingly that this ultimately disadvantages us all. Most of all, you’ll need hope. You’ll need hope when everything else in your toolkit fails, because you’re human, and building things is hard.

And in return for having these things and hanging on tight when it’s hard, which is almost every day, we all get each other. Like a mother, a MADRE is never alone – but unlike a mother, you can enjoy an uninterrupted night of sleep. Happy Mother’s Day, moms. May your breakfast in bed not begin at 6am.

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