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A Gathering of Indigenous Women

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.

Rose Cunningham, Silvia Perez, Maria Eugenia Choque
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 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.

FIMI members attend a last UNPFII event together.
FIMI members attend a last UNPFII event together.

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

home-made 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.

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.

Final Song at UNPFII 2013