Amazonian indigenous women leaders who transform lives

Posted on 13 December 2023
Only 41% of indigenous adolescent women finish high school, 3 out of 10 native communities have health facilities which affects the death of women and newborns due to complications in childbirth, more than half of indigenous women are engaged in low-paid jobs and only 4% of native communities have a woman as president of their community. According to the Adjuntía Report N° 002-2019-DP/AMASPPI/PPI "Situación de los derechos de las mujeres indígenas en el Perú" (Situation of the rights of indigenous women in Peru). Added to these figures comes a pandemic that still in 2021 continued to affect the livelihoods of native communities.

In this context, the Amazon Indigenous Women's Fund (FIMA) was born, an initiative of the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) in alliance with WWF and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the framework of the Amazon Indigenous Rights and Resources (AIRR) project, which aimed to empower and expand the leadership of Amazonian indigenous women by promoting their initiatives in governance, territory, health, food sovereignty, forests, climate, economy, culture and resilience in the face of the pandemic.

"The FIMA Fund prioritized inspirational mothers, sisters, daughters, heads of households, producers and businesswomen who wanted to take their community initiatives to the next level and who will promote new ideas to improve the quality of life for themselves, their families and their community," said Cinthia Mongylardi, AIRR's national project coordinator.

Five indigenous women representing the Shipibo Konibo, Asháninka, Yine and Matsigenka peoples from the regions of Ucayali, Junín and Cusco were the winners of a public contest. Each representative obtained a fund of up to S/ 18,000 (eighteen thousand soles) to carry out their work plan.

"In the development of this initiative, in addition to financial support, it was identified that, as with any process, there was a need to improve the technical and administrative-financial capacities of the winners. This made FIMA a great challenge for the winners and for AIDESEP, an organization that learned a great deal from managing a fund of this magnitude". This is one of the lessons learned that Ana María Pinedo, specialist in community forestry management with an intercultural approach at WWF Peru, highlights the most.

After more than a year of work, the results are encouraging: at least 100 people in 9 communities have benefited. In Junín, a work and cooperation network of 45 women was formed to benefit food security through the sacha inchi resource. In Ucayali and Cusco, family bio-gardens were implemented for the food and economic sovereignty of families in the communities, by planting their food and selling or exchanging it with neighboring communities.

Also in Ucayali and Junín, ancestral knowledge of the use of incense was passed on to young indigenous people and they were able to set up Health Committees in indigenous communities. In addition, handicrafts were made and sold at local craft fairs, generating income for their households.

Five inspiring women made an impact on youth, children and other women in the community and transformed the lives of their communities. By their example, they will leave a mark on the lives of their families and those around them. They are women protagonists of change, knowledge and their heritage.