The meeting of Indigenous women intends to “strengthen and engage leadership, especially of Indigenous women, so that from their own wisdom, culture and spirituality, they can contribute to the care of our common home and community relations.” Photo: CPAL
About 45 Indigenous women from Latin America ended their meeting in Andahuaylillas, Peru, with a powerful communique in which they vowed to continue fighting for their ancestral lands, their communities, and their rights as women.
Organized by the Network of Solidarity and Indigenous Apostolate of Latin America, an initiative of the Conference of Jesuit Provincials of Latin America (CPAL), the September 18 to 22 gathering was made possible by support received from Canadian Jesuits International (CJI).
Written in Spanish, the communique spoke eloquently about the role of Indigenous women as “women, mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, leaders who generate life and accompany the path of our communities.” It reflected on the elements of the earth —land, water, air, and fire — from women’s perspectives.
“We note the wealth we have in our lands abundant in corn, cassava, potatoes, quinoa, beans, chili,” said the communique. However, these lands “abundant in biodiversity and in flora and fauna” are being threatened by extractive transnational companies, it added. “We know we are the land watered with the blood of our martyrs whom we honour today. We are a rich and beautiful land that has been abused and mistreated. Now we have understood that defending our land is also defending our body, our being a woman.”
Indigenous women are like a sea of salt water “that purifies and heals, that regenerates and cleanses us from the machismo and patriarchy that have been imposed on us for centuries,” the communique noted.
They also likened themselves to “a gust of wind that doesn’t stop in its struggle for the defense of our rights as women, as daughters of these native peoples.” Indigenous women, said the communique, are “the breath of La Ruah (The Spirit) that brings new voices, new gifts of tenderness, compassion, care, beauty, resistance and endearment for all of us, so that no one is left behind and there is not one or two of us left behind.”
The participants recalled the sacred dances, which they began their daily meetings with, and noted how they made them feel “the energy of our ancestors.” This energy continues to “warm our hearts and our struggles,” for a homeland “liberated from discrimination, racism…patriarchy.”
They declared: “We are fire and, therefore, we end this encounter with the warmth of our enthusiasm and the love that burns in our hearts to continue giving life.”
“I am deeply inspired by this first gathering of Indigenous women from across Latin America. The courage with which they named their struggles and their oppression, and the strength of their resolve to defend their rights and reclaim their identity as women and Indigenous people, echoes the voices of Indigenous women everywhere, including those of Indigenous women in Canada,” said CJI Executive Director Jenny Cafiso. “They challenge us all to listen and support them and to begin a new journey based on respect of spiritual, economic and social rights.”
The meeting of Indigenous women, said organizers, was designed to “strengthen and engage leadership, especially of Indigenous women, so that from their own wisdom, culture and spirituality, they can contribute to the care of our common home and community relations.”