Throughout the Amazon, indigenous women play a key role in environmental management; from women with authority who lead their communities in protest against illegal mining, to indigenous women who fight against governments to protect their lands, and forest warrior women who enforce protection laws and prevent loggers and other illegal perpetrators from entering their territories.
But despite their pivotal role, women are often marginalized from decision-making processes within their own communities. While it is true that there are examples of relevant indigenous female leadership, there is still a large gender gap in general, where participation and decision-making at all levels in traditional societies present men, especially the elderly, as authority and leaders.
Within the agenda of the project Our Future Forests- Green Amazon, led by Conservation International and funded by the government of France, the issue of gender equality in indigenous peoples and local communities is a key piece within a perspective of the protection of Amazonian forests in the short and long term.
That is why this project includes a Promotion Program for Indigenous Women of the Amazon leaders in environmental solutions as a key opportunity to directly support such leadership through a dedicated fund aimed at positioning Indigenous peoples and local communities as key actors in the fight against climate change. , recognizing its vital role within the Amazon Biome.
Meet the fellows from suriname
The fellows from the Indigenous Women Fellowship program signed their final contract and will start with their projects. Sharmaine Artist and Marijane Makadepuung are the two indigenous women who have been chosen in Suriname under the Fellowship Program of the Our Future Forests - Amazonia Verde project to carry out their projects for a period of one year. Through the project, Our Future Forests - Amazonia Verde, CI-S, with the support of the French government and the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), is taking a major step towards gender equality work as a strategic perspective within amazon nature conservation.
Marijane Makadepuung raises awareness in Tepu about a clean environment
Marijane Makadepuung is very passionate when she talks about her waste management program in Tepu. It is part of the Indigenous Women Fellowship Program that is being carried out within the Our Future Forests - Amazonia Verde project. The aim of the program is to encourage leadership and promote initiatives led by indigenous women that contribute to their recognition as forest keepers, protectors, and restorers of the Amazon. Tepu is one of the indigenous villages within the trio community in the south of Suriname.
Marijane is 32 years old and the mother of two children. With her project, she wants to help not only Tepu but also other indigenous villages to have a clean environment. “Many indigenous villages do not know what to do with a large amount of waste. I try to make them aware of how to deal with that,” says Marijane. She clarifies that plastic, diapers, and batteries were previously not used in the villages. It is therefore important that the people in the villages learn to deal with this now.
“A lot of people don't like the job very much, because it's cleaning up garbage and they think it's dirty, but it has to be done. A clean environment is important to be healthy.”
Not being dependent
With her project, she also tries to show women in the villages that they can do much more if they want to. “Sometimes they think they can only bake cassava bread and go to agricultural plots, but they can also weave hammocks, for example, and make jewelry from beads. Activities that also bring in some money because life is expensive. Moreover, they do not have to depend only on their husbands”, Marijane reasons.
She also provides information to young people at the school in Tepu. “I do that once a month and then we clean the site together. The young people are also interested in participating in the cleaning, but they want to earn something from the activity because everything is expensive.”
Marijane has also given information sessions to the people in the village of Sipaliwini. “I do my best, but I also keep in mind that people don't change quickly.”
Marijane Makadepuung went on an excursion trip to Paramaribo and visited Ornamibo, Suriname’s largest dump. She also visited a company that does recycling. Her project will benefit from this step.
Marijane worked on a Waste Management manual and purchased field materials in order to keep her village Tepu clean. The supporting organization, ACT-S, helped with the purchase of these materials and CI-S helped with the transportation to Tepu. During the church conference which took place from September 23rd –29th, different traditional leaders and communities of the Trio and Wayana villages from South Suriname were present as well as communities of 10 villages from Brazil. Marijane used this opportunity to show the indigenous communities of South Suriname why waste management is important.
Marijane and her team managed to keep the village clean and dispose of all the waste that was created during the church conference. She also continued writing the waste management manual and is preparing uniforms with the waste management logo at ARDAK for the fieldworkers.
Marijane delivered the excursion report and she is working on the completion of her waste management manual and she continues preparing the uniforms with the waste management logo for the fieldworkers. Furthermore, she completed the Gender and Prevention of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment in Conservation (PSEAH) online courses provided by OFF-AV.
Sharmaine Artist helps reduce the impact of climate change through agricultural initiatives.
Sharmaine Artist is an entrepreneur and never sits still. With her 'bio-hydroponic farming' project, she tries to get women in the village of Powakka, where her roots lie, and other surrounding villages to participate in this agricultural system that is new to them. This initiative is part of the Indigenous Women Fellowship Program that is being implemented within the Our Future Forests - Amazonia Verde project. The aim of the program is to encourage leadership and promote initiatives led by indigenous women that contribute to their recognition as forest keepers, protectors, and restorers of the Amazon.
Sharmaine is 31 years old and lives in Paramaribo. She explains what 'bio-hydroponic farming' is exactly. “That is growing crops in greenhouses via the hydroponic system, where nutrients reach the plant via water instead of via the ground. The nutrients are from with biofertilizers and have no chemicals." It is a system that is new to the village of Powakka and the surrounding villages, but it is widely used in large parts of the country. Powakka lies in the village of Para.
Response to climate change
“This system is intended to provide a response to the challenges experienced because of climate change. By growing crops in this way, the harvest is much less dependent on climatic influences.” Sharmaine explains that the farmers have to pay attention to the quality of the water and the addition of nutrients to the water. Some women from the village and other surrounding villages have already paid a field visit to a hydroponics company to see how cultivation can be done in cabinets. They will receive additional training on how to use the system.
“The women have already been trained in ‘personal development and ‘leadership’ so that they also start thinking more in terms of entrepreneurship in order to support themselves. When they implement this system, they are less dependent on their partner and also less dependent on the weather,” says Sharmaine.
She came up with this idea because she has often noticed how the indigenous people in that area did not have a successful harvest due to flooding. With her participation in the fellowship program, she wants to give back to the village of Powakka. “I got the chance to study and was able to develop myself. Not everyone in the village and other villages can do that. This is how I give back to the village and the people who helped shape me.”
Sharmaine Artist carried out her first series of training and was very pleased with the ladies who participated. She is currently preparing her 2nd training session that will focus on teaching the women professional skills.
Participants were selected from the villages Casipora, Pierrekondre, and Powakka. They were selected based on their gender(female) and their will to participate in this project for one year. 18 female participants completed training sessions. The chairperson of the Whe-Khalwawetjie foundation handed over the certificates to the participants.
Sharmaine was searching for a suitable location to set up the hydroponic system. Her goal is to put up a ‘Bio-hydroponic farming’ system for women in de village of Powakka en if possible more villages.
Sharmaine found a suitable location in her village (Powaka) to set up the Bio-hydroponic system. Currently, she is facing the challenge of setting up the Bioreactor which will have to produce biogas and biofertilizer. She completed the Gender and Prevention of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment in Conservation (PSEAH) online courses provided by OFF-AV.
Indigenous Women Fellowship 2nd Edition
Motivating and supporting indigenous women leaders to thrive in the way they deem culturally appropriate and aligned with their vision of the future is critical to ensuring the conservation of amazon forests and the protection of one of the earth's key ecosystems.