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    "Walking with steady steps"

    Following is a synthesis of resolutions from recent meetings which have been organized by and for Indigenous women. We have come together to share experiences and solidarity, and to strengthen our organizational process.

    First International Encounter of South and Central American Indian Women

    Lima, Peru, March 25-27, 1991

    Our goals are:

    1. To promote and develop consciousness and awareness among women of different Indian communities, and to strengthen and complement our brothers within Indigenous organizations, with the goal of achieving the well-being of our people; to assert Indigenous women's rights so we can contribute to strengthening and supporting economic, social, political, and cultural growth within our communities; to promote the participation of our families and communities in the struggle for the rights of our people.

    2. To promote women's organizing within our communities, so we can bring and exchange cultural and organizing experiences with Indigenous and popular organizations in order to strengthen the women's organizations at the community level; and to establish a system of communications among Indian organizations so that we can develop a network of solidarity at the national and international level.

    3. To assert our identity as Indian people, by rescuing and protecting our cultural and ancestral heritage; to promote and struggle for the implementation of bilingual and inter-cultural education in each country, so that our cultural identity will be strengthened. This must include teaching our traditional heritage: crafts, history, music, traditional medicine, and ways of life; literacy must be taught in our languages, according to our culture and ways of life.

    4. To demand legalization of our lands and to preserve our territories and to reaffirm our right to self-determination.

    Plan of Action

    In order to achieve our goals, we plan to promote meetings among the women of our organizations, discuss viable ways to work for the solutions to our problems, and to disseminate in our communities the resolutions of every meeting that we attend. We will support the participation of community organizers in forums, conferences, and workshops to promote the development of critical thinking, so they can share these experiences with their people.

    Teaching materials for bilingual education will be developed, taking into account the reality of the different Indian peoples, and training will be provided for Indian women in different professional areas, such as health, education, mass media, crafts, agriculture, etc. We will produce and disseminate informational materials to document the activities of each organization and will establish community libraries so our people can be informed. We aim to achieve the participation of the family in the work of strengthening the community organizations. 

    We will work to protect our traditional territories.

    An Analysis of Women's Organizing

    Indian women play a fundamental role in the struggle for our cultural rights and in the decision making processes, but many times our work is not acknowledged, and we are ignored even by other women in our organizations. We Indian women feel that we have the capacity to be chosen for positions of responsibility in the political, economic, social, and cultural areas of the different countries.

    The protagonist role that we used to have in our communities has been hampered by evidences of the influence of machismo in our ways of thinking, and we Indigenous women suffer physical and psychological abuse both within and outside our homes. The laws of our countries do not recognize the rights of Indian women and children.

    Throughout time, from the Spanish Invasion to the present, we Indian women have demonstrated that we can organize ourselves and develop our own ways of working for our communities. This is why it is necessary to have an organization at the regional level that can bring together the Indian people of Central and South America.

    In some Indian organizations, the women do not have significant participation; we do not have the opportunity to maintain communications with other organizations, and we feel isolated from other organizations which might have positive experiences of structural and practical participation. Meetings of Indian women are very useful, because we can exchange ideas and experiences from our different communities.

    Even if we are forced to migrate to the cities, in some cases we can take advantage of this situation to work for the rights of our people and strengthen our cultural identity in a strange environment. We can be useful to our people whether from within or from outside our communities.


    1. We demand the governments of each country acknowledge our existence as Indigenous people with territorial, social, cultural, and political rights. We demand respect and acknowledgment for our cultural expressions: language, dance, music, etc.

    2. We condemn the commercialization of Indigenous women through activities such as sterilization programs, and our exploitation as cheap labor by capitalist countries, and the theft and commercialization of our children and young people. We condemn the pillage and theft of natural resources that is taking place in our communities. We women are witness to the sufferings that this brings to our families.

    3. At the present time, we view as our priority the need to work at the grassroots level, to develop, promote, and support the organization of Indigenous women, and the participation in the decision making process at the community and organizational level, We ratify the goal of working at the local and national level to assure that this process will lead to a truly representative and participative organisation of South and Central American Indian women. And we ratify our decision to participate in the process that will lead to the development of an International Council of Indigenous Women, according to our own initiatives and resolutions.

    Contact Alicia Canaviri, CDIMA or Yolanda Hernandez

    Source: Aldrete, Wara, Gina Pacaldo, Xihuanel Huerta, and Lucilene Whitesell, eds. Daughters of Abya Yala: Native Women Regaining Control Summertown: Book Publishing Company, 1992. p.32-37.

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