United Nations Project in Costa Rica Positions Leadership of Indigenous and Migrant Women

    The initiative resulted in an agenda for the defense of indigenous territories in the South Pacific and a Network of Migrant and Refugee Women

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    Strengthening the participation of women from groups in vulnerable situations and promoting peaceful coexistence in territories at risk of conflict, especially indigenous peoples, is the objective of one of the most recent projects developed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Costa Rica.

    As a result of this initiative, it was possible to consolidate an agenda that includes the female vision of the actions required for the effective defense of indigenous territories in the south of the country, as well as a Network of Migrant and Refugee Women in Los Chiles.

    According to Paula Antezana, UNFPA Office Chief in Costa Rica, the purpose of the first initiative was to strengthen indigenous women’s networks to promote dialogue that allows them to protect their rights, promote peace and security at the local level.

    This agenda was built by a group of indigenous women leaders from the territories of Cabagra, Salitre, Térraba and China Kichá, in the South Pacific of Costa Rica and seeks greater visibility and participation in their role as defenders of the territories, with a view to economic, social and cultural recovery of the same.

    Instrument of consultation

    In addition, it constitutes an instrument of consultation for authorities and public officials of various institutions, responsible for ensuring compliance with the human rights of indigenous women, through institutional actions and public policies.

    Amplifying the voice of women

    “We present the results of a project aimed at amplifying the voice of women who historically and structurally have not been listened to and who have faced inequalities and violations that affect their human rights on a daily basis,” said Antezana.
    He indicated that they have supported them to find spaces where to agree, from which they have discovered the importance of working together, not only to strengthen themselves, but to generate strategies that allow them to dialogue and be heard.

    Search for peace in any conflict situation

    From this point of view, the UNFPA is clear that the search for peace in any conflict situation must take a gender perspective, since in reality the balance will not be found if there is a situation of violence against women; and in contexts where their conditions are often invisible, it is vital to provide them with such spaces.

    And precisely, in the south of the country, these indigenous women are reclaimers of territories and have been exposed to situations of violence throughout their lives, which has generated physical and emotional exhaustion, something that has affected their health and social fabric.

    The agenda developed (which is collected in a printed document) has a series of axes where women propose priority actions in terms of territorial and environmental, social and cultural, economic and food sovereignty rights, political participation, as well as approaches to living free from violence. Everything from an experiential methodology.

    Refugee women

    In the case of Los Chiles, UNFPA worked with a group made up of ten female leaders of the canton, who are migrants or in refugee situations. “It is a heterogeneous group, but with common needs and demands, such as having better options to develop and contribute to their communities. It was very interesting to see how they organized to come up with their action plan, ”said Evelyn Durán, UNFPA Reproductive Health Analyst.

    With this initiative, one of the main achievements was the formation of the Network of Migrant Women, Refugees and Refugee Seekers in Los Chiles, which worked on an action plan that establishes the goals to work in matters of entrepreneurship, sexual and reproductive health, prevention of violence, xenophobia and discrimination, prevention of improper unions and access to justice.

    It was also possible to access a space in the meetings and actions of the Cantonal Network for the Prevention of Violence of Los Chiles, which will allow them to advocate for their requests.

    Voices from the inside

    Roxana Figueroa, defender of the Crün Shurín indigenous territory, Térraba. “We are in constant danger, they have motorcycles and cars, and they have even thrown us on several occasions; even my mom won’t let us walk alone, even if it’s with my sister because we’re women”.

    “I have always liked handicrafts, for once we make the recoveries of the territories, we could no longer go out to work, then the handicrafts, especially jewelry based on seeds and natural things, that helped us a little in our economy”.

    “My dream is that we are all living as brothers within the territory, that I do not feel more than that person, because from the beginning we are the same. My dream is that my son is happy and that he values the effort that we are making today, and that our colleagues from Salitre”, she said.

    Virginia Lezcano Ortís, defender of the Crün Shurín indigenous territory, Térraba: “I always say that we have never endured hunger, but we have received a lot of violence from non-indigenous people. There comes a time when one becomes immune, there comes a time when one no longer cares about that violence”.

    “My dream is that they give us the farm, knowing that no Sikua is going to come to disturb us, to break our peace. The ideal would be that all the territories are ours, of us the natives, that there is no usurper”.

    Mariana Delgado, defender of the Salitre indigenous territory: “That is our everyday living (fear), we here one day that we wake up is one more day of life, because we are already threatened”.

    “My dream is that we will regenerate the forests and that one day we will live with the medicines we need, with the plants that have already been lost and are no longer found. My dream is life, simply. Because one without territory, without an area where one feels good, is not life. So it’s death, that’s why we have a motto: ‘Territory or death’”.

    Doris Ríos, defender of the Chinese Kichá indigenous territory: “Have peace when you know that they are organizing and come to attack, when a court gives a resolution of an eviction, and the judge says that the cows have more right to graze than that family to sow, to ensure their food for their family, that steals the peace”

    “How do I get my peace back? The spiritual is important, do not fall there. My dream is to move more freely through these territories, to have a place to build a house, where to plant, without fear, without anyone coming to attack you or to kick you out. See the China Kichá indigenous territory in the hands of the indigenous population,” concludes the leader.

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