Indigenous Women in Guyana Commit to Protecting their Lands from Destructive Mining, Deforestation

At the end of an indigenous women’s empowerment conference in the Parikwarnau Village in Guyana from April 4-5, 2022, delegates pledged to take action and demanded the same from the government of Guyana.

The eighty-six women attending the conference committed to advocating for legal recognition of traditional Wapichan lands, continuing to sustainably care for those lands, protecting waters and forests from the effects of mining, combating climate change, and addressing pressing social issues. These commitments and demands were set out in a Call to Action by the female protectors of the Wapichan Wiizi.

The conference was hosted by the women’s arm of the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) (and Global Justice Clinic partner), the Wapichan Women’s Movement (WWM). Led by Immaculata Casimero and Faye Fredericks, key topics at the conference included indigenous women’s protections under international law, particularly CEDAW, and their role in the fight for climate justice. For example, indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to the food insecurity that has resulted from climate change, as the family’s primary food providers. Women learned together about concepts like “nature-based solutions”—the idea that focusing on protecting nature and biodiversity through sustainable actions like allowing forests to regrow is a way of combating climate change. “Indigenous peoples are the original inventors of ‘nature-based solutions,’” Immaculata Casimero said at the end of the conference. “To combat deforestation, we have captured aerial images of impacted areas and plan to use them in advocacy efforts.”

Casimero and Fredericks reported feeling a palpable shift in the room after the conference; they are confident that indigenous women felt empowered by this experience and will return to their communities and share their knowledge with others. The women’s plans are captured by the concrete commitments and demands listed in the Call to Action, which the SRDC posted on Facebook.

This post was originally published on April 18, 2022.