By IFAD Reporters: Mattia, Antonella, Silvia, Judith, Soma and Luisa
Over 130 pastoral women from 27 countries are gathered together in the gujerati village of Mera to discuss the challenges they face - and how they can become forces for change. MARAG leaders had the vision to organize the gathering in a genuine Indian pastoral setting, where pastoralists have lived for several generations. After the event the mobile and permanent huts and buildings built specially for the Gathering will be used as a research and cultural centre for the maldhari (pastoral) communities themselves, where MARAG and their wide network of volunteers can preserve and encourage the continuation of pastoralism as a unique and valuable way of life.
The commitment and mobilization of the communities here is palpable – opening speeches overflow with emotion and their efforts make this a unique event. Mattia Prayer Galletti highlighted the importance of pastoralist women’s knowledge, which is needed by the world, while Carlo Petrini from Slow Food/Terra Madre, who was determined from the start to be present at the event, said that he was overwhelmed by the energy and the sense of community of this event, which would remain in his heart for a long time. Many are volunteers, from the exhausted international interpreters, furiously connecting participants in heated discussions in 12 languages, to the freelance photographer, the artist and facilitators - but most especially the pastoral men and women themselves, who spontaneously contributed more than 300 beds and blankets, and the elder women, who decorated the traditional huts to welcome their fellow pastoralists.
The world gathering of women pastoralists, sponsored by IFAD, will last till 26 November. We will keep you informed on the issues emerging from the reach discussions and thematic working groups.