A path of empowerment and growth for indigenous organizations

By Yohanis Amador, Coordinator of AYNI
AYNI is one IIW’s flagship initiatives. This fund is the only  one administered by and for indigenous women. AYNI is a  Quechua term that means reciprocity, solidarity and collaboration.

Since 2011, the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF) is administering the Latin America and the Caribbean chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF). These three years of hard work have meant to us and to our partner organizations a path of empowerment and growth.

The IPAF, which had already been launched by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in 2007, aims to support small projects that promote development respecting the culture and identity of indigenous communities, in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

These projects developed by us indigenous peoples and our organizations seek to improve our food security, strengthen our cultural identity and create space for political and economic participation.

We always design these projects in such a way that they underscore our autonomy, are sustainable and can be scaled up. In that regard, the fact that the IPAF has been decentralized and is currently managed in the Americas by an indigenous organization has great symbolic and practical value. Symbolic because it fully recognises the indigenous peoples and our organizations capacity. Practical because nobody like the indigenous organizations can identify our priorities and needs.
Ms. Otilia Lux de Coti, IIWF Director

A key theme throughout our journey has been the sustainability of our projects. We have learnt through experience that this pretty much depends on the degree of community involvement. Again, this goes back to the issue of autonomy.

The autonomy of our peoples and organizations has had its share of sacrifices. However, this process has had positive results as it became evident in the recent Regional Meeting of IPAF-IFAD projects held from 27 to 29 October in Managua, Nicaragua. There, representatives of 10 projects1 met to exchange experiences, share  lessons and come up with strategies to overcome challenges.

Such strategies include cultural revitalization programmes – something that is  very important to strengthen the identity of indigenous peoples and organizations.

The representatives of the Interdisciplinary Program of Integrated Development of Bolivia told us how ancestral knowledge and practices have been the basis for developing  food security policy for present and future generations. The Mozote Indigenous People comrades explained how they promoted and kept alive their identity through food, music, dance and crafts.

Over the last years, indigenous women have gained opportunities for participation in their communities and organizations, as well as in the society in general.

The colleagues of Colombia’s Páez Fund highlighted the role of women as responsible for maintaining family life and underlined the importance for women to make themselves be heard to be respected. The representatives of the Community Inkawasi Awana Association of Peru explained how training has strengthened their knowledge of their rights as indigenous women. Delegates of the Community Development Association of Guatemala stressed the importance of active participation of indigenous women in the economic sphere, showing how their projects delivered significant social and economic advances for women. Today, many women have their own businesses, which enhances their individual and collective leadership.

Women of Mayagna indigenous people, Nicaragua
These are just some examples. Since IIWF took over the administration of the IPAF funds for Latin America, 12 grants have been awarded to 12 projects in 10 countries, for a total of US$ 467,000.

Our journey has not always been easy. We had to overcome many challenges and difficulties, such as the disbursing money to organizations in very isolated and remote areas or to organizations with little banking experience. And often changes in the territorial governments during project implementation added additional complexity to our work.

However, each and every one of these challenges has helped us grow as an organization. IIWF has expanded its experience and strengthened its position as a global network. Among other achievements, we have developed and implemented a monitoring and evaluation strategy adapted to the  demands and needs of indigenous peoples and organizations.

The workshop Managua is part of a much larger process. A process of dialogue, learning and sharing that will continue during the regional workshop in Paraguay on 18 and 19 December and at the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum which will be held in Rome in February 2015.

Throughout our journey, we had IFAD's support and commitment to the cause and wellbeing indigenous peoples. This has helped us to be able to participate in decision-making processes at national, regional and international levels. We still have a long way to go, but we are confident that we will continue strengthening our partnership with IFAD so that together we can boost our organisations and empower our people.

Participants in IIWF's Managua workshop

1 Participant projects: Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (Belize); Programa de Desarrollo Integral Interdisciplinario (Bolivia); Comunidad indígena Llaguipulli (Chile); Asociación kwe´s uma kiwe peykajn mjinxisa - Fondo Paez (Colombia); Asociación de Desarrollo Comunitario (Guatemala); Asamblea Mixe para el Desarrollo Sostenible A.C. (México); Gobierno Territorial Indígena Mayangna Sauni As (Nicaragua); Pueblo Indígena de Mozonte (Nicaragua); Asociación Comunal Inkawasi Awana (Perú); Vereniging van Inheemse Dorpshoofden in Suriname (Asociación de Líderes de Poblaciones Indígenas de Suriname).