Credits Photo: UNDP Mexico
Published on November 6, 2020

Indigenous Women, our allies in the crisis

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Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Mexico

As countries around the world suffer the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic , we have begun to reflect on our most basic needs and the things we truly appreciate. In these uncertain times it has helped many of us rekindle our appreciation for something that we often take for granted, and something that many lack: food. And it is that after the pandemic we will have increasingly great challenges to feed a growing and changing population with alarming numbers of poverty and malnutrition.

Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean could affect almost 67 million people in 2030. We need extraordinary responses from the entire population, especially from governments, the private sector, civil society and organizations. It is time to turn to see the example and good practices of the indigenous communities and peoples who, with their ancient knowledge in healing, traditional food, food production and food security, have survived and inherited their knowledge.

Giving special attention and establishing measures for these groups could be very significant to mitigate the consequences of this crisis in which each and every allies will be and will have essential relevance. It is time to activate territorial development strategies in which women and men have equitable access and control of resources and benefits for the achievement of an egalitarian rural society, guaranteeing the right to food, education, health and decent employment.

Indigenous women's participation is critical to recovery. Their contribution of ancestral knowledge is and will be part of the reconstruction of more sustainable, robust and resilient agri-food systems to shocks. His worldview and leadership in the conservation of biodiversity is part of the new idea of ​​rethinking our society.

Their situation is particularly serious, the hourly earnings of indigenous women are less than a third of those received by non-indigenous and non-Afro-descendant men with the same educational level ( ECLAC, 2020 ). In addition, 64.7% of indigenous women aged 12 years and over, carry out activities for which no remuneration is received, tasks focused on household activities, care of children and the elderly ( INEGI, 2015 ).

By the end of 2018, only 3% of agricultural laborers had a written contract, which generates a lack of clarity about wages, temporary work and unemployment; the irregular hiring system exposes the working population to job insecurity. Coneval reported in that same year that 75% of that work modality received up to $ 176.72 pesos per day, while the rest did not charge more than $ 88.36 pesos per day. And only 12.9% of agricultural laborers had access to social security, the vast majority of them indigenous population. Therefore, it is necessary to promote and promote the professional minimum wage for agricultural laborers.

The current government asked the United Nations to collaborate in the effort to reduce the social gaps that women have experienced and that have caused inequalities of opportunities in the labor sector, social security and the unequal burden in the area of ​​care. The Interagency project "Closing gaps: Extending Social Protection for Women" is currently underway with the financing of the Joint Fund for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in which we are promoting public policy strategies, to prevent this health crisis from becoming a food crisis.

The role of indigenous women is vital to guarantee the sovereignty and food security of the planet; their work preserves seeds and techniques that encourage the production of higher quality food. It is time to give recognition to the organizational processes that indigenous women contribute to create environments of solidarity in communities and outside of them, the protection of territories and cultural heritage, as well as the need to expand spaces for participation and decision making.

Indigenous women, firm in their demand for social justice, gender equity and respect for the rights and livelihoods of their peoples and communities.


Originally published in Spanish on El Universal