cultural survivalThere are about 476 million Indigenous people in the world, just over 6% of the global population. Also known as First Peoples and Tribal Peoples, they are present on every continent except Antarctica. Indigenous people belong to about 5,000 distinct groups. Though the term “Indigenous” is not an exact science, it generally refers to groups of people who originally inhabited an area prior to colonial influence. Despite colonialism, they have achieved varying degrees of cultural survival by preserving the use of their languages, ancestral traditions and ways of knowing. Organizations like Cultural Survival also support this preservation.

Cultural Survival was founded in 1972. Its work now follows the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), adopted in 2007. Based in Massachusetts, this organization aims to streamline social justice efforts by connecting Indigenous people’s needs to resources. Indigenous people often have a hard time accessing resources due to isolation, linguistic barriers or lack of political representation. Here are five ways that Cultural Survival empowers Indigenous people.

5 Key Ways Cultural Survival Empowers Indigenous People

  1. Advocacy: When it comes to advocacy, Cultural Survival responds to real needs expressed by a particular community. According to the UNDRIP, “States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for … Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources.” An example of such dispossession might include state-sanctioned projects involving mining or deforestation, which threaten a community’s land. In these instances, the Indigenous community on its own may not have direct access to policymakers. Cultural Survival, on the other hand, has had the privilege of consultative status with the United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOC) for the past 15 years. It also has offices in North, Central and South America, as well as South Africa and Nepal. This wide reach provides quicker access to resources that can more effectively enforce the UNDRIP.
  2. Grants for community development: Cultural Survival also makes grants accessible for development-focused programs. These programs may relate to environmental justice, female empowerment, language preservation, Indigenous representation in policymaking and more. The Keepers of the Earth Fund makes these grants available in amounts between $500 and $5,000. In March 2020, the Keepers of the Earth Fund went exclusively toward the COVID-19 response in Indigenous communities. So far, it has been able to provide direct aid amounting to more than $81,000. This has reached Indigenous communities in 16 countries.
  3. Fair trade partnerships: Cultural Survival connects Indigenous artisans and creators directly to consumers through their annual “bazaars.” These bazaars showcase Indigenous music, jewelry, household items, art and other products. Usually, New England hosts the events. However, in 2020, Cultural Survival opted for a “virtual bazaar” to keep people safe from COVID-19. This allowed it to connect Indigenous makers to a wide audience of consumers.
  4. Media: Additionally, Cultural Survival publishes a magazine called Cultural Survival Quarterly (CSQ). This publication brings matters of concern of Indigenous communities to the attention of the public. The organization also nurtures expertise in radio journalism and broadcasting by connecting young Indigenous people with conferences. By training them, the organization prepares Indigenous youth with the skills they need for a career in media and advocacy. In particular, the Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Project offers fellowships up to $2,500 for young people to learn about broadcast journalism. The Community Media Grants Project also makes funding available to bolster already-existing community radio projects. These projects benefit communities all over Latin America, East Africa, South Africa and South Asia
  5. Community Radio: Cultural Survival’s funding for COVID-19 includes community radio. This has recently made a difference in Indigenous communities of Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador and others. These programs are vital not only for language preservation but also to ensure that correct information about the pandemic reaches Indigenous communities. This is important, as these communities may not be proficient in the country’s official language or may have limited broadband connection. To complicate matters, Indigenous community radio has been outlawed in several places. In Guatemala, for example, the government claims there are not enough frequencies to accommodate Indigenous radio stations. Cultural Survival continues to fight to support community radio programs and policy changes in Guatemala. Importantly, it also offers legal representation to individuals when necessary. Indigenous leaders have officially requested that a law, Bill 4087, legalize an Indigenous-language radio station for each municipality. Cultural Survival continues to support this effort.

The Future of Cultural Survival

Cultural Survival requires continuous support to maintain its mission to defend the UNDRIP. Although every Indigenous group possesses the right to be both autonomous and involved in state affairs that affect them, political leaders do not always observe these rights. Cultural Survival is one-of-a-kind in its commitment to defending Indigenous ways of life. With support, it can continue to use its global reach to fast-track solutions to the unique needs of Indigenous people around the world.

Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health Services In IndiaThe vicious cycle of poverty and mental illness is a problem worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, mental illness is twice as prevalent among the poor than among the rich. Not only does mental illness put someone more at risk for poverty, but the insecurity of day to day life in poverty can also exacerbate mental health concerns. Indigenous communities, routinely separated from their land, traditions and support networks by discriminatory government policies, struggle with both poverty and mental health concerns at particularly high rates, according to the United Nations.

Mental Health Services In India: A Holistic Model for Indigenous Communities

One way of addressing the cycle of poverty and mental health concerns in indigenous communities is a holistic model that draws both from community traditions as well as biomedical and psychological care paradigms. Such an approach is most effective when it treats the community members as experts on their own needs.

Hailey Shapiro ‘22, a Cornell student, spent a semester abroad in Kotagari, India, learning about public health. While she had to leave India early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she completed her literature review about holistic mental healthcare for indigenous communities in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve region of Southern India from her home in California. Shapiro spoke to The Borgen Project about her research on the mental health and well-being issues faced by the indigenous Adivasi people in India, as well as the strengths and limitations of different strategies developed to address these issues.

“Learning from local scholars and community members was vital research. Programs to support community wellness are never a one-size-fits all, because all communities have unique resources and challenges,” Shapiro said.

The Link Between Communal Traditions and Well-Being

Adivasi communities in India have long faced disruptions to traditional ways of life. The British colonial government rarely recognized their communal land ownership traditions, which were central to traditional practices of hunting, gathering and practicing shifting cultivation. The Indian government has designated many of the forests they traditionally hunted, gathered and farmed as protected land, which means the Adivasi are still barred from using the land to feed themselves. Most Adivasi now work as day laborers for agricultural plantations and government construction programs.

Community cohesion that provided essential social support for psychological well-being in earlier times has grown weaker as the Adivasi no longer hunt or farm together as frequently and are displaced from their land. The widespread land loss not only prevents the Adivasi from supporting themselves in traditional ways, but it also causes many youths to leave the community in order to find work and has exacerbated the issues of food insecurity and poverty.

These disruptions to community support systems have caused or exacerbated stress for many community members. However, India’s main mental health program, the District Mental Health Policy, does not collaborate with non-clinical agencies to address psycho-social factors.

Community Outreach, Mental Health Services in India and Medicalization

While psychiatric medications have been found to be an effective strategy to assist those struggling with mental health concerns, The Keystone Foundation recognizes that a holistic approach can make psychiatric strategies more effective. The Keystone Foundation trains community health workers to assist with the delivery of mental health services; the organization also works with the family and friends of patients to help patients adhere to medications.

Another organization providing mental health services in India within the context of the community it serves is The Banyan, a mental healthcare nonprofit. The Banyan started as a homeless shelter and became a mental health service provider that focuses on the needs of mentally ill women in Chennai, India. The Banyan uses a variety of strategies including in-patient and outpatient care as well as community outreach and aid to those coping with both mental health struggles and poverty. Through frequent surveys, they identified that their clients wanted to stay in their homes and that facilitating work opportunities and providing healthcare in more remote areas could help make that goal possible.

According to Shapiro’s literature review, learning from the example of The Keystone Foundation, The Banyan and other providers of holistic care could lead to better mental healthcare outcomes for indigenous communities and other marginalized groups.

“We need a holistic approach to community mental health that responds to communities’ unique challenges using communities’ unique resources,” said Shapiro. “According to my research, we can learn what factors are most important to address by incorporating communities’ voices into the intervention decision-making process.”

– Tamara Kamis
Photo: Flickr

Modernization has been pushing Latin American indigenous communities into progressively smaller bubbles. This causes many to lose important aspects of their cultures, such as language and tradition. On this same note, many international governments only provide federal funding to indigenous communities if they follow specific guidelines. This statute has made the preservation of indigenous cultures increasingly more difficult as the years pass. For these reasons, indigenous storytelling in Latin America and control of their own narrative is crucial to preserving culture.

Modern Indigenous Struggles

Many indigenous communities are struggling to balance modernization with the preservation of their rich cultural histories. Although the numbers have been improving, indigenous communities in Latin America are still very vulnerable and experience higher rates of poverty than their non-indigenous peers. This has raised the question of what can help fix this problem.

Storytelling as a Possible Solution

Many people want to learn about indigenous communities in Latin America. For this to happen ethically and accurately, indigenous peoples must have an administrative role in the production of any film depicting their culture. This was an important realization that was introduced to the National Film Board in 1968 by the Company of Young Canadians and the National Film Board’s Challenge for Change program. This partnership elevates the voices of marginalized peoples, allowing them to control their narratives.

A New Indigenous Storytelling Platform

August 9th is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and to commemorate the occasion this year, the People’s Planet Program launched a new program called “Tribal Stories.” This platform amplifies the pieces created by indigenous filmmakers in the A’i Cofan community of Ecuador and the Kīsêdjê community of Brazil.

Initially, the founder of the People’s Planet Program, Abdel Mandili, was interviewing indigenous community members to produce his documentaries. Still, he quickly realized the importance of allowing these communities to control their narrative. He then transformed the People’s Planet Program into a nonprofit organization. The organization focuses on providing indigenous communities with the tools to document their story and a platform to promote it.

The People’s Planet Program engages in educational workshops and provides film equipment to these communities. This allows for indigenous communities to practice self-advocacy. For example, many indigenous communities find themselves on the front lines of deforestation, land grabbing and pollution. Indigenous peoples have pivotal insights that many other communities are not aware of. For this reason, indigenous storytelling in Latin America can enlighten parts of the world that are unaware of the many driving forces behind climate change, deforestation and general inequality.

Additionally, the People’s Planet Program helps connect indigenous communities with political activists and legal counsel. These resources can aid them in their fight for equal representation and land rights.

In Conclusion

When engaging in international advocacy, it can be relatively easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your actions always reflect your intentions. While that often is true, a crucial aspect of international advocacy is taking a step back and allowing marginalized groups to speak for themselves. An important part of advocacy is providing people with the tools to better their communities on their own terms, such as allowing indigenous communities to control the storytelling in Latin America.

– Danielle Forrey
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Poverty in Ecuador
Ecuador is a country located in Western South America and lies between Colombia and Peru. The country has struggled with political instability and experienced economic crises throughout its history. In 2017, an estimate of 21.5% of the population still lived below the poverty line. However, recent economic growth does leave a glimmer of hope for the alleviation of poverty in Ecuador. Here are five facts about poverty in Ecuador.

5 Facts About Poverty in Ecuador

  1. The incidence of poverty is higher in indigenous populations. As ethnic minorities and indigenous populations mainly work and live in the rural sector, they are the ones who poverty and income inequality mostly affects. There are approximately 1.1 million indigenous people in Ecuador. When looking at Ecuador’s geographical breakdown — 24.1% reside in the Amazon, 7.3% in the Southern Mountains, 8.3% in the Coastal region and on the Galapagos Islands and 60.3% reside in the Central-North Mountains’ six provinces. Among the population in the Central-North Mountains region, 87.5% continue to reside in the rural areas. According to the data from 2007 by ENEMDU, Ecuadorians experienced an ethnic wage gap of a staggering 44.9%. Those who work in the agricultural sector also have the lowest financial return — earning 30% less in their hourly wages than those who work in the informal sector.
  2. The government has made efforts to resolve economic issues and alleviate poverty. During the economic instability of 1999–2000, the government created multiple reforms to resolve these issues. For example, it established the U.S. dollar as a legal currency in 2001. This eventually stimulated change and brought stability to the economy. The government also developed national programs to alleviate issues surrounding poverty and further increased funding. Additionally, it facilitated access to quality education and healthcare by arranging cash transfer programs that mandated Ecuadorians educate their children and provide them with regular medical care if they wanted to participate in the program.
  3. The value of oil causes fluctuations in Ecuador’s economic stability. As oil is one of Ecuador’s main exports, it reveals how dependent Ecuador’s economy is on the availability and value of these natural resources. The oil boom of the early 2000s gave the government incentive to expand poverty alleviating programs, raise the minimum wage and increase social security benefits. However, as the price of oil began to deteriorate in 2014,  poverty rates in Ecuador surged once again and led to an economic recession in 2016. The GDP (gross domestic product) growth in annual percentage plummeted from 7.87% in 2011 to -1.23% in 2016.
  4. Ecuador has been experiencing relative economic growth in recent years. Beginning in 2016, the GDP growth in the annual percentage rose to 2.37% in 2017 and remained in the positive margins at 0.05% in 2019. Another perspective is that the GDP per capita rose from $6,100 in 2016 to $6,200 in 2019. Furthermore, the GNI (gross national income) per capita calculated using the Atlas method, rose from $5,800 in 2016 to $6,100 in 2019. With these numerical facts about poverty in Ecuador, the situation appears to be moving in a positive direction.
  5. FEVI Ecuador is an NGO group that is working to alleviate poverty in Ecuador. FEVI Ecuador is a locally managed NGO (non-governmental organization) committed to building up intercultural education and social development projects that assist native communities. The organization is an accredited, full member of the UNESCO Coordinating Committee for International Volunteer Service, Mesa de Voluntariado and even received the appointment as the Latin American representative for CCIVS organizations in Latin America. Some examples of the various projects that the NGO partakes in – the organization has established a child care center, various schools, a health center and an elderly people center. At the “Muñequitos¨ FEVI Child Care Center in Lumbisi, the volunteers help the teachers and mothers in caring, educating and entertaining the 60 preschoolers in the community. This community of course comprises of the indigenous population. The volunteers also help at “El Comedor,” or the dining hall, by preparing food and providing activities for the elderly. Furthermore, FEVI Ecuador established a community health center for low-income populations in Cumbaya — where volunteers assist the medical professionals who are serving the native community. Finally, FEVI Ecuador volunteers work at the elementary school in the Cotacachi and Tonsupa communities with 160 students at each school, respectively.

A Positive Outlook

Despite the economic challenges that Ecuadorians faced in the past, the statistics reveal hope for the country in the years to come. The GDP and GNI have both increased over the years with the help of government reforms and the resilience of the Ecuadorian people, despite the economic instability in the past few decades and the recession in 2016. Although indigenous people in Ecuador continue to experience a significant impact from the ethnic wage gap, many volunteers have partnered with NGOs to alleviate the symptoms of poverty. With the tremendous efforts of the local government and the international community’s continuous support in alleviating poverty in Ecuador — there may come a day when Ecuador captures its freedom from devastating financial burdens.

San Sung Kim
Photo: Flickr

A Brief History of Indigenous Poverty in GuatemalaGuatemala has the largest population number in Central America. Over 40% of its population identifies themselves as indigenous. As a result of colonial rule and violence, racism is another social issue. Consequently, there is a high number of indigenous poverty in Guatemala. Around 21% of Guatemala’s indigenous population sits in extreme poverty, compared to 7.9% of non-indigenous populations. More specifically, predominantly Mayan communities face poverty rates as high as 80% and extreme poverty rates of 40%.

Violence and Mistreatment Against Indigenous Communities

Guatemalan indigenous communities face many forms of violence. The mistreatment and mass violence of indigenous people can be traced back as far as a colonial rule. Additionally, practices of colonialism displaced many people native to Guatemala. Colonialism removed them from their land and orchestrating a mass genocide. Spanish rulers created Encomiendas, which supposedly served to educate the natives. In reality, these Encomiendas served as mechanisms of slavery in the form of work camps.

Guatemala’s Civil War

This pattern of violence continued in a civil war that still defines the country and its poverty. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the indigenous still do not have their land back. The United Fruit Company, a US-owned company, controlled 42% of all territory in Guatemala and all modes of communication, like telephones and railroads. However, it was exempt from paying any taxes. Moreover, In 1944, the Guatemalans mobilized to create change as the fruit company paid no taxes to support public schools or hospitals. They removed a dictator, democratically elected Dr. Juan Jose Arévalo. The Guatemalans created a constitution in the image of that of the United States.

Despite this, the United States launched a coup in 1954. This consequently triggers an extremely bloody civil war. The coup succeeded. In addition, the United States replaced Arévalo with an authoritarian government led by Carlos Castillo Armas in 1954. Because democracy was not restored, Guatemala faced a series of small coups and civil conflicts. Additionally, the 36-year civil war that only came to a close in 1996.


The weight of this war fell almost entirely on indigenous populations. The United Nations has found that this war caused a second genocide against indigenous populations. According to a 1999 report written by the U.N., this 36-year long war took 200,000 lives. Around 83% of those lives were indigenous. This genocide, like the last one, created power dynamics that allowed for the systemic rape and mass torture of young indigenous women, largely at the hands of U.S.-backed forces. In addition, this violence was state-sponsored, as armies would force indigenous women into domestic and sexual slavery. However, there is yet hope. The perpetrators of this violent crime receive punishment. Two military officers have been charged with crimes against humanity for their participation in this genocide and 18 women have received reparations.

Contention Over Land and Water

There is much contention over land and water in Latin America, but the burden of this dispute seems to have fallen on indigenous communities. Like the United Fruit Company, many businesses continue to use the land occupied indigenous people without paying for it directly or in taxes. As a result, this has only exacerbated indigenous poverty in Guatemala. Moreover, this is in violation of a U.N. mandated ILO Convention 169. This gives these communities a voice in these matters as a form of reparations for the multiple genocides. Additionally, the violation of justice, patterns of violence and rampant racism created brutal economic and social conditions for indigenous peoples of Guatemala.

A Company That Helps Indigenous Women

To address the employment discrepancies in Guatemala, Gracia Inc. is providing job opportunities and vocational training for indigenous women. This is to help women raise themselves out of poverty. Additionally, Gracia Inc. trains and houses 110 women at a time. The company teaches women how to create jewelry and the business models of this jewelry company itself. In addition, this company provides a classroom to educate women in a lecture-based style, hone their craft and work towards opening their own businesses. This classroom also serves as a forum for women to voice their concerns about hostility towards indigenous communities.

Addressing the issue of indigenous poverty in Guatemala is important. After two genocides, countless crimes against humanity, systematic racism and breaches in various treaties, this indigenous population is in ruins. Indigenous communities deserve love, care and respect from global communities. One of the way to help solve this problem is to directly donate to these communities. As a result, private companies and the government itself may begin to rebuild from this civil war.

Bisma Punjani

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Inuit Poverty
The Inuit are a group of Aboriginal peoples who have occupied the Arctic lowlands for the past 5,000 years. They have a robust history and culture but suffer from one of the highest levels of poverty in the world. In Northern Canada, Inuit live in four regions that comprise the Inuit Nunangat: Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, northern Quebec and northern Labrador. The Inuit Nunangat, where most of the 65,000 Canadian Inuit live, is a territory that includes the land, water and ice all integral elements of Inuit culture. This region spans 53 communities and ultimately makes up 35% of Canada’s landmass. Given the significant presence of Inuit throughout the country, some are giving much attention to the poverty that this group has faced. Here are five contributions to Inuit poverty in Northern Canada.

5 Contributions to Inuit Poverty

  1. Colonization. Inuit poverty in Northern Canada stems from European colonization. In the 1700s, European whalers and fur traders entered the Arctic region to hunt and barter with the Inuit. While trade brought new technologies into Inuit communities, this era left the land depleted of seals, whales and fish. Later, missionaries and the Canadian government entered Inuit society as well. Following that, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami wrote that: “many but certainly not all of the traditions, values, skills and knowledge that bound us together as Inuit gave way in response to the demands placed on us from the outside.” This culminated in pressure for Inuit societies to adopt Western culture and begin engaging in the world economy.
  2. Economy. The “Inuit Great Depression” occurred due to contentions over the commercial seal trade, a primary source of income for many Inuit communities. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) successfully mobilized public opinion against Inuit seal hunting and in 1983 the European Economic Community placed a ban on the importation of fur and seal skins. Despite the written exemption for indigenous Inuit hunters, markets across the Arctic crashed and the Inuit economy suffered immensely. During this ban, the average income of an Inuit hunter fell from $54,000 CAD to $1,000 CAD. An estimated 18 out of 20 Inuit villages lost at least 60% of their income. Today, Inuit regions have some of the highest unemployment rates in Canada along with the highest suicide rates globally. The second ban by the E.U. in 2010 further exacerbated Inuit poverty. The need to work also takes time away from hunting, as well as limits Inuit access to traditional natural resources like food.
  3. Food. Due to geographic location, Inuit sustenance relies on hunting. The Inuit have less access to goods readily available throughout the rest of Canada since grocery stores struggle to supply food to remote Arctic regions. Depending on the season, planes cannot deliver fresh produce. Environmental changes diminish access and availability of traditional food, and store-bought alternatives are extremely expensive. A healthy diet for a four-person Inuit family costs an estimated $18,200-$23,400 per year, while the median yearly income is less than $17,000. The increased reliance on processed food leads to poor nutrition and health problems.
  4. Health. Health is another major challenge to Inuit people. According to UNICEF, “[Inuit] experience higher infant mortality rates, lower child immunization rates, poorer nutritional status and endemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.” More than this, they “suffer higher rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and their representation in the welfare and justice systems is generally higher than in the non-Aboriginal population.” Housing exacerbates these health conditions.
  5. Shelter. Inuit communities suffer some of the worst living conditions in Canada. The close living quarters allow communicable diseases like viruses and pneumonia to spread quickly, making Inuit children less likely than non-Aboriginal children to receive medical treatment. In fact, 31% of Inuit live in crowded homes due to housing shortages throughout their communities. UNICEF reports that approximately 28% of Inuit live in homes needing major repairs. Deteriorating housing poses a great risk to Inuit health and safety.

To combat some of the economic burdens that the Inuit bear and to mend relations with indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada initiated an act in 2019 to provide Inuit with economic opportunity and lifelong prosperity. The Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) Program, in partnership with the Kakivak Association, offers community needs-based skills training and development programs. While Canada needs to do much work to right the wrongs toward Indigenous peoples, it is making progress to help end Inuit poverty in Northern Canada.

– Rochelle Gluzman
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Healthcare in New Zealand
New Zealand has a large population of indigenous people. According to New Zealand’s 2013 Census, 15% of the population are Māori (indigenous New Zealanders), and 7% of the population are Pacific Islanders. Of the five million people who live in New Zealand, 894,546 people identify as Māori or as a Pacific Islander.

New Zealand is recognized around the world for its efforts toward indigenous relations. New Zealand first established a treaty with the Māori people in 1840, to which, over time, all indigenous and Pacific Islander communities have agreed. The treaty outlines that all Māori and Pacific Islander people are to have equal rights and opportunities across New Zealand. It has also allowed New Zealand to provide extensive healthcare to all indigenous people across the country. However, there are persisting health discrepancies between indigenous and non-indigenous New Zealanders.

Indigenous Health Challenges in New Zealand

In 2012, New Zealand reported that across the country, indigenous children aged zero to 15 years old were considered to be in overall good health. The discrepancy in overall health between indigenous and non-indigenous people came to light in adulthood. For instance, Māori and Pacific Islanders have higher rates of diabetes and obesity when compared to non-indigenous New Zealanders, with 44% of Māori people reportedly suffering from obesity.

Another health challenge for indigenous people in New Zealand is the heightened rate of smoking. Māori adults are 2.7 times more likely to smoke than non-indigenous New Zealanders. Additionally, 24% of the Pacific Islander population in New Zealanders are smokers. This is two times higher than the national smoking rate of 12%. The Smoke-Free Organization of New Zealand also reports that adults who smoke are more likely to have poor mental health.

A 2018 health survey found that indigenous people are more likely to experience psychological distress and be diagnosed with a mental health disorder than non-indigenous citizens. It is estimated that around 50% of the Māori population will experience a mental health disorder throughout their lifetimes. Of this 50%, only half will seek professional attention concerning their mental condition. By comparison, non-indigenous people are 25% more likely to receive professional attention for mental disorders than indigenous New Zealanders.

Access to Indigenous Healthcare in New Zealand

There is currently a challenge when it comes to healthcare accessibility for indigenous people in New Zealand. The government reported that only 61% of indigenous patients had their primary healthcare needs fulfilled in 2012. This highlights a large portion of the indigenous population that does not have sufficient access to primary healthcare. For example, many indigenous New Zealanders encounter barriers when seeking after-hours healthcare. In 2012, of the indigenous adults who needed after-hours medical attention, 14% were deterred due to the cost of care.

Indigenous Healthcare Initiatives

Improving indigenous healthcare has been a major focus for the local government. The New Zealand government emphasizes the importance of having accessible Māori health providers. These healthcare providers were first established in 1991 with the aim of increasing the accessibility of healthcare to indigenous people. Māori healthcare providers ensure that patients receive quality primary care with a focus on cultural relations and communication between the government and the local indigenous community.

Another initiative being established to improve indigenous healthcare in New Zealand is the cultural safety education training provided to nurses and midwives. This training places emphasis on the fact that healthcare professionals play a role in a healthcare system with obstacles and barriers that inhibit people from accessing healthcare. The training also ensures that professionals consider the cultural, historical and political context of each patient when providing care.


Overall, indigenous healthcare in New Zealand is of a fairly high quality. Despite having some health discrepancies, the New Zealand government has promptly established initiatives to target and improve the health situation for Māori and Pacific Islander people. Countries such as Australia and Canada are currently modeling their own indigenous healthcare initiatives on New Zealand’s due to the success of indigenous healthcare in New Zealand.

– Laura Embry

Photo: Flickr

Aboriginal BusinessesAustralia, housing a large aboriginal population, started a new way for indigenous people to integrate their creations into society. Currently, 30% of indigenous people live below the poverty line. In addition, up to 80% of indigenous people are unemployed in Australia. With additional benefits for starting a company, aboriginal business owners have access to business advisors, training and financial support provided by the government. This allows indigenous people to start earning income and provide a stable household for their families without losing their culture to rise above the poverty line. Here are five ways that Australia supports aboriginal businesses.

5 Ways Australia Supports Aboriginal Businesses

  1. The Black Pages: The Black Pages is an online directory for aboriginal businesses and community enterprises founded in 1999 to develop the socio-economic status of indigenous people. This platform works with the government to provide a “marketplace” for businesses to advertise their products, services or events. As a result, this can help gain attraction amongst other companies.
  2. Supply Nation: Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council (AIMSC), now known as Supply Nation, is a government-funded non-profit organization aiming for indigenous integration into Australia’s supply chain. The organization connects government and corporate institutions to aboriginal suppliers. In 2014, 276 aboriginal suppliers processed $107 million worth (AUD) of transactions on the site.
  3.  Indigenous Business Australia: Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) is a government agency that invests in aboriginal businesses. It assists indigenous companies in becoming financially independent and economically self-sufficient. IBA provides not only money for businesses, but all the materials to create a stable institution. One of the agency’s efforts in creating sustainable companies in indigenous communities is helping indigenous people gain homeownership. IBA invested over $1 billion AUD in indigenous people, opening 203 job opportunities for indigenous workers in 2019. 
  4. Jawun: Westpac and Boston Consulting Group founded the nonprofit organization Jawun (Indigenous Enterprise Partnerships) in 2001 to create bonds between aboriginal people and non-indigenous corporations. Instead of offering employment opportunities to indigenous people, Jawun partners with companies to provide a haven for aboriginal people to be hired. They connect suitable “secondees” for different projects at various companies, including KPMG, Leighton Holdings, Wesfarmers, IBM, etc. Eighty-seven percent of their indigenous partners are satisfied with their experience, overall benefitting their economic status. 
  5. Indigenous Mentoring Program: The government started the Indigenous Mentoring Program to aid the owners of aboriginal businesses to create a long-lasting company. The program pairs mentors with companies to provide relevant advice on the industry. In addition, it helps them form networks to succeed in business. Mentors are volunteers and are government trained to help others flourish in the corporate world.

With multiple organizations dedicated to integrating indigenous people into the economy, the prominence of aboriginal companies will continue to rise. As a result, indigenous people will start seeing an increase in income and hopefully cross over the poverty line. 

Zoe Chao
Photo: Pixabay

Peru's Healthcare System
In the past 20 years, the South American country of Peru has undergone a drastic healthcare reform. The country’s population can more easily access quality healthcare, decreasing the national rates of malnutrition and several causes of mortality. However, Peru still spends less than 3% of its GDP on healthcare and the system has been defunded for the past few years. Peruvian healthcare also suffers from core issues that have prevented rural impoverished regions from receiving the benefits of the country’s healthcare reform. Here are six facts about the current state of Peru’s healthcare system.

6 Facts About Peru’s Healthcare System

  1. Decentralization: The structure of Peruvian healthcare is decentralized, meaning the system is comprised of a combination of public and private organizations. Five entities work to administer healthcare throughout the country: The Ministry of Health (MINSA),  Armed Forced (FFFA), National Police (PNP), EsSalud and the private sector. Decentralization has caused issues with communication that have increased medication costs and impeded understanding of the care patients receive between health provider entities (such as current medications a patient is taking or their medical history). Consequently, progress in designing a better healthcare system and in the reform of universal healthcare has focused on centralizing these five entities.
  2. Maldistribution: Though the statistics for national health have projected country-wide progress in healthcare accessibility, rural areas of Peru suffer from lack of resources and are excluded from the reform of Peru’s healthcare system. Rural areas in Peru have the slowest national poverty reduction rates and suffer from a severe lack of healthcare funding. The 28% of Peruvians that live in these rural areas, including the Andean and Amazonian regions, have limited access to healthcare professionals and the medical resources that they need. Because of this inequity, the Ministry of Health in Peru created health policy guidelines in the “Institution Strategic Plan 2008-2011” that focus on improving rural health care through universality, equity and social inclusion.
  3. Underserved populations: The maldistribution of resources is especially problematic, as it keeps Peru’s healthcare system from reaching indigenous populations. The lack of resources getting distributed to these regions causes problems for the access and treatment of populations like the women of Asháninka, an indigenous group that lives in central Peruvian rainforests and has a population of around 45,000 people. For an Asháninka woman to access a hospital they must develop trust for healthcare providers and overcome both distance and the cost of medication. The healthcare providers who are able to see an indigenous woman are often unable to keep their trust due to the poor quality of treatment or long waiting time for test results. The limited number of healthcare providers in these regions have few resources and are often unable to see all of the patients that request care.
  4. Reform: Peru’s government has taken major steps to create a universal healthcare system. The most momentous changes are the results of legislation signed in the past 20 years. Specifically, the Framework for Universal Health Coverage adopted in 2009 and 23 pieces of legislation passed in 2013 quickly effected change by setting goals around centralizing healthcare and increasing findings for healthcare providers in Peru. This encouraged reforms for accessibility among both the public and private sectors.
  5. Universal Health Coverage: Peru has made great strides in the spread of accessible healthcare. This progress has been monumental since the establishment of Health Sector Reform in 1998, as more than 80% of the 31 million people have some access to Peru’s healthcare system. This statistic is reflected in the increased number of women giving birth in hospitals and in the significant drop in both maternal and infant mortality rates. Additionally, malnutrition rates dropped from 29% to 15% in a short three-year span of 2010 to 2013. These encouraging movements towards a healthier population continue to be achieved through legislation from Peru’s government and the increased accessibility of private sector healthcare.
  6. Aid: USAID has been a supporter of the Peruvian Ministry of Health and its goals for reform, while also advocating health insurance reform. The organization played a part in designing Seguro Integral de Salud (SIS), a health insurance financial platform for Peruvians. USAID has also contributed to universal health for Peru by implementing health projects that helped create the Health Finance and Governance project (HFG). The HFG Project in Peru works to streamline healthcare in various ways, such as creating electronic records, developing human resources, and costing medications. In addition to the SIS and the HFG, USAID has been instrumental in passing legislation in Peruvian Congress that promises a future of reform.

Peru’s healthcare system provides both an optimistic view of the progress a country can make for its citizens and an understanding of what improvements still need to be made to create equitable care. With the continued work of the HGF project and the passing of legislation that increases healthcare funding to rural areas, Peru can move even closer to its goal of creating accessible healthcare for all of its citizens.

Jennifer Long

Photo: Flickr

indigenous groups in chile
Indigenous groups throughout Latin America have a long history of fighting to preserve their land, their culture and their lives. Here are eight facts about indigenous groups in Chile and some of the struggles they face.

8 Facts About Indigenous Groups in Chile

  1. Different groups: Chile is home to nine indigenous groups. These groups include the Mapuche, the largest and most politically active indigenous group in Chile, as well as the Aymara, the Diaguita, the Lickanantay and the Quechua. Together, these nine indigenous groups account for more than 1,565,000 people or approximately 9% of the total Chile population.
  2. History: The Mapuche have continuously fought for their independence since the 1500s, first against the Spanish and continuing after Chile gained its independence in 1818. They were successful in maintaining their sovereignty until the 1860s, when the Mapuche lost nearly 23 million acres of land to the Chilean government. From 1860 to 1885, 100,000 Mapuche were killed in a joint military effort by the Chilean and Argentine governments.
  3. Poverty: Approximately one-third of the indigenous peoples in Chile live in poverty. For the non-indigenous, the rate is closer to one-fifth.
  4. Recognition and rights: Chile remains the only Latin American country to not recognize its indigenous peoples in its Constitution. However, the Chilean government did adopt the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and a year later they ratified the International Labor Organization Convention 169. Convention 169 recognizes the human rights violations many indigenous peoples have faced at the hands of their own government. It also calls for policies to protect the language, culture and freedoms of indigenous peoples and tribes.
  5. Land ownership: Dispute over land ownership is one of the primary issues for indigenous peoples in Chile. The indigenous fight with corporations, such as the logging firm Forestal Arauco S.A.. After taking control of much of the Curanilahue region, the company stripped it of its trees. This ruined the land lived on by many indigenous peoples.
  6. Resistance: Some indigenous peoples and tribes have broken out in rebellion against the taking of their land by setting fire to trees, forestry vehicles and crops. In response, the government created anti-terrorism legislation that labels arson as a terrorist act. Resistance has continued, however. In 2017 alone, 43 acts of resistance, many of them in the form of arson against logging firms, were taken by the Mapuche in Temuco, the capital of the Araucanía region.
  7. Positive changes: There has been continuous communication between the Chilean government and various indigenous groups about the creation of a new constitution. Additionally, the Piñera administration announced plans in 2018 to invest a total of $24 billion in development projects in the region of La Araucanía, an area heavily populated by indigenous peoples. These development projects will include housing subsidies, infrastructure improvements and a dozen new hospitals. Piñera’s plans also include the creation of a Ministry and Council of Native Peoples to give them greater federal representation. His plans have not yet included any land redistribution, however.
  8. Legal victories: The Human Rights Watch reported that the murder of Mapuche activist Camilo Catrillanca in 2018 led to the persecution of four police officers directly involved. This was a small but key victory for the Mapuche. For decades, police have abused their authority to torture and kill indigenous peoples and manufacture evidence to unlawfully imprison them. In 2017, charges against several Mapuche were eventually dropped when it was brought to light that police officers had created fake WhatsApp messages to build a case of arson against them.

These 8 facts about indigenous groups in Chile illustrate some of the struggles they face. Moving forward, more work needs to be done to ensure the voices of the indigenous are heard and their rights are recognized.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr