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

Poverty Among Indigenous Peoples in Central America
Indigenous people in Central America have struggled against prejudice and a lack of visibility for hundreds of years. This struggle to maintain their place throughout the region has taken a toll on the living conditions and health among their communities. Here is more information about poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America.

Costa Rica

Approximately 1.5 percent of the population of Costa Rica is made up of indigenous people. They are considered among the most marginalized and economically excluded minorities in Central America. Approximately 95 percent of people living in Costa Rica have access to electricity. The majority of indigenous peoples in the country are included in the remaining five percent. Many believe this is due to a lack of attention from the government in the concerns of indigenous people and the living conditions in their communities.

A lack of education is also a problem among indigenous peoples in Costa Rica. The average indigenous child in Costa Rica receives only 3.6 years of schooling and 30 percent of the indigenous population is illiterate. In the hopes of reaching out to indigenous communities and reducing their poverty rates, the University of Costa Rica instituted a plan in 2014 to encourage admissions from indigenous peoples from across the country. By 2017, the program was involved in the mentoring of 400 indigenous high school students and saw 32 new indigenous students applying for the university.

Guatemala

Indigenous peoples make up about 40 percent of the population in Guatemala and approximately 79 percent of the indigenous population live in poverty. Forty percent of the indigenous population lives in extreme poverty. With these levels of poverty among the indigenous people, many are forced to migrate, as the poorest are threatened with violence among their communities. Ninety-five percent of those under the age of 18 who migrate from Guatemala are indigenous.

One organization working to improve the living conditions for indigenous people in Guatemala is the Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya (ODIM). ODIM, which was started with the intention to support the indigenous Maya people, focuses on providing health care and education to indigenous people in Guatemala. One program it supports is called “Healthy Mommy and Me,” which focuses on offering mothers and their young children access to health care, food and education. These efforts are benefiting 250 indigenous women and children across Guatemala.

Honduras

In Honduras, 88.7 percent of indigenous children lived in poverty in 2016. Approximately 44.7 percent of indigenous adults were unemployed. Nineteen percent of the Honduran indigenous population is illiterate, in comparison to 13 percent of the general population. Despite the wide span of indigenous peoples across Honduras, they struggle to claim ownership of land that belonged to their ancestors. Only 10 percent of indigenous people in Honduras have a government-accredited land title.

Due to the poverty indigenous people in Honduras face, many seek opportunities in more urban areas, but the cities simply don’t have the capacity to support them all. As a result, many settle just outside of the cities to be close to opportunities. There are more than 400 unofficial settlements near the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. Despite the difficulties they face in living just outside of a city that has no room for them, being in urban areas does have its benefits for indigenous people. Ninety-four percent of indigenous people living in urban Honduras are literate, versus 79 percent in rural areas.

For those among the indigenous peoples in Honduras who struggle with poverty, Habitat for Humanity has put a special focus on indigenous people in its construction programs. Habitat for Humanity worked with different ethnic groups within the indigenous community to provide homes for those most in need, reaching 13,810 people throughout Honduras.

Panama

Poverty affects more than 70 percent of indigenous people in Panama. Among their communities, health problems and a lack of access to clean water are common.

In 2018, the World Bank approved a project to improve health, education, water and sanitation among 12 different indigenous groups in Panama. The Comprehensive National Plan for Indigenous Peoples of Panama aims to implement positive development in indigenous communities while protecting and maintaining the culture within those communities.

The aim of this project is to create a positive relationship between indigenous peoples and the government in Panama to further developments of their communities down the road. It is projected to assist some 200,000 people through improved living conditions and infrastructure among indigenous communities.

With poor access to an education and a certain level of prejudice fueling a wage gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people, natives globally face a unique challenge in their efforts to escape poverty. In many countries around the world, indigenous people are forgotten and often fall to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. This creates particularly difficult circumstances for indigenous peoples of regions that already have high poverty rates overall. However, people like those who work with the World Bank are working to see a reduction in poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America and see that indigenous people are not forgotten and are no longer neglected.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in New Zealand
New Zealand is an archipelago with three main islands: the North, South and Stewart Island. The indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, the Māori people, refer to the country as Aotearoa. With a population of approximately 5 million, Europeans make up the predominant ethnic group. The median age of the inhabitants is 38 years. Further, 86 percent of the population dwells in urban areas. Additionally, 90 percent of the population lives within 50 kilometers of the coastline. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in New Zealand.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in New Zealand

  1. Māori Life Expectancy: During 2013, the life expectancy of Māori males was 73 years and 77 years for Māori females. Life expectancy at birth of non-Māori males was 80 years and 84 years for non-Māori females.
  2. Māori Suicide Rates: Māori suicide rates were significantly higher than the rest of the population. Ages 15-24 years are the most likely to commit suicide. The suicide rate of males was twice as prevalent as for females.
  3. Cardiovascular Disease: One can attribute cardiovascular disease, cancer and injury to the highest mortality rates. The predominant causes of death are ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, cerebrovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  4. Alcohol and Smoking: During 2016, 80 percent of the adult population reported alcohol use once or more a week. Additionally, 16.3 percent of New Zealanders are current smokers; however, approximately 19 percent of youth ages 18-24 smoke daily.
  5. Organizations Aiding Indigenous Peoples: The New Zealand Health Strategy, Māori Health Strategy and the Primary Health Care Strategy came to fruition in 2000. These strategies diminish and manage racial discrimination, ethnicity data protocols and mortality records.
  6. Crops: The crops traditionally eaten in New Zealand are sweet potatoes, taro and cabbage. For greens, the Māori also traditionally consume shoots and leaves.
  7. Work-Life Balance: Organizational commitments and supportive work environments improve work-life balance. In New Zealand, full-time workers devote 63 percent of their day to personal care and leisure.
  8. Fetal Deaths: During 2016, there was a fetal death rate of 6.8 per 1,000 total births and an infant death rate of 4 per 1,000 live births. Mortality rates are generally higher for males than females. Additionally, mortality rates for Māori were generally greater than for non-Māori.
  9. Public Health Care: A major contributor to these 10 facts about life expectancy in New Zealand is that the public health care system offers free hospital care to all permanent residents. Primary health organizations continue to provide subsidies to medical costs. Additional expenditures apply to non-residents.
  10. University Attendance: During 2018, there were 175,245 university students attending school with 49,400 post-graduate students. Over 44,000 students enroll and graduate from universities every year; 90 percent of which are at a bachelor’s degree level. More Māori reports indicate less schooling and higher levels of unemployment.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in New Zealand determine that occupation, income and education all directly correlate with health and life expectancy. Certain circumstances provide beneficial outcomes and better health than people living in poverty. Māori people continue to face worse health conditions than other ethnic groups. Further, racism and inequality are detrimental to wellbeing and life expectancy. However, mortality rates are beginning to improve throughout New Zealand. Socioeconomic factors still continue to play a prominent role in life expectancy.

Zach Erlanger
Photo: Flickr

Land Grabbing and PovertyLand grabbing is not a new concept and it is not an isolated event. However, land grabbing and poverty have recently been linked together. While companies around the globe participate in this harmful process that drives farmers off their lands, farmers in industrial countries are especially susceptible to losing their lands, and therefore, their source of income. The act of industrial companies land grabbing not only costs a person their home but also their food and money. In countries such as Africa and South America, many people have fallen below the poverty line and suffer from displacement.

The Actions of Large Companies

The link between land grabbing and poverty is growing and has become a big issue. Major companies, such as the Teacher’s Insurance and Annuity Association of America College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF or TIAA), are buying multiple acres of land at exceedingly high prices. This, in turn, raises the prices of rent above what nearby family farmers can afford to pay. In Brazil, the TIAA has ownership of over 600,000 acres of land. The company also has a stake of over $400 million in Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil, which has displaced established communities of indigenous people in addition to several endangered species.

Who Owns the Land?

Land grabbing hugely contributes to the loss of property which advances poverty levels. Indigenous people claim and manage about 50 percent of the world’s land. However, of that 50 percent, people who depend on it only legally own 10 percent. Big companies can easily buy out the remaining 40 percent of the land and repurpose it to maximize industrial gains. Most of this land goes towards fossil-fuels projects, tourism and even conservation. Because of this, many families become displaced and left without a source of income and experience a lack of food security. Companies, such as TIAA, have led directly to malnutrition in industrial countries where they held land.

Initiating Change

There have been many demonstrations to try and combat the act of land grabbing. Grassroots International has started a petition to end land grabbing. There are also The Tenure Guidelines that have the intention of ending global poverty through tenure rights and land access. Policies within these guidelines would give land rights to the person who has owned the land the longest, ensuring that those who depend on the land for their livelihoods can continue to use it. In Africa, 29 women farmers climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the country’s tallest mountain, to raise awareness about the issue. The climbers met 400 fellow women farmers at the base of the mountain to help raise awareness about secure land rights and guarantee the farmers access to local and global markets.

Land grabbing and poverty reduction will give the people of the land a place to live as well as a food source and a dependable income. Crop sales will increase and farmers will have a more reliable income if others do not drive them from their land. The decrease of land grabbing will also increase access to both local and global markets, providing farmers with more ways to sell their food. Overall, restricting land grabbing, honoring tenure and giving land access to those who need it will lead to a decline in global poverty.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

Linguistic Genocide in Colombia
Colombia has the second-largest population in South America and is host to more than 80 indigenous ethnic groups which comprise the country’s most vulnerable demographic. Amidst the tectonic power struggles that have persisted throughout Colombian history, the plight of indigenous peoples remains at the forefront. Ethnic minorities in Colombia are struggling to subsist. This began when the Spanish colonized the Colombian territory in the 16th century and continues presently in the form of cultural erasure, resource wars and forced displacement. Dozens of indigenous leaders have suffered murder in recent years. The historic Peace Accord of 2016 created various power vacuums in the country, allowing guerilla offshoots to invade remote, newly-vacated territories. In October 2019, five indigenous dignitaries from the Tacueyo reservation in southwest Colombia suffered assassination. A challenge is the linguistic genocide in Colombia.

Efforts for cultural preservation, however difficult, have helped quell instances of neo-imperialism and given Afro-Colombian and native indigenous populations teeth. Jonathan E. Bonilla, a researcher and linguistic preservationist from Instituto Caro y Cuervo, is among a small group of advocates working to give these minority communities access and representation to ensure their continuity. The Borgen Project interviewed Bonilla to discuss linguistic genocide in Colombia.

Interview with Jonathan E. Bonilla

TBP: How do efforts for linguistic preservation help alleviate poverty amongst indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups?

Bonilla: All indigenous languages spoken in Colombia are at risk because their speakers are in physical danger. For example, the systematic murder of social leaders, mostly indigenous, who fight for land restitution or are against mining, expansive livestock or illicit crops, has been proven. The rivers—sources of food and water for the communities— are getting poisoned with mercury for the extraction of gold and other precious metals. The indiscriminate felling of forests and the diversion of water resources has expanded the agricultural frontier. Many communities have moved to urban areas where the dominant language is Spanish due to the war and invasion of their territories. All these factors put the physical survival of the people at risk, their languages by default.

TBP: Why is the definition of poverty further complicated in the context of indigeneity?

Bonilla: Poverty is a concept of the West as it has to do with the daily purchasing power of a person or family. In the case of indigenous communities, the majority live from sustainable agriculture, the production and sale of handicrafts, the raising of domestic animals, fishing, hunting and harvesting of seasonal fruits. For this reason, indigenous communities always fight for the respect and expansion of their ancestral territories. The greater the amount of territory without exploitation for economic purposes, the greater food security. Poverty in the communities is evident when they are forced to leave their territories and relocate to unfamiliar ecosystems. To give an example, guerrillas, paramilitaries, coca merchants and ranchers displaced the Nukak, a hunter-gatherer people who currently suffer from extreme poverty.

Another reason that leads to indigenous poverty is the reduction or overexploitation of their territories. For example, the Wayuu have suffered the diversion of their rivers. Therefore, their lands have dried up and now they have no way to feed their children or raise animals for food. The problem of water scarcity in the deserts of La Guajira has led to malnutrition and the death of indigenous children.

Finally, I want to highlight a form of poverty that occurs due to changes in agriculture’s activities. With bonanzas of exploitation of resources, such as oil, cocoa or marijuana, many indigenous people abandon their crops. Individuals gain purchasing power thanks to the money they earn as day laborers, so they prefer to buy food. When these bonanzas disappear, young people do not want to re-sow land or do not know how to do it because they never had the opportunity to learn. This creates unstable food systems and situations of poverty.

TBP: Is it possible to recover lost languages on the brink of extinction? Is there any state-sponsored or private initiatives in Colombia that are working to do just that?

Bonilla: It’s possible, but requires the commitment of the community and the accompaniment of linguistic experts and pedagogues. For example, at the Caro y Cuervo Institute—a government entity attached to the Ministry of Culture—we are carrying out projects to document, revitalize and strengthen languages based on that of Native Languages (Law 138, 2010).

We are currently working on documenting the Kawiyari language which is at high risk of extinction and has less than 30 speakers in Vaupés. After documenting, the entire process of design and development for language teaching and teacher training will begin. I mentioned that Spanish (as the dominant language) poses a threat to indigenous languages. This year, we will offer certification classes in teaching Spanish as a second language in intercultural contexts. Training indigenous people to teach Spanish creates a precedent of additive bilingualism. That is, Spanish will no longer impose itself in a strange, hegemonic way, but rather, will be taught contextually and be used to strengthen the cultural aspects of the community. International private aids are usually only concerned with documentation and data collection. For example, ELDP from the University of London is a fund to collect audio samples of disappearing languages but is not involved in revitalization or recovery projects.

TBP: What is the relationship between indigenous languages and peacekeeping in postwar Colombia?

Bonilla: Many indigenous communities have oral formulas inbuilt in their ancestral knowledge, such as prayers, songs, declarations to attract good, to be happy, to achieve tranquility and to ward off evil. In these post-war times, it would be important for the government to give the floor to elders. For example, among the Sikuani, there are songs so that objects, such as bullets, do not cause damage. The Karijona and Uitoto have dances to forgive and receive enemies with open arms. Indigenous languages are full of strategies that have allowed indigenous peoples to survive endless threats since the colonial period and that can serve as models to bring us closer to collective peace in our country.

FEM (Fundación por la Educación Multidimensional) is a Colombian nonprofit organization working to aid Colombia’s post-conflict rehabilitation efforts. It follows a bottom-up model, empowering marginal indigenous communities through sustainable development projects and horizontal dialogues between local leaders, stakeholders and government actors. Ethnic education is a large part of FEM’s mission statement; FEM is concerned with advancing Colombia’s immaterial heritage—such as songs, dances and the trades—that the conflict has jeopardized, which should help combat the linguistic genocide in Colombia. For more information on how to donate or get involved, visit http://www.femcolombia.com/.

Elena Robidoux
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Solutions for Indigenous Communities Indigenous communities are pre-colonial societies that are considered ethnically native to a specific region. Recently, such communities have been developing locally sustainable solutions to their regional issues such as poverty, land erosion, unemployment rates, food insecurity, etc. These solutions tend to be nature-based and promote biodiversity and sustainability. Here are five examples of sustainable solutions for indigenous communities.

5 Examples of Sustainable Solutions for Indigenous Communities

  1. Association de Gestion Intégrée des RessourcesAl Hoceima, Morocco
    A group of indigenous people noticed the need for sustainable reform in the fishing methods in their community. The method of dynamite fishing threatened the fish stock and the poaching of osprey nests caused a decrease in the local population. Since then, the community decided to practice legal fishing techniques that do not harm the environment. This switch to sustainable fishing techniques led to a 20 to 30 percent increase in marine resource abundance. It also led to the employment of some 3,000 artisanal fishermen and the complete removal of copper sulfate and dynamite fishing. It also reduced poverty for around 30 percent of the fishermen employed.
  2. TRY Oyster Women’s Association – Banjul, Gambia
    This association achieved many sustainable goals including women’s empowerment, environmental preservation and green trade practices. Around 500 women from 15 different villages practice the trade of oyster harvesting, which they started after learning about environmentally responsible resource management. These women were also educated on microfinance possibilities and received training in small-scale enterprise development. The association also worked with the government to implement policies that positively impact the oyster trade.
  3. The Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands in the Heart of Borneo – Malaysia-Indonesia
    This alliance is a trans-border cultural bond that brings together three indigenous communities to preserve culture and biodiversity. The alliance attempts to reap benefits for the local communities who live on the island of Borneo by preserving the environment. The alliance employs a native manner of producing rice by the traditional wet-rice farming system, which was developed over centuries. It also works towards sustainable development through community-based ecotourism, agroforestry and organic farming, communication and information technology.
  4. FITEMA, Association of Manambolo Natives – Manambolo Valley, Madagascar
    This association successfully improved the conditions of food security within the local Betsileo community by reintroducing an indigenous land-use system in the 7,500-hectare Manambolo Valley. The purpose of the reintroduction is to help protect the environment, including the forests and the wetlands surrounding this region. This would improve food security conditions for 200,000 locals of five neighboring districts.
  5. Reserva y EcolodgeKapawi, Ecuadorian Amazon
    Founded in 1995, this organization was initiated by the Achuar community to create an ecotourism business that benefits the local communities and the local businesses as well. It produces sustainable energy, employs sustainable forestry and contributes to biodiversity conservation. The organization makes use of traditional and modern governance systems to make sure that the enterprise remains for the benefit of the surrounding locals.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

poverty among Aboriginal AustraliansAboriginal Australians have faced discrimination, genocide and marginalization within their own lands since the British began their initial colonization of the continent in 1788. Aboriginals did not receive any credence in the eye of the Australian government until 1967. Because of this, poverty among Aboriginal Australians skyrocketed.

By simply removing the words “…other than the Aboriginal people in any State…” in section 51(xxvi) and the whole of section 127 of the constitution, the country finally saw Aboriginals as their own individualized people. They are now part of the census and the government can make laws specifically concerning Aboriginal issues. However, even with the government’s recognition of these peoples did not eliminate the discrimination and inequality they often face from the government and society. Here are eight facts about aboriginal Australians’ quality of life.

8 Facts About Aboriginal Australians’ Quality of Life

  1. Today in Australia, a mere 3.1 percent of the Australian population is indigenous. Even though they make up so little of the population, however, 19.3 percent of Aboriginal Australians live in poverty compared to 12.4 percent of other Australians.
  2. Only 4.8 percent of Aboriginal peoples have employment within the upper salary levels in Australia. This low percentage may link to pervasive racism within the country. Nineteen percent of Australians believe they are casual racists but refuse to change. Twenty-six percent of Australians have anti-Aboriginal concerns. Meanwhile, eleven percent of Australians do not think all races are equal. There does seem to be a changing tide, however, as 86 percent of Australians believe that Australia needs to do something to fight the pervasive racism in the country.
  3. There have been significant improvements and money allocations towards the betterment of the indigenous communities in Australia in recent years. In 2017, $33.4 billion went toward government expenditure on indigenous Australians, a 23.7 percent increase since 2009 (taking into account inflation). That is $44,886 per indigenous person or two times the amount of direct government expenditure on non-indigenous peoples. However, Aboriginal peoples are still more than twice as likely to be in the bottom 20 percent for equivalized gross weekly household income. High unemployment and lasting impacts from colonialism have caused low income in Aboriginal homes.
  4. Today, people often find that Aboriginal communities in non-rural areas live off welfare in crowded housing. About 20 percent of Aboriginal Australians living in non-rural areas were living in overcrowded accommodations in 2014 and 2015. In remote or very remote areas of Australia, the overcrowding was almost 40 percent. Overcrowding can often lead to a faster spread of illness in these communities. The proliferation of disease in overcrowded spaces creates a significant financial burden on families who must then seek treatment for their ailing loved ones. However, Australia has put multiple initiatives into place to address and resolve these issues. In 2008, the Federal government started and funded the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.
  5. From 2014 to 2015, three in 10 Aboriginals (29 percent) 15 and over experienced homelessness for a portion of time. Homelessness prevents individuals not only from human, tribal and societal interaction but can also often prevent them from being active members in the workforce, and therefore, the economy. Aboriginal peoples 15 and over in remote or very remote areas experienced homelessness in their lifetime at a 3 percent increase from non-remote Aboriginals (32 percent).
  6. Aboriginal Australian children between the ages of 5 to 17 are committing suicide at a five times higher rate than non-indigenous peoples in Australia. There is a direct link between the suicide rate and the crushing poverty in these communities and failing government-funded aid services. People have called upon the Australian government to either increase spending on indigenous peoples’ aid or to even wholly reconsider its tactics. As of 2019, the Australian government has implemented restrictions on takeaway alcohol, broadening education initiatives and developing further cultural healing projects.
  7. More than 28 percent of Australia’s prison population was Aboriginal in 2016, which is a shocking fact as less than 3 percent of Australia’s population identifies as indigenous. This widespread incarceration significantly impacts rates of poverty in the Aboriginal community. When one removes a person from a home–that statistically is likely to suffer overcrowding and have underprivileged individuals–they remove supporting income from an already disadvantaged family.
  8. People widely acknowledged that limited completion of education, and more specifically, secondary education, have close ties to poverty for Aboriginal Australians. In previous years, Aboriginal peoples were less likely to obtain a Year 12 or equivalent level of education; 45 percent of Aboriginals achieved this level of education in 2008. However, the gap is closing fast, and as of 2014-2015, records indicate that that percentage has risen to 62 percent of Aboriginal peoples obtaining their Year 12 level of education.
Though the gap between non-indigenous and Aboriginal people ages 20 to 24 with post-school qualifications has not changed, the number of indigenous peoples in this age range who have received a secondary education has doubled since 2002.

NASCA

NASCA, or the National Aboriginal Supporting Chance Academy, is a nonprofit that works directly within indigenous communities doing mentoring, education and development programs. Its initiatives seek to create empowerment and movement from within these communities and alleviate poverty among Aboriginal Australians. Each year, over 1,200 indigenous youths directly benefit from the organization’s work.
In 2018 alone, the program delivered a total of 6,006 educational and health program hours, and attendance in its northern territory program schools saw a 33 percent increase in school attendance. Its work is seeking to create pride in communities and put into motion change that will bleed into the higher political and social sphere of Australia.

Australia has so long ignored its Aboriginal community on both a social and governmental level, so it is a welcome and pleasant change to see so much work on behalf of an underprivileged group of people. Though there is still far to go, some are taking steps both within and outside of the community to build up the visibility and civil rights of the Aboriginal peoples and their needs. Poverty among Aboriginal Australians has set them back long enough. Though they are undeniably Australian, they are fiercely and independently Aboriginal peoples with a right to civil liberties, native land and socioeconomic equality.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Healing for Guatemala

Guatemala, a country with a rich Mayan past, has a history riddled with trauma and violence which contributes to the country’s poverty level today. After a 36-year civil war that tore the country apart, healing for Guatemala has just begun. While the civil war and accompanying genocide of its indigenous people ended in 1996, the country and those affected have struggled to hold military leaders accountable, to find their missing loved ones and to have the world recognize the pain and suffering that took place from 1960 until 1996.

Civil War and Genocide

The civil war hit a peak in violence in the mid-1980s, when General Efraín Ríos Montt formed a coup and overthrew the government. General Ríos Montt started a bloody genocide where over 200,000 indigenous Mayan Indians were killed or forcibly disappeared, having yet to resurface today. General Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide in 2013 after being found guilty of massacring 1,771 members of the Mayan Ixil group. Despite this ruling, the conviction was overturned shortly after and General Ríos Montt died while a retrial was underway.

Throughout their country’s violence and unrest, the indigenous Mayan people remain very proud of their culture and want to uphold their traditions.  While around half of the population in Guatemala is indigenous, these Mayans have suffered through exploitation, discrimination and marginalization. Today, healing for Guatemala means protecting and celebrating the Mayan culture in the face of extreme violence and terror. One long-held tradition of the Mayan people is backstrap weaving, which is a method of weaving beautiful and intricate textiles for clothing and other material uses.

Illiteracy and Language Barriers

Many Mayan women today are still living well below the poverty line (which means living on less than $1.80 per day) and many indigenous women are illiterate. Only 73 percent of women over 15 years of age in Guatemala are literate, a proportion that is vastly skewed toward women who live in cities, not in the rural countryside of the Mayan people. Numbers of Mayan women who are illiterate are unknown because births are often not registered with the state of Guatemala. It is estimated that roughly 60 percent of the indigenous population are illiterate. Due to extreme poverty, in which nearly 80 percent of indigenous families fall, one in two children under the age of five is malnourished.

Many of these Mayan women do not speak Spanish, the official language of Guatemala. These women only speak their Mayan language, of which there are 21 in Guatemala alone. Because these women do not speak Spanish, they are forced to sell their meticulous weavings to a Spanish-speaking middleman for much lower prices. Because of the low rates these women bring home from their weaving, they often have no choice but to pull their daughters out of school to help bring in money for the household. Only one in four indigenous girls over the age of 16 stay in school while the remainder typically start working to help their household.

The Formation of Trama Textiles

During the height of the violence, when it was dangerous and possibly deadly to wear Mayan clothing, the Mayan women of the Guatemala Highlands formed Trama Textiles, a woman-owned cooperative focused on backstrap weaving. As Mayan men were “disappearing,” the women of the community banded together in order to support themselves and their families. They did so by doing what they always had: backstrap weaving.

Weaving with Trama Textiles not only provides a way for these women to deliver clothing, money and other support to their families, it also helps these women deal with their trauma. The 400 members of this artisan cooperative work together, exploring different colors and designs in their textiles. With the sense of empowerment and purpose the cooperative gives them, they are able to grow stronger and work towards a better future. At Trama Textiles, the women weavers who are producing the product are the ones setting their own pricing, not a middleman. Trama Textiles helps these women to uphold Mayan traditions while ensuring a better future for their children.

Trama Textiles provides a place of relief for many indigenous Mayan women of Guatemala. Not only is it delivering healing for Guatemala it is helping women in indigenous villages form a community in which they thrive. These women who are often illiterate and do not speak the same language as one another are able to come together to run a cooperative. They earn money and valuable business knowledge while showing the rest of the nation that peace and healing are possible after a violent and turbulent past. This process, with the help of Trama Textiles and other cooperatives like it, will help pull indigenous communities out of the poverty that the 36-year civil war imposed on them. With a rise in income, these rural communities will be able to let their children finish their education, which will continue the cycle of pulling them out of poverty. Cooperatives like Trama Textiles are imperative in healing for Guatemala and all those affected by the genocide.

– Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Pixabay