Our Perspective

      • Colombia: Still a long way from home | Debora Barros

        04 Oct 2013

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        Like the Wayuu, the Tule people of Colombia also deal with discrimination and violation of human rights, an experience shared by many indigenous people. Photo: B. Heger, UNHCR

        When rebel forces killed the women in my community, our lives changed forever. In my culture, as an indigenous Wayuu in Colombia, women are sacred. We are the ones who transmit our language, traditions and lineage to future generations. To kill a mother is to kill the culture and the life of a community. As a child, I grew up without fear. I played in the desert with my cousins without any feeling of danger. It was a wonderful time. I became a happy, smart and organized woman and was chosen by my community to study law at university. When I came back during vacation, I would explain western music and traditions to the members of my community. But on 18 April 2004, rebels came and attacked my village. They raped, beheaded and killed the women by making grenades explode in their faces. It is too horrible to speak about. When we return to our destroyed village, we cry as if it had happened yesterday. Nine years later, we still don't know why this happened. But the 102 families in community have remained strong and united. With help in advocating for our rights from organizations like UNDP, we have convinced mayorsRead More

      • Guatemala: Proud to be a Mayan | Juan de Dios

        04 Oct 2013

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        Victims' memorial museum in Guatemala City. Photo: UNDP Guatemala

        I am a Mayan from Guatemala. Though I am proud to be an indigenous person, discrimination against us is a serious problem. Especially in the private sector and in the government, we rarely reach high-level positions and are often seen as a source of cheap labour. I come from a family of people who were displaced by conflict. When I was nine or 10 years old, my father was persecuted and tortured by the military during Guatemala’s civil war, which lasted between 1960 and 1996 and destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom were indigenous Mayans. During the war, 45,000 Mayans were abducted by security forces and “disappeared,” 200,000 families were displaced and 2.5 million children became orphans. After my father was tortured, my family, including my seven brothers and sisters, was forced to move to a new region. However, our troubles were not over. We were thrown out of our new home once again because the government planned to build a hydroelectric plant. When we resisted leaving our homes, the government labeled us enemies of the State and began organizing massacres of women, children and newborns, which nearly wiped out our communities in 1981 andRead More

      • The art of the possible: listening to the real experts | Gonzalo Pizarro

        01 Oct 2013

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        Foto: PNUD Perú

        Several years ago I was taking part in a conference on the roots of the conflict in Darfur, and potential ways out of it.  After many of us so-called experts had presented our varied research findings and our different ideas, a representative from the Darfur pastoralists stood up and asked a simple question: what they were supposed to do, as many of us had contradicted each other with our suggestions. This gave us pause for thought. After several convoluted answers, a wise man told him: ‘The best thing you can do is stop listening to the experts and outsiders’. I witnessed that advice being used to good effect a few years later. I was in Belize at a consultation meeting with stakeholders to support the Government in the roll-out of the MDG Acceleration Framework on water and sanitation. As a group of international experts on the subject and a local consultant, we thought we had a pretty good idea of what the problems, and potential solutions, would be. All the relevant stakeholders were in the room: from the water company, to the different ministries in charge of water and sanitation aspects, to the representatives of water councils and villagers associations, most of them Mayans.Read More