| Jul 27, 2016
Amplifying Indigenous Voices
Video screening in Pucallpa (Credit: Uchunya).
“Human existence cannot be silent nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which men and women transform the world. To exist humanly is to name the world, to change it.” Paulo Freire
It can be all too easy for urban-dwellers to take for granted the huge advances in communications technology of the last decades and the new possibilities these technologies open up to us. Here in Ucayali, however, the majority of the population faces a very different situation: a study of social progress indicators published in May rated access to information and telecommunications across Ucayali at just 33.95 out of a possible 100. This fact is compounded by another factor identified in the same study: that access to basic knowledge (literacy, numeracy and primary education) is more restricted in Ucayali (48.83) than anywhere else in Peru. This situation creates a series of serious barriers to communities denouncing abuses and effectively defending their rights.
Within this context, during the past months much of the work myself and other volunteers involved in our ecosocial justice program have been engaged in has revolved around putting communication tools at the disposal of the communities we support, opening up channels of communication and facilitating the better flow of critical information.
In collaboration with the Shipibo documentary-maker, Ronald Suárez, and in coordination with the Federation of Native Communities of the Ucayali (FECONAU), we supported the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya to produce a short, entirely crowd-funded video which gathers community testimonies about the human impacts of lack of secure land tenure, massive deforestation and the clearance of the forests upon which the community has traditionally relied to make way for an oil palm plantation. This video has proven to be a powerful advocacy tool here in Peru, where it has been widely viewed through social networks and in public screenings in Pucallpa, Lima and Cusco, as well as in more than 30 meetings across Europe and in the United States, with various governments, non-governmental agencies and industry bodies, such as the RSPO.
Furthermore, we have organized and facilitated a series of trainings to build up the communications capacities of both indigenous organisations, such as FECONAU, as well as local communities, such as Santa Clara de Uchunya. In these trainings, we have explored how the media works, how indigenous peoples across the world are harnessing alternative and digital media to make their voices heard about the issues affecting them and critically analysed the local mainstream media landscape, which generally provides few opportunities for rural-dwelling indigenous people to talk about the problems affecting them. Participants have engaged in the practical work of learning to use a variety of communication tools for themselves, so that they can communicate about the situations they face to ever-widening networks. The task of supporting and strengthening indigenous communication is surely an integral step towards these communities transforming their world for the better. Many thanks for stepping up to support this work.