Cultural Survival has covered and fought for many issues over the past 48 years: land rights, Indigenous languages, traditional knowledge, self-determination, freedom of expression. As we step into 2020, I want to focus on a topic that is very close to my heart — the sacred feminine.
Like in many other Indigenous cultures, the sacred feminine plays a central part in the cosmovision of my people, the Buryats, and is expressed through our relations, stories, and ways of life. I come from what was originally known as a matrilineal society. We were known as famous forest warrior women revered as superior hunters and fighters. Many of these traits are still very much visible in the women of my clan today. Strong, independent, determined, hard working — and sometimes a bit too stubborn and loud. I grew up with my grandmother’s stories which in our language encapsulated the wisdom of our ancestors. Each one teaches a certain aspect of life: relationships with natural entities such as plants, rivers, and mountains, or beings such as animals, spirits and ancestors, or dealing with the human condition.
Today, we live in a world where the masculine and the feminine are out of balance. This imbalance is manifested in how we relate to each other, how we run our governments, how we raise our children, how we conduct business. Because the sacred feminine has been degraded, attacked, and violated, we are facing the consequences of this imbalance - injustices, gender and racial inequality, poverty, and climate change. We need to restore the equilibrium between the masculine and the feminine. In the Buryat worldview, our planet, our soils, and our environment are the ultimate manifestation of the sacred feminine. Without changing our consciousness, we will keep repeating the same mistakes, exploiting and destroying Mother Earth without realizing that we are part of it. We all come from her womb, we all come from the sacred feminine, and it is our duty to respect it and protect it.
Cultural Survival is committed to restoring this balance. Our programs work to amplify the voices of Indigenous women and promote Indigenous women’s leadership. Our radio training workshops incorporate the principle of Chacha-Warmi — an Andean perspective of gender harmony and duality. Before a woman can express herself publicly, she must first be comfortable in expressing herself with confidence in private. Ahead of building technical skills, we focus on healing for women who have experienced violence and trauma.
Mariana Cecilia García Sánchez (Nahua), a community doctor from San Miguel Tzincapan, Mexico, stated, “Radio came to me, like corn to this world, to fill me with life. Cultural Survival gave me the gift of a beautiful opportunity, to recognize the power of my voice. It helped me understand that my words and my voice are a tool for hope and strength for many other women.”
Providing women like Mariana opportunities to find their voices and share their stories is essential. Indigenous women disproportionately experience poverty and lack access to justice. Amplifying Indigenous women’s voices is transformational. Women carry potential. When we invest in their health, rights, and wellbeing, it creates a positive ripple effect that lifts up entire communities. Women reinvest up to 90 percent of their incomes back into their families, building stronger communities.
Our vision is to continue to put women front and center. We want to deepen our work by building an integrated program for Indigenous women and girls that addresses the intersection of climate change, traditional knowledge, health, rights, and elevates the role of Indigenous women in traditional governance systems and decision making at all levels. We are witnessing unprecedented change as outdated political, social and economic structures are crumbling in front of our eyes and a new world based on equity, equality, and justice is rising. Women and girls are taking power and are leading the way.
I invite you all to join us in this journey of building the new world. In fact, we cannot do this work without your partnership. I invite you to support our joint efforts and ensure the success and longevity of Cultural Survival.