October 26, 2018
Organización de Mujeres Indígenas Unidas por la Biodiversidad de Panamá (OMIUB) or “Indigenous Women United for Biodiversity,” is a group founded in 2011 that works to strengthen, develop, and revive Indigenous knowledge in Panama. In 2017 Cultural Survival’s Keepers of the Earth Fund awarded the organization a grant to strengthen the governance of Kuna, Embera, and Wounaan People by conducting workshops on the newly established law of Consultation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).
Many members of the organization participated in the workshops including women and men, spiritual leaders, and traditional healers. In the two workshops that were carried out, the participants reflected on the important role of the women, concluding that it is necessary to support Indigenous women in human rights and Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and also noted that food security and food sovereignty were essential underlying issues that need to be addressed in the conversation about FPIC in order to improve the quality of life for families and communities.
As a result of the workshops, OMIUB was able to successfully lobby the Panama ministry to pass two resolutions that give a green light to requests presented by Indigenous communities to establish their lands as communal territories in the villages of Pantanares, Río Hondo and Maje de Chimán. Although there are no extractive industries currently operating on their lands, as as result of the workshops, OMIUB successfully sat down with a company working in the area to discuss the process of consultation with Indigenous Peoples for any potential projects.
This process has helped the communities learn about the process of FPIC, understand the new law and its implications for them, and take it into consideration their future negotiation processes with companies and the government. They are committed to continuing to push for the participation of women and to share their experience with this project with other communities so they too can learn about the right to FPIC.