The Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network from Latin America and the Caribbean (RMIB-LAC)

The Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network from Latin America and the Caribbean (Red de Mujeres Indígenas sobre Biodiversidad de America Latina y el Caribe: RMIB-LAC) is an example of a network that is operating at different levels and tailors its approaches to serve and address various audiences. RMIB-LAC was founded in 1998 to create a space for a growing number of indigenous organisations, specifically indigenous women, to make their voices heard and to present their proposals in key decision-making arenas at international, regional and national levels. We focus on engaging indigenous women because women are central figures in the protection and transmission of traditional knowledge and practices in relation to the conservation of natural resources, through their teaching and everyday practices. For many indigenous peoples it is mostly the women who put spirituality into practice, by celebrating sacred rites and ceremonies.

Since its inception, RMIB-LAC has strengthened the capacities of hundreds of government representatives and indigenous peoples (mainly in the Latin American region). It has done this in various ways. Firstly, RMIB-LAC develops capacity-building activities to raise public awareness of the values of biodiversity and its sustainable use, complementing what most schools are teaching children about biodiversity. We base our activities on the principle that you cannot value what you do not know, and therefore our work has focused on explaining what biodiversity is, in order that people should be familiar with all its components and their interrelationships. RMIB-LAC also organises training workshops to engage both traditional and state authorities. We work and collaborate with universities and environmental organisations and involve young people, women and men in our workshops.

RMIB-LAC also organises “intercultural dialogues” with national governments. When government representatives from the region speak of biodiversity they tend to do so only in technical terms, which prevents effective communication. This has been overcome through intercultural dialogues in villages, where indigenous peoples connect scientific concepts to indigenous words used to describe the same concepts. This process has enabled the creation of a communication bridge to implement decisions and initiatives for the conservation of biodiversity.