(1) What are the main issues that you are currently working on?
I am an Afro-indigenous activist and researcher from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. I work on topics like rural feminism, environment and energy, and the autonomy and rights of indigenous peoples. I have worked in training projects for community health and human rights promoters, and for the defence of the Right to Free and Informed Prior Consultation.
|Photograph by Shirley Kimmayong
After the earthquake in September 2017, which caused severe damage in our communities, I was the coordinator of a reconstruction project for recovering indigenous women’s traditional productive tools. Now, I am working in a commercialisation enterprise for traditional crafts produced by indigenous women. Also, I am part of an interdisciplinary group promoting a project for participatory public policy with respect to energy transition and climate change. A key purpose is to focus the discussion on the demands of indigenous communities affected by climate change and the construction of energy mega-projects.
(2) What makes you an excellent person to work on these issues?
With respect my strengths in the work I do, the first one is that I was born and I have grown up in the region. Therefore, I have knowledge of the communities’ context that would be difficult to understand for an outsider – for instance on issues related to cultural, economic and political dynamics. Secondly, I am always looking for new learning and knowledge to strengthen my leadership with tools to face the complexity of the regional problems. Having been part of the Global Change Leaders at Coady International Institute in Saint Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia, has given me important support and learning for my community leadership.
(3) How do you deal with obstacles and setbacks?
When you work in community and collective contexts, it is really important to analyse obstacles and look for solutions in ways that go beyond individual thinking. You must keep your communication channels open, and be receptive and emphatic. Having someone to accompany you in the process, like a mentor, who you can share doubts with and who can help guiding you, is useful and can shine a light on aspects that you normally ignore.
Keep trying! Sometimes, when we are young, we easily get discouraged if some project doesn’t work out the way we want. What we must do then is to try and see things from a different perspective so that we can take advantage of our mistakes to grow. Also, I would tell them not to be afraid of feminism, because it can help you a lot to understand where the obstacles are that women leaders usually face. We are fighting against a patriarchal system, and it is never too early to check and learn about our privileges and what we can do with them to change our reality.
(5) What is your advice to people who are in mentorships - in your experience, what makes a mentorship useful?
To be open to listen and learn from your mentor. The relationship with Michaela was a very fluid and enjoyable relationship that made the experience enriching in terms of knowledge. For me personally, this has been the first time to be part of a mentorship program. To have the guidance and advice of a women leader has been really useful to reflect on my own process. I believe that both of us have won a lot from the conversations we had and I know we will keep doing so in the future.