As the Paris climate summit goes into its final hours, indigenous communities feel left out, once again

A widegroup of indigenous women’s leaders has expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of inclusion of their knowledge systems in the ongoing climate negotiations.

Gathering on the sidelines of the main negotiations, MaataliiOkalik, head of the National Inuit Youth Council of Canada, spoke of the dichotomy of the situation. The Arctic is being used as a barometer for global climate change impacts but no one hears the voices of the Inuit women who are tackling the effects of warming every day.

Forced to the frontlines of climate change impacts, indigenous communities have accumulated a store of knowledge of weather patterns, natural resources and adaptation techniques.

“Inuit women are matriarchs in the community”, said Okalik, “who have lived on sea ice and traversed sea ice since time immemorial, yet policymakers do not take our traditional knowledge systems as legitimate.We want our voice to be heard.”

Indigenous communities attended the climate summit as observers. They had no say in the formal negotiations between governments.

And this in a situation where women were the most direct victims of climate change impacts, pointed out Tarcila Rivera Zea, a Quechuan activist from Ayacucho, Peru and founder-president of the Centre for Indigenous Cultures of Peru.

Talking about how much such women know, Zea said, “They know so much about medicinal plants, for instance, and what is happening to them; they know about food plants and about local seeds, or what happens, for example, when orange plants don’t fruit at the right time or about the fruit drying up in plants before they ripen, in the Amazon.”

Women’s groups from Kenya attending the climate summit spoke of dried-up river beds at home, an unprecedented phenomenon. The drought is affecting their homes, food and livelihoods. No government negotiator in Paris showed any interest.

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