Indigenous women fundraise to promote political participation

With support from CESE, a significant number of Sateré Mawé women participated in the 2nd March for Indigenous Women in Brasilia.

Sateré Mawé indigenous women feel more empowered and are actively participating in political discussions in the public arena and within their community. Evidence of this is seen in the fact that 12 Sateré Mawé women participated in the 2nd March of Indigenous Women, whose theme was “reforesting minds to Cure the Earth,” held between 7 and 11 September in Brasilia.  The march played a crucial role in directly confronting the Temporal Framework (Marco Temporal) draft bill, which was being voted on at the Supreme Federal Court and which will be taken up again in the first half of 2022.

With support from CESE, through its Small Projects Programme and applying Match Funding methodology, the Association of Sateré Mawé Indigenous Women, took its members to this strategic event for the defence of the rights of original peoples in Brazil.

The Sateré Mawé people live in Amazonas. In the first year of the march, only one representative attended the event. In the second, Samela Sateré Mawé marched alongside 11 other companions from her people, in a delegation of 60 indigenous women from the Amazon, who fought to raise funds and ensure the right conditions to participate in the event, which was strategic both in the fight for the rights of original peoples and specifically for their gender, focusing on specific issues for women.

“Our people are patriarchal, only a short time ago women never left the community or participated in decisions. Having more women going to events such as the march represents a change,” she noted.  According to Samela, “one of the outcomes of participating in the march and the entire process leading up to the event, from raising funds through applying for a grant to finding the necessary match funding, helped to strengthen and empower Sateré Mawé women”.

According to Samela, indigenous women are leading the struggle and bringing their voices to the debate. “We are stronger, our voices are heard nationally and internationally. The strength of indigenous women is recognized, while for us the struggle for land is the mother of all struggles.  Because for us, land is like a woman, it provides home, earth, nourishment.  The territory is a mother,” she explained, noticing a subtle change in arenas for debate and negotiation, which today have opened up to listen to and accept the active participation of women. “We have been fighting for a long time. We have obtained food, we have prepared our children, protected them until they go to university. We have fought so that they can remain at university, and thus defend our rights. And for us, all this is the struggle and a victory,” she declared.


Match Funding Methodology – This increase in Sateré Mawé women’s participation was made possible through CESE’s Small Projects Programme, which allowed them to purchase plane tickets and provided resources to support the camp in Brasilia.  The association was selected in the Match Funding category, through which the organization had to raise 50% of project funds, at which point CESE doubled the amount raised. The Association of Sateré Mawé Indigenous Women adopted the strategy of a crowdfunding campaign to raise match funding.

This strategy was successful because it involved the community and external partners – the collective effort provided the conditions to raise funds, as well as to confirm the group’s capacity to raise its own funding. “It was a very important experience for us, because we were able to engage people and we’ve never had so much participation.  It helped us become stronger,” Samela explained.

The association has existed since 1992, but, like many other indigenous organizations, has faced various challenges in order to meet Brazilian legal requirements and create the necessary conditions to fundraise and continue working. “CESE has supported us so much and been fundamental for us to ensure the association meets the legal requirements for compliance.  We participated in the Institutional Strengthening Programme and this was essential for us to take the necessary steps to recover our legal registration number, negotiate debts and strengthen the organization”, said the association’s treasurer.

For Samela, the outcome of this experience was to advance certain aspects to strengthen political participation and promote capacity for advocacy.  “Today we have women who are better connected, totally aware of the pressure we need to apply to prevent this government’s policies from progressing, for example the Temporal Framework which could pass. We understand the value of our presence and organization to prevent proposals being passed that remove our rights without confronting them,” she concluded.

Sateré Mawé women are already looking to the future: in 2023, the 3rd March for Indigenous Women will take place and before then there is a lot to do, involving women in leadership and combatting rights violations, deforestation, mining projects, denouncing the impact of climate change, violence against women within the territories and other issues.  Arduous work.  And they have courage to spare.

In the beginning, the Association of Sateré Mawé Indigenous Women’s agenda addressed working conditions in the cities, the frequent violence in the family homes in which they worked, the obstacles to speaking their mother tongue or freely expressing their culture.  The women also faced the challenge of being far from their children, which was an issue that impacted on the entire community.

The association promotes women’s self-affirmation and financial independence through the creation and sale of handicrafts, in order to stimulate autonomy.  They also work in the field of organization and the defence of rights such as education, health, culture and the self-affirmation of young indigenous women in the academic field and with vulnerable women.