Felicia Barriento Cuellar: strengthening indigenous women for culture and nature in the Chaco region of Bolivia
Felicia Barrientos Cuellar is a brave indigenous woman from the Isoseño-Guarani people. There are three key aspects of her life’s work that greatly helped to enhance intra and inter community solidarity and contributed to improving the life of the Isoseño Guarani and other indigenous peoples of the Chaco region in the lowlands of Bolivia:
- Her strong impulse and leadership, since 1974, for the development of women organizing in the Isoso, which triggered the establishment of the intercommunity organization of Isoso Women (Çimci). Çimci is today recognized as a key mechanism of Isoso women for participation in decision-making. The organization is an example of solidarity and effectiveness, as it focuses on creating new economic opportunities for women, securing the long-term sustainable use of coastal forests and river Parapetí (where the women’s own activities are concentrated), and strengthening the Guarani culture and traditional knowledge.
- Her active, permanent presence for the defence of natural resources. Felicia has had a leading role in the creation and development of Kaa Iya del Gran Chaco National Park, the largest protected area in Bolivia (almost 3.5 million hectares) that keeps intact a large representative sample of South American Chaco forest. As a founding member of the management committee of this protected area, she is still today an undeniable champion of this great protected area that provides a source of natural resources for the traditional livelihoods of all indigenous peoples living at the border of the park.
- Her commitment to strengthen, rescue and disseminate the Isoseño Guarani culture. Acutely aware of the importance of traditional knowledge for the survival of the biocultural diversity essential for her people, Felicia has been constantly promoting the rescue and systematization of Guarani ancestral traditions and culture throughout her work.