Celebrating International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
Today, August 9, we celebrate World Indigenous Peoples Day, a day on which the United Nations encourages people around the world to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples. This issue has great relevance for Guatemala, where 52% of people living in poverty are indigenous. Rural and indigenous areas in the country see some of the worst poverty, malnutrition and maternal-child mortality rates in Latin America and the Caribbean. These conditions are a consequence of years of systemic discrimination – conditions which TRL beneficiaries face daily. As an organization that works in direct collaboration with the Tz’utujil Maya people of the Southern Lake Atitlán region to fulfil its mission, we want to recognize this day and emphasize the importance of protecting and promoting Indigenous Rights in Guatemala, and around the world.
Additionally, in honor of World Indigenous Peoples Day, we would like to highlight two of our Tz’utujil team members, Isabel and Maria.
Isabel Quinilla, our Lead Technology Adaptation Specialist (TAS), has directed TRL’s Outreach Team since co-founding the organization in 2016. Isa works with families daily to ensure project success. She guides new families through their adjustment period based on her own experience transitioning from open fire cooking to an ONIL cookstove. As a former community nutritionist, Isa has long been invested in public health work. Every day, Isa harnesses this expertise, working with women to help them better understand how the ONIL cookstove minimizes exposure to dangerous levels of Household Air Pollution (HAP) and thus the likelihood of chronic respiratory disease. She also ensures that families are aware of the direct impact of their wood consumption on the local ecosystem. On each visit, she discusses the link between cookstove use, decreased wood consumption, local ecological threats, and global climate change.
Maria, also an ONIL cookstove user, joined the TRL team this January as the organization’s second TAS. Maria has been recognized both regionally and internationally for her work with the Santiago community, first as a Youth Representative to an international conference held in Nicaragua on Racism and HIV/AIDS and later as a representative of the Office of Tz’utujil Women's Affairs when she traveled to Norway as part of a cultural exchange between Guatemala and Norway. She is also currently the president of Mujeres Emprendedoras, a community-based Microsavings group here in Santiago. As TAS, Maria conducts follow-up visits with beneficiaries, and collects environmental, health and economic survey data for the Improved Cookstove Project.
Isa (right) shares a laugh with one of our clients.
Respect for the values, customs and unique world-view of the Tz’utujil people, is central to our mission here at TRL. We are very fortunate to have community leaders such as Isa and Maria helping us to work to preserve the unique ecosystems of Lake Atitlán.